Breast milk is a precious gift that provides optimal nutrition and immune support to newborns and infants. However, many breastfeeding mothers may face challenges with low milk supply, which can be distressing and frustrating. In this blog, we’ll explore the common causes of low milk supply and offer practical solutions to help increase milk production and support successful breastfeeding.

Common Causes of Low Milk Supply:

A poor latch or breastfeeding positioning prevents your baby from effectively removing milk from the breast, resulting in decreased milk supply over time, and also pain and trauma to the nipples. Ensure your baby has a deep, comfortable latch and optimal positioning during breastfeeding (you should be able to hear them swallowing). Remember – Breastfeeding should not be painful and if it is, see an IBCLC to get support early on.

Infrequent breastfeeding or pumping sessions can lead to reduced milk production. Regular and efficient breast stimulation is crucial for signalling the body to produce milk. Breastfeeding works on a supply and demand basis, the more you take = the more you make!  Aim to breastfeed or pump at least 8-12 times per 24 hour period, including regular night feedings, to stimulate milk production and maintain milk supply. It’s important if you are pumping to ensure you have the correct flange size for your nipples. Most pumps come with a one size fits all 24mm flange. Incorrect sizing can mean insufficient milk removal (causing reduced supply) as well as inflammation and trauma to your nipples.

Certain medical conditions such as hormonal imbalances, thyroid issues, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), or retained placental fragments, can contribute to low milk supply. It’s best to see your IBCLC or GP to discuss a management plan / investigations.

Introducing formula supplementation too early or frequently can signal to the body that less milk is needed, leading to a decrease in milk supply. Sometimes formula is necessary. It’s important to continue to remove milk from your breasts regularly otherwise your supply can drop dramatically. Once your supply has increased, you can usually reduce and then wean off the formula with your Lactation Consultant or GP’s guidance.

Stress and Mental Health can disrupt the hormones responsible for the milk letdown process. When this process is not functioning as it should be, not only does it affect breastfeeding and decrease your milk supply, but it causes more anxiety and stress! Take good care of yourself and prioritise your mental health.

Certain Medications like cold and flu tablets that contain pseudoephedrine and some birth control products that contain oestrogen are advised not to be taken as they can affect your milk supply. It’s always important to speak to your GP or pharmacist before starting any new medication and to understand the side effects.

What else can help?

Stay Hydrated and Well-Nourished: Drink plenty of water throughout the day and consume a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and protein to support milk production.

Breast Compressions: During breastfeeding or pumping, using breast compression techniques is a way to encourage milk flow.

Skin-to-Skin Contact: Spend lots of time doing skin-to-skin with your baby, as this promotes bonding and can help stimulate milk production. Strip off and spend the day at home with your baby with minimal distractions and really tune in to each other. 

Practice relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, yoga, or gentle exercise to reduce stress levels and support lactation hormones.

Galactagogues (medications or other substances believed to increase milk production) can also help if other avenues have been explored.  It is best to have a consultation with a qualified IBCLC as often a thorough assessment, change in feeding position and a great management plan with support can be all you need.

Remember, every breastfeeding journey is unique, and it’s essential to be patient and compassionate with yourself as you navigate challenges and work towards achieving successful breastfeeding outcomes for you and your baby. With determination, support, and proactive measures, many mothers can overcome low milk supply and enjoy a fulfilling breastfeeding experience.

 

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