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10 Causes For Low Milk Supply & How To Boost Milk Production

10 Causes For Low Milk Supply & How To Boost Milk Production

Whether you're a mother who is breastfeeding or pumping, low milk supply is discouraging. To boost your milk supply you need to first recognize the signs and causes. Click now to read about 10 causes and tips to boost low milk supply today!

Are you struggling with a low milk supply? A low milk supply with breastfeeding is a common occurrence. Many women during the early months of breastfeeding experience it.

Whether this is your first baby or your sixth, low milk supply can happen to any woman…. Including myself!

Troubles with breastfeeding are common, but if you’re aware of the causes of low milk supply you can be prepared to take every measure to boost milk production!

Disclosure: Bear in mind that some of the links in this post are affiliate links and if you click on them to make a purchase I will earn a commission. Keep in mind that I link these companies and their products because of their quality and not because of the commission I receive from your purchases. The decision is yours, and whether or not you decide to buy something is completely up to you.

Signs Of Low Milk Supply

Sometimes the signs of low milk supply are not recognized until you can no longer pump or feed an adequate amount of milk. So how do you know you have poor milk supply?

Signs of low milk supply include…

  • Your baby lost more than 10% of his/her birth weight or not gained the weight back 5 to 6 days after birth
  • Lower amount of wet or poopy diapers
  • Your baby is exhibiting signs of dehydration that include: Jaundice, dry mouth, dark-colored urine, lethargic

Now that you know the signs, you need to identify the cause of your poor milk supply in order to treat it properly.

Causes Of Low Milk Supply

1. Poor Latch

Amazingly, some babies have troubles breastfeeding from the start. Breastfeeding is a learning process for both mom and baby.

It’s a common misconception that babies are born with an innate ability to nurse.

But that couldn’t be further from the truth! When my son was born this was one of the many breastfeeding issues we encountered immediately.

Let’s be honest for a second… When your baby is having troubles latching, it’s extremely discouraging and you tend to blame yourself.

Just know that if your baby has a poor latch, it’s not your fault! Nor is it your baby’s fault. It takes time to learn to breastfeed for both of you!

However, a poor latch lowers your milk supply overtime. If your baby fails to latch on properly, he/she will not get sufficient milk from your breasts.

Breastfeeding is all about supply and demand. If your baby is able to feed and drain your breasts of milk. Your milk supply goes up because empty breasts signal the body to make more milk.

The more milk extracted, the more milk your body will produce!

What You Can Do…

To help with a poor latch, proper breastfeeding positions are everything! To get into proper positions, use a breastfeeding pillow to help make both you and baby comfortable.

Another option is to seek help. There’s nothing wrong with reaching out and finding local resources like a lactation consultant or a breastfeeding support group to help you through poor latch struggles.

A lactation consultant can help you and baby find the perfect position to help baby latch better!

While you are working on proper latching with your baby, try pumping breastmilk instead to keep your supply up!

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2. Breastfeeding On A Schedule

It’s normal for newborn babies to breastfeed every 1.5 to 2 hours. However, if you develop a set schedule of breastfeeding and stretch out feedings longer than 2 hours, your milk supply will dwindle.

Remember, breastfeeding is all supply and demand. The more baby demands and you breastfeed, the more milk production ramps up.

Another culprit along with scheduling feedings is using a pacifier in between feedings.

I personally like pacifiers and used them with my first child. But if they are being used to stretch out time between feedings your breasts stay fuller longer.

If your breasts are fuller longer, they are not being emptied to signal the production of more milk.

What You Can Do…

The best option is to not schedule feedings. Instead, respond to your baby’s hunger cues. This may seem easy, but with a newborn it does take time to learn your baby’s cues.

Some common newborn hunger cues include…

Early Stage

  • Licking or smacking lips
  • Sucking on hands, fingers, toes, etc.
  • Opening and closing mouth
  • Protruding tongue
  • Rooting reflex (moving head side to side)

Active Stage

  • More leg and arm movement
  • Fussy
  • Whining sounds or grunts
  • Hitting your chest or arm
  • Getting into feeding position
  • Turning his/her head toward someone’s chest when carried

Late Stage

  • Frantically moving head from side to side
  • Crying

3. Not Breastfeeding Long Enough

Even though your baby is latched properly and your producing adequate milk, not breastfeeding long enough shortens your milk supply overtime.

