Block nursing is a practice that is often recommended when a mom is producing too much milk for her baby (known as over-supply). A simple way to look at it is like this: You feed the baby on a set "block" of time, and on one breast only. When that block of time is up, you feed the baby on the other breast for the next block of time. You'll continue on this feeding schedule until your milk production reduces to a more manageable level.
Problems with Over-Supply
An milk over-supply situation can lead to forceful letdowns and can cause other problems such as a foremilk-hindmilk imbalance. If your breasts are working overtime on production, the baby's tiny stomach will fill up on foremilk which has high lactose levels. This prevents the baby from receiving hindmilk, the fattier milk that's produced at the rear of the breasts and is more satisfying to baby's stomach. All of this can add up to a fussy baby with a lot of discomfort from gas, plus the added joy of explosive green stools.
Example of a Block Nursing Schedule
A breastfeeding consultant might recommend a block schedule if you have an over-supply of milk. Here's what a block schedule might look like for a typical day:
- First feeding begins at 7 a.m. on the left breast
- Subsequent feedings stay on the left breast until 9 a.m., no matter how many times the baby needs to feed
- At 9 a.m., switch to the right breast
- Continue feeding on the right breast until 11 a.m.
- At 11 a.m., switch back to the left breast
- Continue with 2-hour blocks for the rest of the day
Depending on the amount of over-supply and any recommendations from your doctor or a lactation consultant, your schedule might be broken up into 3-hour blocks or 90 minute blocks. The important thing to keep track of is which breast you're feeding on for each block. A good tip is to write the schedule out on your fridge so you can double check your list if you can't remember which side the baby is supposed to be feeding on.
Additional Block Nursing Information
A woman's body tends to adjust very quickly to a block feeding schedule. The schedule basically tells your breasts, "Slow down!" In most cases, it only takes a few days for milk production to reduce to a more manageable level. That's good for both mom and the baby. In extreme cases, it may take a few weeks for a woman's body to adjust. If that happens to you, remember that you can always express some milk to relieve the pressure. This will also help reduce the number of forceful letdowns and keep the process moving along.
There are a couple of great resources where you can learn more about block nursing. One is, of course, the forums on our site which you can find at JustMommies.com. The other is La Leche League International, which is a non-profit group that is devoted specifically to education and advocacy related to breastfeeding.