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  • Why is My Milk Supply Dropping?

    by Agustina Fernandez June 18, 2024 8 min read

    why is my milk supply dropping

    We know that breast is best, and many of us start out our feeding journeys with the well-intentioned plan to exclusively or partially breastfeed in lieu of this fact. However, it's not uncommon to experience changes in breast milk production throughout lactation.

    While no one enjoys overfull breasts and the discomfort that comes with it, one of the more distressing experiences mothers could face is the opposite issue-having a low supply. It's only natural to experience worry and frustration when trying to nourish your baby, only to discover that your milk supply dropped.

    Does this dilemma ring true for you? Then, keep reading for essential insights aimed to help you get back on track with breastfeeding! Our article discusses the signs of decreased milk production and false signs, the causes of low supply, and the best ways to increase milk supply!

    Signs Your Milk Supply is Decreasing

    One of the simplest ways to identify signs that milk is drying up is to pay attention to our babies' cues. Here are three indicators of your milk supply decreasing.

    signs your milk supply is decreasing

    1. Fewer Wet or Poopy Diapers

    Your baby's poop is directly influenced by your milk, and a telltale sign of whether your baby is getting enough is how many diapers they're soiling. After week one, parents can expect their baby to produce between 6 to 8 wet, heavy diapers per 24 hours and 3 to 5+ bowel movements. An insufficient amount of dirty diapers could be indicative of a sudden drop in milk supply and should be discussed with your healthcare provider.

    2. Poor Weight Gain

    If your baby is pooping less but they're gaining weight well, meaning around 1 to 2 pounds per month, are peeing regularly, and are overall content and happy, there's often no need to worry. However, if your baby isn't steadily gaining weight, reach out to your pediatrician. 

    3. Symptoms of Dehydration

    Due to their small size, babies are more susceptible to dehydration. If you notice any of the following symptoms, contact your doctor immediately:

    Fewer than 6 wet diapers within 24 hours

    • little to no tears when crying
    • dark yellow urine
    • sunken eyes
    • lethargy or atypical sleepiness
    • dry skin and cracked lips
    • sunken fontanelle (the soft spot on their head)
    • extreme fussiness
    • cold feet and hands.

     

    Signs That Don’t Indicate Milk Supply Dropping

    Beginning during pregnancy and continuing into nursing, our bodies undergo a great deal of change as we adjust and evolve to nourish our babies. Our breasts tend to bear the brunt of this, often resulting in fluctuations in size, sensitivity, and shape.

    Consequently, it can be difficult to distinguish between typical bodily changes and signs of your milk supply decreasing. So, let's bust some myths and discuss experiences that are often mistaken as signs of low milk supply.

    signs that don’t indicate milk supply dropping

    Soft or Non-Leaking Breasts

    After month 1, some moms start to worry about low milk production because, around this time, our breasts may start to leak less and feel softer. Although this can be confused as indicating low milk production, it is actually a sign of milk production regulation.

    At this point (usually between 3 to 12 weeks after birth), our breasts have typically mastered the art of breastfeeding, meaning that our milk has matured, and our bodies have become skilled at producing just the right amount of milk for our little ones, achieving the perfect equilibrium of supply and demand! 

    Your Baby Wakes Throughout The Night

    About a week after giving birth, you can expect your little one to wake up for feeds by themselves. Newborns have teeny tummies and lack a fully developed circadian rhythm, which means wakings during the night are to be expected. While it's exhausting to feed at all hours of the night, take solace that this is normal and a sign that your baby is feeding well! 

    Your Baby Wants to Breastfeed Often

    It's normal for babies to want to nurse often. You can expect your little one to feed between 8 and 12 times per day or slightly more during growth spurts. Frequent feedings are not one of the causes of low milk supply. In contrast, regular nursing helps establish your milk supply. 

    You're Not Pumping a Lot of Milk

    If you're not pumping out much milk, keep in mind that your baby suckling at the breast is often more effective at releasing milk. Plus, if your pump isn't working effectively due to parts that need replacing, for example, or if you're pumping while stressed, you could be expressing less than normal.

     

    Possible Causes of Low Milk Supply or Milk Production

    If you are experiencing a sudden decrease in milk supply, know that a breast milk supply drop is oftentimes temporary and usually remedied with the appropriate support. If you're asking yourself: Why is my milk supply dropping? It could be medically related or a result of your lifestyle and feeding practices.

    So, here are eight common low milk supply causes. We'll begin with health issues that require medical intervention.

    possible causes of low milk supply

    1. Having Thyroid Issues, Diabetes, or Obesity

    For mothers dealing with any of these health concerns, it's recommended that they see a healthcare professional for help developing and sustaining healthy breastfeeding habits.

    Hormones released by our thyroid gland are involved in our ability to lactate, so irregular thyroid activity can lead to a drop in breastmilk supply. For mothers dealing with diabetes, it often takes longer for their milk production to increase, and fluctuation in their insulin levels can impact their supply. Finally, when it comes to obesity, research reveals that obese mothers are more likely to experience issues with their milk supply.

    2. Getting Sick

    While it's not uncommon for mothers to report a milk supply drop when sick, a cold or flu virus alone won't directly lead to your milk production decreasing. However, if you experience reduced appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, or tiredness while sick, it could lead to not producing enough milk. Try to stay hydrated, fed, and rested when battling illness to minimize the impact on your supply and seek medical attention when needed.