If your baby is breastfeeding for less than 5 minutes on each breast or he/she is only feeding from one breast it could result in low milk supply.

When your baby feeds for short periods of time, your breast milk will not be drained.

What You Can Do…

Switch breasts frequently to ensure your milk is emptying from both breasts.

If your baby falls asleep during the middle of breastfeeding, stroke his/her cheek to wake him/her up to begin suckling again.

4. Grandular Tissue Problems

Grandular tissue in the breasts are specific glands that produce milk. Without a sufficient amount of grandular tissue a woman will naturally have a low milk supply.

In order to know for sure if this is the cause of poor milk supply, it has to be diagnosed by a doctor.

While some women may struggle with insufficient grandular tissue during their first pregnancy, a second pregnancy may yield more breast milk. This is due to the fact that gradular tissue increases during each pregnancy.

What You Can Do…

Although a diagnosis of insufficient gradular tissue is discouraging, there is hope. Many women with less gradular tissue go on to breastfeed, even with a low milk supply.

However, there is hope to still breastfeed with this diagnosis. A lactation consultant is needed to help boost poor milk supply as much as possible.

If you have insufficient gradular tissue, you can try a Supplemental Nursing System Kit. This will allow you to supplement formula to your baby while still providing breast milk from the breast.

Supplemental nursing is not only perfect for boosting milk supply, but can also be used in situations dealing with…

  • Inducing lactation
  • Premature babies
  • Special-needs babies
  • Poor latch
  • Relactating mothers

Medela Supplemental Nursing System Kit

5. Reduced Night Feedings

While you can’t cut down night feedings for a newborn… Once you start sleep training or your baby is sleeping for longer periods of time, you will reduce night feedings.

When you cut back on night feedings, you may notice a reduction in breast milk.

If your child is breastfeeding less during the night, it signals your body to produce less milk because it thinks less is needed.

Just remember the rule of supply and demand!

The hormone that signals more breast milk production (prolactin) is naturally higher during night feedings.

When night feedings are reduced, the amount of prolactin decreases resulting in a lower milk supply.

What You Can Do…

As a mother (especially breastfeeding) you’re exhausted! I’ve been there and I get it. The temptation to reduce night feedings and get more sleep is strong.

But, if you find your milk supply reducing after cutting back on night feedings, you may want to reintroduce a session or two of breastfeeding at night.

This will help boost your milk supply by producing more prolactin to signal more overall milk production.

6. Hormone & Endocrine Disorders

Such disorders as PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome), thyroid issues, diabetes and other hormone issues causes trouble with conceiving.

But did you know those same disorders also cause low milk supply?

A variety of hormonal and endocrine disorders cause a disruption of hormone signals within the body.

Milk production is signaled by the release of certain hormones like prolactin.

If you already have a preexisting hormone issue, your hormones may still be disrupted when you go to breastfeed.

What You Can Do…

The best way to treat low milk supply when caused by a hormonal disorder is by treating the hormone disorder itself. This is accomplished with a qualified professional who can treat the hormonal disorder with proper medication or natural treatment.

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7. Certain Medications

Believe it or not certain medications contain ingredients that lower milk supply. If you don’t know which medications and herbs cause low milk supply, you could end up taking them by accident.

Medications that cause low milk supply

  • Sudafed and other cold medicines containing the active ingredient Pseudoephredine
  • Methergine (medication used for severe bleeding after childbirth)
  • Bromocriptine (class of medications to treat type 2 diabetes, menstrual issues, growth hormone overproduction, Parkinson’s disease, etc.)
  • Hormonal birth control
  • Sage
  • Peppermint
  • Parsley

What You Can Do…

Discuss with your doctor other medication options with different ingredients that will not diminish your milk supply. If you are taking birth control, always discuss with your doctor before getting off of it.

