Block Feeding – Should You Do It?

Block Feeding - Should You Do It?

Is your body making too much breastmilk than your baby requires? Well, the oversupply of breastmilk or milk in abundance can be a highly uncomfortable or painful experience for the mother. Though experts suggest baby-led nursing, which means the baby should finish on one breast before being offered the other one, however, if the mother is producing excess milk then the doctor may recommend block feeding to adjust the breastmilk supply. Well, if you haven’t heard of this technique, we suggest reading the following post to know more about this method and whether or not you should consider it!

What Is Block Feeding?

Block feeding can be described as a breastfeeding technique in which the baby is fed on one breast over a period of three hours or more before offering the other breast. This technique is considered effective in bringing down the breast milk supply in women who make too much milk. This is because breast milk is produced as per the demand of the baby, which means if a baby is fed frequently and the breasts get emptied fully, the body gets the signal to produce more milk. However, if one breast at a time is not used for feeding over a stipulated period of time, the body alters the milk supply as per demand.

In What Circumstances You Should Do Block Feeding

Before you consider block feeding to manage your milk supply, it is important to understand that it is not suitable in all cases. You should let your body adjust to the milk supply post a few weeks after delivery and thus not opt for such methods early on, which means block feeding for a newborn is not a viable thing to do. Also, this method should not be adopted by someone who needs to increase the breast milk supply. Here are some conditions in which you may consider block feeding:

  1. You notice your baby coughing, gagging, or gulping during the feeding sessions.
  2. You notice your breast leaking milk on a frequent basis.
  3. You experience breast engorgement in spite of regular feeding sessions.

How Does Block Feeding Technique Work?

The block feeding process may take a few days to work and it basically has two main purposes. The first being to stimulate a lower level of engorgement in the breast that is not used for feeding. Once the lower level of engorgement is created, it sends a signal to the brain to slow down the milk supply as the breasts are already full. This entire process of the brain getting negative feedback and adjusting to the new milk demand may take anywhere from 3 to 5 days.

The second important aspect or purpose of block feeding is to prevent the baby from gagging or drowning in the breastmilk, which may happen at every other breastfeeding session. Also, this method works well to cover up for the foremilk and hindmilk balance at every other feeding session. When you begin feeding the second time from the same boob, it may be half full but it may still be producing enough for the baby to feel satiated.

How to Do Block Breastfeeding

When you are finally ready, to begin with, the block feeding schedule, here is how you can go about it:

  1. Establish how often you breastfeed and also determine whether you are always or sometimes feeding on both the breasts. This is because, in most cases of breast milk overproduction, women usually feed on one breast.
  2. Begin by offering one breast at a time for the decided time frame, if you are using both the breasts for all the feedings. This means you can feed on one breast and let the other breast remain unused until the next feeding session.
  3. However, if you are feeding on one breast at a time then you should use the same breast for feeding the next time too or for as many feedings within the decided time frame.

What to Do When You Have Milk Full Boobs

Well, when you use one boob for a couple of feeding sessions, the other is bound to get filled with milk and can be a tad bit uncomfortable and painful. As much as you may want to express it, doing so will be a bad idea. Here are some things that you can do:

  • You can apply ice packs to ease the pain and discomfort. Applying cold cabbage leaves also work well!
  • You can allow the passive leakage to happen, which may turn out to be a messy affair, and thus using an absorbent breast pad or keeping a cloth inside your bra can prove to be helpful.

When to Pump a Boob Fully

During the process of block feeding, the boob you feed on should appear soft to touch. However, sometimes there may remain a section in your boob that may be hard to touch. Well, you should pay heed to it in your next feeding session, however, if you still feel it hard, you may require to pump the boob to fully to get rid of it. If this doesn’t correct on its own after three to four days, you need to see your midwife or OB as such conditions may lead to plugged ducts and even mastitis. Though full drainage and block feeding may sometimes not be a good combo for reducing milk supply, however, it is better than putting yourself at an increased risk of mastitis or plugged ducts.

How to Know Whether Block Feeding Is Working for You or Not?

Well, there are some clear-cut signs that may help you whether it is working for you or not. To begin with, if you are feeling less engorged and there lesser gaggling or gulping sounds from the baby, it is working. If your baby seems to be unsatisfied the second time on the same breast, you may need to switch to one breast at a time. On the other hand, if oversupply still seems to be an issue, you can increase the number of feeds from the same breast.

Your breast milk supply keeps evolving and changing, therefore, be mindful and act accordingly!

Benefits of Block Feeding Nursing

Benefits of Block Feeding Nursing

Block feeding helps the women who experience the discomfort of oversupply of breastmilk and it also reduces the pain associated with breast engorgement. Babies also benefit from block feeding as they can feed more hindmilk, which is not only rich in fat and protein but also prevents digestive issues such as gas. Babies can also latch easily on the breast that is lesser engorged and thus better control over the milk flow by using their tongues.

What Can Be the Side Effects of Block Feeding?

Though there are many benefits of block feeding for both the mother and her baby, however, one cannot ignore the fact that when the milk remains in the unused boob for long and thus can increase the chances of mastitis and clogged ducts.

What Can Be Done to Prevent the Side Effects

In order to minimize the risk of infection or other such complications and make block feeding successful, here are some things that you can try to prevent the side effects:

  • Do not go overboard and extend the blocks. You should slowly increase the blocks.
  • Make sure you keep on switching the feeding position of your baby to enable proper drainage from every side.
  • Keep your breast and areola clean to prevent any kind of bacterial or other kinds of infection.
  • You can massage your breast in between the feeding session to allow optimum drainage.
  • Help your baby to latch properly at every feeding session.

However, if you experience any kind of swelling, redness, pain, or fever, get in touch with your doctor as soon as possible and to prevent and further complications.

Sample Block Feeding Schedule

Here is a sample block feeding schedule with a 6-hour block with the first feeding session starting at 7 am:

  • 6 a.m.: You can pump both the breasts to relieve the pressure.
  • 7 a.m.: Start feeding your baby on the left side and let your baby finish on his own.
  • 7.30 a.m. to 1 p.m.: Make sure you feed on the left side only for all the feeding sessions falling in this window.
  • 1 p.m.: Feed your baby from the right side and let your baby finish on his own.
  • 1.30 p.m. to 7 p.m.: Make sure you feed on the right side only for all the feeding session falling in this window.

You need to remember that block feeding is a temporary arrangement and you should get back to feeding on both the breasts once your milk supply gets adjusted. Happy feeding!

Also Read:

Hyperlactation
Tips to Stop Breastfeeding a Baby
Reasons and Solutions for Breastfeeding Pain