    3. Having Breastfeeding Problems

    Issues with latching, clogged milk ducts, engorged breasts, and mastitis are common reasons for low milk supply. See a doctor or lactation consultant to address these concerns and get tips for how to increase milk production.

    Next, we cover lifestyle factors and feeding practices that can impact the success of breastfeeding and potentially dry up milk supply.

    4. Smoking or Drinking

    It is recommended to avoid or limit smoking and drinking alcohol when breastfeeding. These practices expose you and your baby to harmful chemicals and can lead to a milk supply decrease. One reason for this is that drinking temporarily blocks the release of oxytocin, a hormone essential for breast milk production.

    5. Feeling Stressed or Anxious

    Feelings of stress and anxiety are common after birth when we're often sleep deprived, undergoing hormonal changes, and potentially dealing with mental health issues like postpartum depression. We've heard countless times that stress can wreak havoc on our bodies, but did you know that it's the most common cause of not producing enough breast milk? So remember to tend to your mental health and seek support when needed. 

    6. Combo Feeding

    Breast milk production follows the laws of supply and demand, i.e., the more your baby feeds, the more milk you produce. If you choose to supplement with formula for several feedings a day or are not pumping enough milk, your body takes this as a sign to produce less milk, resulting in a low breast milk supply. Following a regular pumping schedule to increase milk supply can help.

    7. Introducing Solids

    Once you start weaning, complementary food meals replace breastfeeds, and fewer nursing sessions can decrease your supply. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends waiting until around 6 months of age to introduce solid foods.

    8. Exclusively Pumping

    If you're an exclusive pumper, it's essential that you pump frequently and for long enough. You also need a pump that is effective at getting your milk out. If you have noticed that your milk supply suddenly dropped, try increasing your pumping to increase milk supply!

     

    How to Increase Breast Milk Supply

    As far as what helps produce breast milk, there are several strategies at your disposal. The methods for how to produce more breast milk that we're discussing here focus on stimulation, stress reduction, and increasing the frequency of expressing milk.

    how to increase breast milk supply

    Massage Your Breasts: Do Not Forget Hands-on Pumping

    Giving yourself a lactation massage is not only soothing and great for stress relief, but it also increases the release of hormones involved in breast milk production. You can even massage your breasts while nursing your baby or pumping-known as "hands-on pumping."

    Breastfeed or Pump More

    The best way to increase milk supply is to ramp up how much you are breastfeeding or pumping. Remember, supply and demand, folks!

    Allow your baby to feed on demand, as much as they want, for as long as they need to help with the emptying of your breasts. Plus, if you have the luxury to do so, it's a great idea to spend a few days in bed, focusing your time and attention on feeding your baby to help reestablish a supply.

    Take Care of Yourself

    Remember to try and maintain a healthy lifestyle for body and mind. Stay hydrated, eat well, and manage your stress. All of these tips to increase milk supply are more effective if you focus on your own wellness, too.

    Have More Skin-to-skin Contact with Your Little One

    What helps produce more breast milk is holding your baby close to you during feedings and practicing skin-to-skin. This isn't just a great bonding experience it's been proven to help release oxytocin which in turn can help prevent a drying up milk supply.

    See a Lactation Consultant or Breastfeeding Specialist

    If you're unsure about how to engage in these methods for increasing breast milk supply or continue to wonder why you're not producing enough milk, it can be useful to get help from a lactation consultant or breastfeeding specialist for personalized advice on how to get milk supply up.

     

    How Long Does it Take to Increase Milk Supply?

    Oftentimes moms want to know how to increase milk supply fast once they realize their milk supply dropped. The good news is following practices for boosting milk supply, like more consistent pumping and nursing, can result in more breast milk in only 2 or 3 days. If you're not seeing any improvements or you're seeing more breast milk drying up symptoms, remember to seek help from a healthcare professional.

    how long does it take to increase milk supply

    Should I Add Formula When Milk Supply is Low?

    If you want to know how to boost milk supply, it's recommended to only offer your baby breast milk because the more you express, the more you'll produce. However, if you've been feeding breast milk regularly and are still concerned about a low supply and you're seeing signs baby isn't getting enough milk, speak to your healthcare provider about introducing formula.

    should i add formula when milk supply is low

    How to Supplement with Formula Without Reducing Breast Milk Supply

    When supplementing with formula, you may experience a drop in your supply or struggle to produce enough milk for baby. That's why one of the best practices for combination feeding is to pump milk every time you offer your baby a bottle. This can maintain and possibly help your milk supply increase.

     

    Disclaimer:

    Please be aware that this information is based on general trends in babies, and it is not medical advice. Your doctor should be your first source of information and advice when considering any changes to your child’s formula and when choosing your child’s formula. Always consult your pediatrician before making any decisions about your child’s diet or if you notice any changes in your child.

    Breastfeeding is the best nutrition for your baby because breast milk provides your child with all the essential nutrients they need for growth and development. Please consult your pediatrician if your child requires supplemental feeding.

    Agustina Fernandez
    Agustina Fernandez

    Dr. Agustina Fernandez earned her medical degree from the prestigious Universidad Nacional de Córdoba, Argentina. With a deep-rooted passion for pediatrics, Dr. Fernandez is currently on the path to specializing in children's healthcare. Recently, she has delved into the vital field of infant nutrition. Her research interests include breastfeeding, infant formula, and baby food in little ones’ formative years. Dr. Fernandez's commitment to this area of study underscores her dedication to ensuring the health and well-being of children from their earliest days.

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