Low milk supply

                                                                                        Adelaide Lactation Consultants © 2017

Most mothers produce enough milk for their babies.  Your milk supply is considered low when there is not enough breast milk being produced to meet your baby’s growth needs.

Many mothers worry about their milk supply, especially in the early stages of breastfeeding.  In fact, women who have stopped breastfeeding will most commonly say it was because they ‘didn't have enough milk.’  However, most mothers do produce enough milk for their babies.  Often the reason for ceasing breastfeeding is lack of support or knowledge about what is considered normal and expectations surrounding breastfeeding.  The support of close family and friends is important to guarantee success.  Sometimes well meaning relatives make mums doubt their abilities unnecessarily. 

If the breast milk supply is genuinely low it is usually a temporary solution and can be improved with appropriate support from a Lactation Consultant.

There are some common reasons why women may think their milk supply is low:

My baby feeds often, sometimes every 2 hours

Babies naturally feed frequently (between 8-12 times in 24 hours), and in the early postnatal period babies can be very unsettled as they try to figure life out.

My breasts always feel soft

When your milk supply adjusts to your baby’s needs your breasts may not feel as full (generally this is 6-12 weeks after birth).  As long as your baby continues to feed well, your breasts will produce enough milk.

My baby has started to feed more frequently

Your baby may want to feed more frequently during ‘growth spurts’ or ‘wonder weeks,’ but this increase in feeds over a few days/week will increase your overall supply and meet baby’s requirements for growth.

My baby feeds for a short time

This is no cause for concern as long as your baby is happy and continues to grow.  After two or three months your baby becomes more efficient at feeding therefore will take less time at the breast.

Signs your baby is getting enough milk:

After the first week following birth, your baby should:

  • Wake and demand for feeds by themselves
  •  Have at least 6-8 soaked nappies (4-5 heavy disposables) in 24 hours
  •   Settled between most feeds
  • Pass soft yellow stools at least once per day

Your baby should be back to birth weight around 2 weeks of age and gaining approximately 150grams per week for the first 3 months of their life.  Growth can slow after this time.

Possible causes of low milk supply

  •  Your baby is not attaching well at the breast.  This may also cause nipple pain and damage.
  • Your baby does not feed often enough       
  • Your baby does not feed effectively at the breast
  • You have recently had mastitis or have been unwell
  • Baby may have an issue with their mouth/tongue e.g. thrush, tongue, lip ties
  • Your are taking oral contraceptive pills containing oestrogen
  • You have started using formula (for even one feed) as well as breastfeeding.
  • You have had breast surgery that is effecting your milk supply e.g. breast reduction/augmentation
  • You may have some medical conditions that can affect the amount of milk you produce (occurs in less than 5% of mothers) such as Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome, Thyroid disorders
  • You smoke
  • Some medications can effect supply including herbal and over the counter preparations

How to increase your milk supply

There are many ways to increase you milk supply.  This may take some time and it is important that you seek advice and support from an experienced lactation consultant who can guide and encourage you.

Talk to Adelaide Lactation Consultants & Midwifery about strategies to manage feeding and expressing while you are increasing your supply.  Often it can take about 1 hour to feed and express.  Then you and your baby can rest between feeds.  Your partner or support person can settle baby, while you express so you do not feel overwhelmed.