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Reduced Milk Supply - Causes, Signs, And Cure

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Sometimes mothers experience a low milk supply insufficient to meet their infant's needs. Learn more about the signs of reduced milk supply.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Richa Agarwal

Published At October 27, 2022
Reviewed AtJune 12, 2023

Introduction

A mother produces enough milk to provide adequate nutrition to the newborn. Still, almost all mothers worry about breastfeeding throughout their pregnancy, especially in the early days after delivery. It is also commonly seen that many women stop breastfeeding very early because they suspect that the milk secretion is less. However, it is essential to know that a low milk supply is a temporary problem, and there are many available solutions to increase the milk supply.

What Are the Signs of Reduced Milk Formation?

It is sometimes seen that everything is going smoothly between you and your baby, and some signs like soft breast and poor feeding can be mistaken for low milk supply. You should not worry about getting these signs as they could be the early signs that indicate the adjustment of you and your baby to breastfeeding. However, if you feel that your baby is not getting enough milk and often feels hungry, you may note the signs and discuss how to rule out poor milk supply with your doctor.

The commonly known signs that indicate low milk production include,

  • Your Baby Is Producing Less Wet or Dirty Diapers: The number of diapers your baby uses depends on the amount of milk they are taking, especially during the initial days of their life. It is seen that breastfed infants poop more frequently than those babies who are taking formula milk. You may notice a color change in the poop of the newborn, which is initially black and then changes from greenish-yellow color to orange-yellow in the first week.

  • If Your Baby Shows Signs of Dehydration: The signs of dehydration include low production of urine for several hours. The baby lacks tears while crying, a prolonged sleep period, and a lack of energy level while they are awake. You should visit your doctor and discuss these signs if you notice these changes.

  • Your Baby Is Not Showing Weight Gain: It is usually seen that babies may lose some weight after birth, but they should start regaining the weight by the second week. Also, some babies might show steady weight gain soon after birth. These are alarming signs, and you need to visit your doctor immediately.

Apart from all this, it should be noted that certain signs are normal and should not be mistakenly considered abnormal.

These include;

  • Your baby desires to breastfeed more often.

  • Your baby wakes up for milk.

  • Your baby is fed for a shorter time.

  • Your baby is not pooping regularly.

  • You feel that your breast is growing soft, and you do not think it is engorged.

Many women in all populations experience all these signs. It signals the physiological changes in the body while adapting to breastfeeding.

What Are the Signs That Indicate That Baby Is Getting Enough Milk?

It is worrisome for all the mothers to meet their infant's nutritional needs and calculate if their infant is getting enough milk to support their growth and development. All mothers suffer from the same concern, especially during the initial days after delivery.

You should know that many changes are evident as the child is growing. These changes are different for every child. Some common behavioral changes that are noted in newborns so far are,

  • Your baby wakes up for food themselves.

  • Your baby uses approximately 6-8 diapers in a day.

  • The baby seems happy and active between the feeds.

  • Your baby is passing a soft yellow stool at least once a day.

  • Your baby is showing a gradual increase in weight.

What Could Be the Reason for Your Poor Milk Supply?

Suppose you are experiencing a decrease in the amount of milk production and are unable to feed your baby correctly. Under such circumstances, it is crucial to know the reason for your problem to correct it.

Some commonly known reasons:-

  • You are unable to achieve a good latch (baby lips attachment to your nipple). It affects the sucking ability of your baby and compromises the milk supply.

  • Your baby is not breastfeeding often.

  • You are feeding your baby more with formula milk.

  • You are not eating well and lacking essential nutrients in your diet.

  • When you introduce solids to your baby's diet, breast milk intake decreases, ultimately causing a decrease in your milk supply.

  • You develop a smoking habit.

  • You might have suffered from lactation mastitis recently.

  • You are taking hormonal medicine and oral contraceptives containing estrogen.

  • A previous history of breast surgery can affect milk production.

  • Premature birth.

  • Pregnancy-induced blood pressure decreases the milk supply.

