Breastfeeding is one of the most beautiful and natural experiences a mother and baby can share. However, sometimes a woman’s milk supply can decrease for various reasons, causing stress and concern for the mother. We help you understand the factors affecting your milk supply, identify the reasons behind a low collection, and how you can maintain or increase your milk production. By becoming aware of these factors, you can ensure that you provide your baby with optimal nutrition for their growth and development.
- Hormonal factors
Several hormones play a crucial role in the production and maintenance of breast milk supply. Imbalances or changes in these hormones can lead to a decrease in milk production.
- Estrogen: An increase in estrogen levels, such as those experienced when taking hormonal birth control, can reduce milk supply. If you suspect your birth control method is affecting your milk supply, consult your healthcare provider to discuss alternative options.
- Thyroid hormone: Hypothyroidism, an underactive thyroid gland, can reduce milk production. If you suspect that you have thyroid-related issues, consult with your healthcare provider for appropriate testing and treatment.
- Prolactin: Stress, fatigue, and certain medications can decrease prolactin levels, reducing milk supply. Ensure you care for yourself by getting enough rest and managing stress levels.
- Insufficient glandular tissue
Some women may have insufficient glandular tissue in their breasts, making it difficult to produce enough milk. This condition, hypoplasia or insufficient breast tissue, can result from hormonal imbalances during puberty or pregnancy. If you suspect you have inadequate glandular tissue, consult a lactation consultant or healthcare provider for guidance on breastfeeding and potential supplementation options for your baby.
- Poor latch or inefficient milk transfer
An improper latch can lead to inefficient milk transfer, meaning the baby is not effectively removing milk from the breast. This can decrease milk production, as the breast responds to the lack of demand by producing less milk. Working with a lactation consultant to improve latch and positioning can help ensure your baby gets enough milk and stimulate increased milk production.
- Inadequate frequency or duration of breastfeeding
Breast milk production is primarily based on supply and demand. Frequent nursing or pumping sessions signal the body that more milk is needed, stimulating increased production. When nursing frequency or duration decreases, milk production may decline as well. Ensure breastfeeding or pumping at least 8-12 times daily, especially during the first few months.
- Supplementing with formula
Supplementing with formula may decrease breast milk supply, as the baby takes in less breast milk, reducing the demand. To maintain or increase your milk supply, breastfeed exclusively whenever possible. Consult with your healthcare provider or a lactation consultant if you have concerns about your baby’s growth or nutrition.
- Breast surgery or injury
Breast surgery, such as a breast reduction or augmentation, can potentially damage milk ducts and glands, affecting milk production. Additionally, injury to the breast may lead to reduced milk supply, mainly if it results in inflammation or infection. If you have had breast surgery or sustained an injury, consult a healthcare professional or lactation consultant to discuss your breastfeeding options.
- Medications and other substances
Certain medications, including antihistamines, decongestants, and some hormonal birth control methods, can reduce milk supply. Additionally, excessive caffeine intake and smoking can negatively impact milk production. Consult with your healthcare provider before taking any new medications while breastfeeding, and minimize your intake of caffeine and nicotine
- Stress and fatigue
High-stress levels and fatigue can negatively impact milk supply by decreasing the production of the hormone prolactin, which is essential for milk production. Make sure to practice self-care, find ways to manage stress, and establish a support network to help you navigate the challenges of motherhood. Prioritize relaxation, as adequate sleep can contribute to a healthier milk supply.
- Mastitis or breast infection
Mastitis is an infection or inflammation of the breast tissue that can result in pain, swelling, and redness. This condition can reduce the milk supply in the affected breast. If you suspect mastitis, consult with your healthcare provider for proper treatment. Prompt intervention can help minimize the impact on your milk supply and prevent potential complications.
- Returning to work or school
Many mothers experience a decrease in milk supply when they return to work or school after maternity leave. This can be due to stress, fatigue, or difficulty maintaining a regular pumping schedule. Establish a pumping routine that mimics your baby’s nursing schedule to maintain your milk supply, invest in a high-quality breast pump, and consider speaking with your employer about accommodations to support your breastfeeding needs.
- Menstruation and ovulation
Some women may notice a temporary decrease in milk supply in the days leading up to their period or during ovulation. This is likely due to the hormonal fluctuations during the menstrual cycle. In most cases, the decrease is temporary and will resolve once hormone levels return to normal.
Breastfeeding while pregnant can lead to a decrease in milk supply as pregnancy hormones may inhibit milk production. If you become pregnant while breastfeeding, consult with your healthcare provider to discuss strategies for maintaining your milk supply and meeting your newborn’s and growing fetus’s nutritional needs.
A decrease in milk supply can be a source of worry and frustration for breastfeeding mothers. However, understanding the factors influencing milk production and seeking guidance from healthcare professionals or lactation consultants can help you identify and address potential causes. By being proactive, you can work to maintain or increase your milk supply, ensuring that your baby receives the best possible nutrition for their growth and development. Remember that breastfeeding is a journey, and challenges are a normal process. Stay positive, seek support, and trust your body to nourish your little one.