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10 Reasons You May Have a Low Milk Supply

Breastfeeding is a journey full of highs and lows. One of the lowest points a nursing mama can experience is an insufficient milk supply, or more often than not, it is a perceived insufficient milk supply. So what can you do to ensure your milk supply is in sync with your baby’s needs? 

Determining Low Milk Supply

It’s important to determine the amount of milk you’re producing before assuming you’re coming up short. Over one-third of nursing mothers who weaned their breastfed babies early, listed perceived insufficient milk supply (PIMS or PIM) as their main reason for doing so. Many nursing mothers come to this conclusion without consulting a doctor or lactation consultant before supplementing with formula. So how can you determine if your milk supply is sufficient or not?

  1. Use a Pump: Pumping your breast milk provides a measurable number of ounces produced with each feeding. The amount of milk a baby needs varies based on age, but knowing how much you’re producing with each pumping session will help you to determine if your supply is adequate.
  2. Track Infant Growth: Your pediatrician should be monitoring the growth and development of your baby at each well-visit. Although growth rates vary, infants should generally be gaining around six ounces weekly and growing a half-inch to one inch monthly. If your baby is gaining weight and growing as expected, you can feel confident that your milk supply is sufficient. 
  3. Watch Your Baby Feed: Paying attention to your baby while they nurse can help determine if your milk supply is low. Can you hear them swallowing? Is milk visible in the corners of their mouth? Are you leaking from the breast that you’re not actively nursing from? Do they start out nursing strong, then slow down and become sleepy? If so, then chances are you’re producing enough milk.  

If you’ve determined that you are, in fact, not producing enough breast milk –there are many reasons why that could be happening. 

10 Causes of Low Milk Supply

  1. Breastfeeding Dehydration

Breast milk is made up primarily of water. To produce breast milk you must remain hydrated. As a nursing mother, it's recommended you drink at least 16 cups (128 oz) of water a day. Leaving a large container of water wherever you typically nurse –and drinking each time the baby feeds– is a great way to remember to drink water frequently. Investing in a Motivational Water Bottle with Time Marker can help you track your water intake and keep you accountable.

  1. Not Taking Nursing Supplements

Vitamin supplements like our Total Lactation Support and Total Lactation Fenugreek Free are formulated to help with milk production. Key herbal Galactogogues like Milk Thistle, Fennel, Fenugreek, and Alfalfa help to naturally support breast milk supply, nutrition, and flow. From teas to lozenges, capsules to drink mixes, we have many ways to introduce these essential milk-boosting nutrients into your daily routine.

  1. Hormonal Birth Controls

Most combination birth control pills contain estrogen and estrogen can negatively impact your milk supply. It’s important to discuss birth control options that are safe for use while breastfeeding with your OB/GYN. A commonly prescribed birth control for nursing mothers is “The Mini-Pill,” a progestin-only oral contraceptive that doesn’t interfere with milk production. However, each doctor and each patient is different, so it’s important to discuss this in detail at your first postnatal visit. 

  1. Infrequent Feedings

Following a strict feeding schedule can decrease your milk supply. Many nursing moms worry that if they nurse or pump too frequently, they won’t have enough milk for the larger feedings throughout the day (such as first thing in the morning or before naptime/bedtime) but that couldn’t be further from the case. Your body produces milk in response to the frequency of suckling. The more a baby nurses, the more milk a breast produces, and vice versa. 

  1. A Poor Latch

If your baby is unable to successfully empty the breast with each nursing session your body will learn to adjust the amount of milk it produces. Getting a good latch is critical in complete, efficient feedings. A great reminder is to hold your baby in a “belly to belly, nipple to nose" position. It's also a good idea to ditch the nipple guards and nursing pillows until you’ve both learned how to form a good latch, then you can introduce those tools as needed once you’ve become more confident in how to successfully nurse.   

  1. Introduction of Solid Foods

With the introduction of solid foods around 6 months of age, you might notice a decrease in your milk production. With your baby nursing less frequently –or taking fewer bottles if you’re exclusively pumping, you’ll find your production slowing down to avoid engorgement. Introducing a couple pumping sessions throughout the day can help to maintain a good milk supply. Our Pumping Moms Lactation Support capsules contain a proprietary blend of herbal galactagogues (herbs that help with natural lactation) to help you get the most out of each pumping session.

  1. Skipping Night Feedings or Pumping Sessions

Once your baby starts sleeping through the night you may be tempted to do the same. Unfortunately, your slumber parties can negatively impact your milk production. This doesn’t mean you should wake your peacefully sleeping baby to feed (as long as they’re growing at their expected rate), but it does mean that nursing mothers should consider setting an alarm to wake up and pump at least once overnight to protect your current milk supply.

  1. Not Feeding on Demand

Countless parenting books encourage the use of strict schedules when it comes to feeding, and although having a schedule is a great way to ensure your baby is feeding regularly, it doesn’t necessarily ensure that your baby is feeding adequately. Breastfeeding on demand is recommended by major medical and advocacy groups, including the World Health Organization, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the La Leche League. Allowing your baby to nurse on demand is beneficial for keeping your milk supply in sync with your baby's needs. 

  1. Lack of Confidence

Perceived insufficient milk supply can be a real confidence killer. If you feel like you’re unable to properly feed your baby through exclusively breastfeeding (or pumping), you’ll be more inclined to introduce formula feedings. It’s important to surround yourself with support, trust your body, give yourself some credit, and reach out for help if you need it. Many social media groups on Facebook provide a community for you to interact with regarding pregnancy, nursing, and early motherhood. 

  1. Supplementing With Formula 

Once formula feeds are introduced, your baby is no longer suckling at the breast. Failure to stimulate your body’s response to produce breast milk leads to a decrease in production. This creates a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy; you worry you’re not producing enough milk, so you supplement with formula, which makes your body think your baby doesn’t need as much milk, which ultimately results in not producing enough milk. After enough time your body weans from producing milk altogether.

Staying proactive about your milk supply is beneficial for long-term success on your breastfeeding journey. To learn more we recommend:

Best Breast Pumps for Breastfeeding Mothers Six Common Breastfeeding Worries for New Moms Everything About Breastfeeding and Latching Finding the Right Type of Breastfeeding Techniques