Not all women are effected by low milk supply because of birth control.

Along with consulting a doctor, you can continue to breastfeed and also pump with a quality breast pump to boost milk supply.

8. Epidural & Jaundice

An epidural or Demerol taken during childbirth actually lowers your child’s ability to latch on and breastfeed correctly.

Although pain medication during birth can affect your baby’s ability to latch properly, not taking an epidural during childbirth is not easy.

Childbirth is painful and there’s no shame in accepting pain medication to assist you with labor!

Jaundice is a condition in newborns that causes yellowing of the skin. This newborn condition causes a baby to sleep more than usual, which can make breastfeeding difficult.

Without frequent breastfeeding, milk supply will go down.

What You Can Do…

If your baby is having troubles latching because of an epidural, you can try a combination of methods to help baby latch better like…

  • A breastfeeding pillow
  • Working with a lactation consultant
  • Supplemental nursing

9. Breast Surgery

Breast augmentation in the form of breast reduction, enlargement or piercings could be the reason behind a low milk supply.

Although you cannot reverse a surgery once it’s been done, you can help boost your milk production.

Along with breast surgery, cosmetic procedures like nipple piercings cause damage to the milk ducts within the nipple. With breast reductions, milk ducts are removed.

Therefore, the more milk ducts that are removed or damaged, the less milk you will produce while breastfeeding.

Typically, breast enlargements do not cause low milk supply. But it is still possible to have.

What You Can Do…

If you are having troubles with low milk supply because of previous breast surgery, you may need to supplement with formula. This can either be done with bottles that mimic a breast or you can still breastfeed and supplement with a Supplement Nursing System.

10. Supplementing With Formula

This one almost did not make the list…

I suffered with low milk supply while breastfeeding my first son. I worked with a lactation consultant and it was helpful. But I still needed to supplement with formula early on in my breastfeeding journey.

Many sources tell you that supplementing with formula during the first couple weeks of breastfeeding will only aid to your problem of low milk supply.

However, I feel if you have low milk supply and your baby needs more milk then you can provide, you don’t have a choice but to supplement with formula. Yes…

If you start using formula early on, your breasts will not be drained completely. Therefore, if they are not drained than your body will start producing less milk.

Some women (like myself) just have low milk supply from the start of breastfeeding for a wide variety of reasons.

If you need to supplement with formula there is no shame in it! All that matters is your baby is fed and healthy!

What You Can Do…

Supplement with formula. Sometimes a variety of things happen that cause you to have low milk supply. It happens…

I had every intention to see breastfeeding through. But I was faced with a variety of different circumstances that I couldn’t control. I wanted to fully breastfeed and I had support from everyone in my life.

But when my newborn was loosing too much weight and I was not pumping enough milk to feed him an adequate supply, I had to supplement.

Final Thoughts

There are so many causes to low milk supply while breastfeeding. If you had your heart set on fully breastfeeding, it can be both discouraging and heartbreaking.

But you can’t always control the causes.

However, you can make chances in your life to help boost your milk supply!

Breastfeeding with low milk supply is still possible. But you need to be aware of the limitations.

If you have low milk supply and your milk supply is still not increasing with every tip and trick you try, then you may need to use formula.

It was heartbreaking when I started formula early on and it was even worse when my milk completely dried up.

After many sleepless nights of agonizing over not being able to breastfeed, I finally realized…

My son is a healthy weight. He’s being fed essential vitamins and minerals through formula. I’m still bonding with him even with bottle feeding. And he’s happy.

In the end, that’s all that matters is the health of our children. If you want and need to use formula to supplement, use it!

There’s nothing wrong with that. If you struggling with low milk supply, try to do everything in your power to increase it.

But, it’s ok to use formula! Just do what’s best for you and your baby!

low milk supply

Works Cited

Signs of poor milk supply

Breastfeeding latch

Do I have poor milk supply

Insufficient glandular tissue

Family medicine doctor talks about the importance of support for breastfeeding moms

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