Common Causes of Low Milk Supply

low milk supply

Low milk supply has plagued women for decades in America. But how prevalent and common is low breast milk supply among women?

It is important to know the shape of your breast before you get pregnant and after getting pregnant. The anatomy of your breast does contribute to how and if you will have breast milk to feed your child. The way your baby acts, the frequency at which your baby nurses, if you feel a let-down before you nurse your infant, or the amount you pump are not reliable ways to determine if you have enough breast milk to feed your baby. Many women make about 1/3 more breast milk than their infant will ever consume. Nevertheless, the question of how to increase breast milk supply after delivery tops list for many breastfeeding mothers.

So, what are the possible causes for low breast milk supply?

Inadequate or infrequent feeding:

To be sufficiently fed a baby needs to be fed 8 to 12 times within each 24 hours. Whenever your baby is being breast fed less than 8 times per day it signals to your body that your baby does not need much milk. This will lead to a decline in your breast milk production and you will often see a sudden drop in milk supply. If you realize that you are providing inadequate feeds to your infant all is not lost. Working with a trained breastfeeding consultant over a short course should get you back on track.


There are particularly good reasons to supplement your baby. Either with expressed breast milk or artificial milk. Nursing is a supply and demand process. This means that your breast milk is produced as your baby nurses. The amount that is produced is determined by the frequency at which your baby nurses. Whenever your baby is supplemented by formula or breast milk and milk is not expressed from your breast at similar rates needed to keep your supply consistent it signals that there is no need to make milk or continue to make at the volume required previously. It is important to remove your breast milk from your breast at least 8-12 per day. For many mothers who use a breast pump while working bottle feeding pumped breast milk is the norm. If you experience a drop in your breast milk and question how to increase milk supply when pumping It is important to note these supplementing rules.

Anatomical problems:

The anatomy of a baby’s mouth does matter. Many mothers blame themselves for their infant not getting enough breast milk when there can be an anatomical issue impacting the way their baby breastfeed. Some anatomical issue such as jaundice, lip-tie, high palate, or tongue-tie will affect breastfeeding. Typically, it prevents the baby from removing milk adequately while breastfeeding; thereby, decreasing milk supply. Typically, if your child is born with a tongue or lip-Tie you will feel discomfort will breastfeeding. Many women report nipple pain, bruising or abrasions. Additionally, babies can also show low or slow weight gain if they are dealing with an anatomical issue that affects breastfeeding. Anatomical problems require careful intervention by a Lactation Consultant and another medical professional to ensure that the issue is resolved quickly.

Maternal Health Considerations:

Uncontrolled anemia, hypothyroidism, retained placenta fragments, postpartum hemorrhage, PCOS and breast surgery can all play a role in your breast milk production. Some conditions such as retained placenta fragments and postpartum hemorrhage will delay the onset of copious amounts of breast milk. If a mother is a smoker or incredibly stressed it can affect breast milk supply. Insufficient glandular tissue will affect breast milk development in one or both breasts. The medications a breastfeeding mother is taking such as hormonal birth control can also have the potential to affect milk supply. If you have any of these conditions, it does not mean you cannot breastfeed. It requires that you, the breastfeeding parent need to seek immediate help by a lactation consultant. Your LC should refer you to your doctor for additional help depending condition. For this reason, seeking home remedies to increase breast milk supply without looking into the cause of why mother’s breast milk supply is low is cautioned. Maternal health consideration is one of the true reasons affecting low breast milk supply.

Bottle preference:

The bottle teat and a mother’s nipples are shaped differently. When your child bottle feed they are sucking on a nipple only. When your child feeds directly from your breast they are feeding from your breast not nipple. In fact, while breastfeeding your nipples are very elastic and will pass your infants hard palate to the soft palate. If you are experiencing nipple pain this is a strong indication that your baby is nipple feeding. This does not mean you should stop breastfeeding. Seeking immediate help is a simple way to correct and work on latch and position to preserve your breastfeeding relationship. Both breast and bottle require different methods to get feed. It is often easier for your baby to extract milk from a bottle, often simple pressure from the lips will release milk. Additionally, the angle at which the bottle is held pushes milk into the baby’s mouth and not the baby actively expressing their own milk. As a result, bottle feeding can either cause your baby to have problems sucking properly at your breast or can result in baby preferring a constant faster flow from the bottle.

Scheduled Feedings:

It is common practice to be told in the hospital and at the pediatrician office to feed your baby every two hours. Schedule feeds interfere with the early development of copious amounts of breast milk. It interferes with the supply and demand cycle of milk production and can lead to a reduced supply. Sometimes the effects are seen immediately and sometimes weeks later. The best thing you can do is feed your baby when they signal, they are hungry. This is great way to start the process of increasing your breast milk in one day. Getting to learn your baby’s feeding cues can be demonstrated to you. Nevertheless, there will be slight differences among some babies, through feeding interactions you will get to know your child’s unique behaviors.

Cutting feeds short or feeding on one breast:

When the baby is fed to specific time and feeds are ended by you and not your infant it tends to interfere with how much milk your body will produce. An example of this is feeding for 15 minutes only or feeding on one breast per feed. Allowing your infant to finish feeding at each breast is important to maintaining and improving your breast milk supply. If you feel your infant is feeding too long or too short, please call your local lactation consultant. It is also good to know that fat in breast milk comes towards the end of each feeding so by cutting feeds short cuts your baby is missing out on valuable fats needed for their development. Another unintended cause of cutting feedings short is increasing the likelihood of mastitis because breast milk is sitting in the breast without being drained.

In Summary:

No matter the cause low milk supply is real and finding a reason for your low breast milk supply is vital to having a breastfeeding a lasting relationship. These issues are normally fixable, some require bit more work than other but nonetheless fixable. If you find yourself having low milk supply please reach other to a Lactation Consultant who will be able to find the specific issue right away and work with you and your baby to get you back on track.

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