In normal situations breastfeeding experts recommend
"baby led" nursing patterns. Baby should be allowed to
finish the first breast, before burping and offering second side.
This may mean baby will nurse, for example, 20-ish minutes on first
side, burps, then may or may not be interested in the second side.
In situations where a mother has a very large milk
supply, then a "block feeding" or "block nursing"
pattern may be suggested. Occasionally if baby is nursing in a very,
very frequent pattern - meaning that the baby is nursing hourly
or even closer than hourly and experiencing marked fussiness and
perhaps has consistently green stools - a loose block pattern may
be suggested as well. (Note that frequent
nursing - meaning about every 2 hrs from start of one feeding
to start of next feeding - is totally normal)
What is Block Feeding?
Block feeding is a feeding pattern often suggested
when mother has oversupply issues, and occasionally a loose block
pattern is suggested for other situations where that type of pattern
The suggestion would be to the mother to use one
breast per session, and to keep baby to one side for a "block"
of time. In mild cases of oversupply, that may be a 2 hr block,
in more severe cases, it may be 3 hr block, or in cases where mom
has a monster supply, and has gotten no results from the shorter
blocks of time, then a longer block of time may be recommended.
An example of a 2 hr block pattern would be as follows:
Mom starts out nursing at 8 am on the right breast. If baby indicates
desire to nurse again at 8:45, then mom would nurse again from right
side. If baby wants to nurse again at 9:30, she'd offer right side
once more. At 10 AM she'd offer left side, and no matter how many
times baby indicates need to nurse, she'd keep to left side until
12, then switch back to right side again.
An example of a 3 hr block pattern would be 8 am
on right breast, 11 am switch to left, 1 switch back to right, 4
switch back to left, etc.
How Does Block Feeding Help?
In cases of oversupply, block feeding can help signal
the breasts to slow down production of too
much milk . Understanding how
milk production works, helps mom to understand how block nursing
can help gently slow production to a level that is more in line
with baby's needs.
When mom is considering use of block nursing, it
is wise to consult with a breastfeeding expert, such as a board
certified lactation consultant. An expert in breastfeeding management
can assess the situation and help mom determine if she might benefit
from using a block nursing pattern, and if so, what type of pattern
to use. Most experts recommend starting out with smaller blocks
of time and increasing them if needed after a couple weeks.
How Long Does It Take?
Block nursing is not an "instant fix"
for oversupply, but it almost always helps if given enough time
to help. In mild cases of oversupply, for example, it may only take
a few days to a couple weeks to see good results. In more severe
cases it may take several weeks to a couple months to see good results,
although almost always mom will see improvements in the situation
within just a few days of implementing the use of the block pattern.
Do I Need To Continue Using the Block Pattern,
Once Supply Adjusts?
No, one doesn't need to continue using a block pattern
once the situation is resolved. Mom can go back to using a "normal"
nursing pattern of offering first breast until baby is finished,
then burp and offer second side. If things continue to go well,
there isn't a need to do any additional adjustments. If the symptoms
of oversupply begin to return, she can resume a block nursing pattern
once more for a while longer, and then later on can see if a "normal"
nursing pattern will work.
As suggested above, it is recommended that mom locate
a board certified lactation consultant (IBCLC) to assess each individual
situation, provide assistance, information and support.