Low milk supply is one of the most common concerns of new moms. Rest assured insufficient breast milk production is rare. In fact, most women make one-third more breast milk than their babies typically drink. Your milk supply is based on “supply and demand.” The more milk your baby drinks, the more milk your body will make. It’s important to your baby’s health to address a low milk supply. Let’s look the possible causes of low milk production and how to increase your breast milk supply.
What causes a low breast milk supply?
Various factors can cause a low milk supply during breastfeeding: waiting too long to start breastfeeding, not breastfeeding often enough, an improper latch and use of certain medications. Sometimes previous breast surgery can affect milk production.
Other factors that can affect milk production include:
- Premature birth
- Maternal obesity
- Pregnancy-induced high blood pressure
- Poorly controlled insulin-dependent diabetes
Milk production tips:
Breastfeed as soon as possible. This is the key to successful long-term breastfeeding. Waiting too long to start is the primary contributor to a low milk supply. Hold your baby skin to skin right after birth and your baby will likely breast-feed within the first hour after delivery. If not, hand express and feed the colostrum with a teaspoon.
Breastfeed often. Aim for at least eight to 12 feedings a day — about every two to three hours. Don’t wait for baby to cry or fuss to offer the breast. Feed when baby is active and alert. If baby is sleepy, try tickling feed and switching breasts or positions often.
Proper latch. Make sure your baby is latched on and positioned well. Tummy to tummy and nipple to nose are good positioning. Look for signs that your baby is swallowing. If baby is just sucking but not swallowing, you can make milk flow by gently squeezing your breasts.
Empty to make more. Emptying each breast more fully at every feeding makes more milk.
Be alert to feeding problems. Offer both breasts at each feeding. If baby nurses only one breast at a feeding, you need to pump or hand express the other breast to relieve pressure and protect your milk supply.
Don’t skip breastfeeding sessions. Pump or hand express your breasts if you miss a breastfeeding session. This helps protect your milk supply.
Hold the pacifier. If you choose to give your baby a pacifier, consider waiting until three or four weeks after birth. This will give you time to establish your milk supply.
Use medications with caution. Certain medications decrease milk supply, including medications containing pseudoephedrine (Sudafed, Zyrtec D, others). Hormonal birth control (pills, rings, patches, etc.) should be avoided until breastfeeding is firmly established.
Avoid alcohol and nicotine. Drinking alcohol and smoking will decrease milk production.
Maintaining your milk supply during breastfeeding is important for your baby’s health and growth.
If you’re concerned about your milk supply or your baby’s feedings, talk to your doctor, pediatrician or a lactation consultant.
Mayo Clinic: Low Milk Supply: What Causes It?
La Leche League International: Increasing Milk Supply poster