Breastfeeding is a natural process but requires skills and knowledge that do not come automatically.
A sudden drop in milk supply is a common worry of new moms everywhere.
Fluctuations in milk supply are both normal and common.
A sudden decrease in milk supply is often temporary but can lead to long-term problems if not addressed.
- Signs of a drop in milk supply
- What variations are normal for milk supply?
- Causes of a decrease in milk supply
- Ways to increase breast milk supply
Sudden Drop in milk Supply Signs
There are only two true signs of a decrease in milk supply: If the baby is having fewer than 6 wet diapers in 24 hours, or if the baby is losing weight. If either of these things are happening, a breastfeeding expert such as a lactation consultant or a knowledgeable pediatrician should be seen immediately.
If the baby is gaining weight more slowly than expected, parents may also want to work with a breastfeeding expert to monitor his or her growth. A growth chart is a distribution curve which means that someone has to be in the 5th percentile and someone has to be in the 95th percentile. Being in a lower percentile is not always cause for concern as long as the baby is growing at a steady rate.
What Variations Are Normal for Milk Supply?
It is normal for milk production to vary over the course of a day. For many women, milk supply is often highest in the middle of the night or the early morning. Milk supply is typically lower in the evening but can also be fattier. This combination leads many babies to cluster feed as they get ready for a long stretch of sleep.
There is a normal shift in milk production when babies are between 3-4 months old. Supply goes from being driven by postpartum hormones to driven by demand (frequency of breastfeeding and pumping). While some women may see a “drop” in output, in reality, her supply is regulated to produce only as much as baby needs.
A normal pumping output is often lower than many people would expect. It is common to get 2-4 ounces total when pumping to replace a feeding session, and a half to 2 ounces total when pumping after baby eats or between nursing sessions. It’s also common for pumping output to go down over time.
What are The Causes of a Decrease in Milk Supply?
A sudden decrease in milk supply is often temporary but can lead to longer-term problems if not addressed. There are some common culprits that can lead to concerns.
- Baby isn’t transferring milk. Learning to breastfeed is a skill that takes time for both mom and baby. Baby needs to have a good latch in order to transfer milk well. A knowledgeable health provider can do a weighted feed to determine how much milk baby is getting and check for lip or tongue tie.
- Feeding on a schedule instead of on demand. Feeding on a schedule is almost never recommended for breastfeeding babies, unless baby is going too long between feeding sessions. Just like adults, babies do not eat the same amount of food at exactly timed intervals. When baby is showing hunger cues, put baby to the breast even if has been a short time since she or he ate last.
- Mom’s health. Certain medical conditions like anemia, thyroid problems, or previous breast surgery can lead to low milk supply concerns. Illness from colds or flu can cause a sudden drop in supply, especially when coupled with not enough fluids, calories, or rest. Some women notice a dip in their supply when they are experiencing stress or around the time when their period returns.
- Medications. Some medications can decrease milk supply including antihistamines, cold medicines, high doses of steroids, and estrogen-based birth control.
- Supplementing. Milk production is based on a supply and demand process. Any time a baby is fed with formula or donor milk or solid foods are used to replace breast milk, it takes away the signal to make more milk.
- Not responding to pump. Pumping milk is a process separate from breastfeeding. Some women don’t respond well to pumping or don’t have all the skills and tools needed to do it successfully.
Ways to Increase Breast Milk Supply?
But, first, I suggest to you, to watch the video below, where Natalie sharing with us her experience and how she is boosting her milk supply.
So now, let’s compliment the video with other information.
I agree with Natalie, the best way to increase milk production is to remove milk more often, ideally putting the baby to the breast or pumping 8-12 times a day.
- Make sure that the baby has a good latch. If breastfeeding is painful or stressful, a lactation consultant can offer support and advice to make improvements. (You can find a consultant in your area on this page).
- Make time to breastfeed, especially in the first few weeks when milk supply is being established. Feed baby on demand when he or she is showing early hunger cues. Do not skip feedings or use pacifiers to “hold off” a feeding.
- If baby is fussy or keeps popping off the breast, switch sides frequently and use breast compressions to keep milk flowing.
- If supplementation has been recommended by a medical provider, a Supplemental Nursing System is a great choice to make sure baby is getting enough milk while still stimulating milk production.
- An electric double pump is the best choice for most people, although some women find a hand pump or hand expression works better for them.
- Choose a regular time of day to pump. If mom is trying to build her supply slowly, she might pump once a day in the middle of the night or in the morning. If baby is losing weight, some women will be advised to pump after every feed. Even if very little or no milk comes out, pumping creates a demand for milk that will increase supply.
- Power pumping is a process that replicates cluster feeding – Pump for 20 minutes, rest for 10, pump for 10, rest for 10, pump for 10.
- Perform regular pump maintenance by cleaning and replacing parts as needed.
- Make sure baby is bottle fed using paced feeding.
- Start with eating food thought to increase milk production. Breastmilk is made of primarily water, protein, and fat. Many women find they do not get as much protein as recommended.
- Oats or oatmeal, dark leafy greens, or special “lactation cookies” can help boost milk supply.
- Drink more fluids – up to 100 ounces a day.
- Common herbal supplements include fenugreek, Moringa, fennel, and blessed thistle. These supplements can come in the form of a pill, liquid, or tea.
- Women should not rely on supplements alone to increase milk supply. They are most effective when used in combination with more frequent nursing or pumping.
- Herbal supplements must also be used with caution – some can reduce milk supply more and others can have interactions with prescribed medications.
You can also read about how to produce more breast milk in this post.
For moms worried about a sudden drop in milk supply, sifting through the information and resources can be overwhelming. Whenever possible, it’s advisable to work with a knowledgeable lactation consultant to implement strategies to boost milk supply.
Video credits: Natalie Bennett