  • Intake of alcohol and nicotine can affect the breast milk supply.

  • Certain medications, including some over-the-counter drugs, can lower milk supply. It is best to take any medicine when prescribed by your doctor.

How Can You Increase Your Milk Supply to Meet Your Baby Needs?

Breast milk is a biological fluid secreted by the mammary gland. The amount of milk formation is dependent upon its need. There are numerous ways to increase milk supply naturally.

Some of them are,

  • Practicing a good latch.

  • Massaging the breast before, after, and sometimes in between the feed.

  • Attempting breastfeeding frequently.

  • Maintaining a skin-to-skin touch with your baby.

  • Extract extra milk from the breast after completing breastfeeding.

  • Applying warm compression to the breast before breastfeeding.

  • Using both breasts while feeding.

  • Eating nutritional food.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a well-nourished mother needs an additional 330 to 400 calories per day, and the overall calorie intake should be 2,000 calories to 2,800 calories per day.

What Is the Best Food to Increase the Breast Milk Supply?

Some studies suggest that intake of a particular food can help mothers increase milk production.

These include,

  1. Fenugreek seeds.

  2. Spinach.

  3. Fennel.

  4. Oats.

  5. Brewer's yeast.

Conclusion:

The body shows various physiological changes during breastfeeding, misinterpreted as a low milk supply. If you are experiencing the reduced formation of milk that is not sufficient for your body, it is essential to discuss the signs with your doctor before coming to any conclusion. You must know that the low milk supply problem is temporary and can be corrected with superficial modifications.

Frequently Asked Questions

1.

How To Fix Low Milk Supply?

Following a healthy diet helps in increasing milk production. It should be kept in mind to feed from both breasts each time the baby is hungry. Make sure the baby is latched well. Emptying the breasts at each feeding increases milk production. Avoid using pacifiers and bottled milk in the early weeks. Make sure to get plenty of sleep. Pump out the extra milk. Massaging the breasts can stimulate milk production.

2.

What Are the Causes of Sudden Decrease in Milk Supply?

One of the leading causes of reduced milk supply is stress. Feelings of anxiousness or frustration can contribute to the cause. Other factors like improper diet, reduced water intake, and falling sick are other causes of reduced milk supply. Another major reason is substituting breastfeeding with other milk supplements or milk formulas.

3.

Can Low Milk Supply Be Reversed?

Yes. Low milk supply can be reversed. Make sure to pump the milk out every two hours, even if the baby is not hungry for a few days. This will make up for the body's supply and the “demand” process and produce more milk. Pumping out milk consistently stimulates the glands in the breast to produce more milk.

4.

What Foods Increase Breastmilk Fast?

Foods rich in calcium, iron, and fiber are essential to increase breast milk production. Here are some foods that help boost breast milk production.
- Oatmeal and porridge
- Fenugreek seeds.
- Garlic.
- Barley.
- Sesame seeds.
- Brewers yeast.
- Papaya.
- Chickpeas.
- Nuts like flaxseeds and almonds.

5.

What Are The Factors That Affect Milk Production?

Here are some factors that affect milk production:
- Genetic background. 
- Climate and certain medical conditions. 
- Feeding year and season of calving. 
- Lactation length and dry period. 
- Breed, age, stage of lactation, parity, and milking frequency. 
- Diet and water intake.

6.

What Are the Indications That My Milk Is Drying Up?

Here are three signs to know if the milk is drying:
- Baby produces less than 6 diapers daily, indicating they are not getting enough food.
- Lack of weight gain. 
- Signs of dehydration, for example, baby not urinating often, absence of tears while crying, and low energy levels.

7.

What Increases Milk Production?

 
- Here are some ways one can boost breastmilk production:
- Follow a diet rich in calcium, iron, and fiber.
- Make sure the baby is latched properly.
- Offer both breasts while breastfeeding. 
- Empty the breasts each time after feeding.
- Pump out extra milk even if the baby is not hungry.
- Avoid using pacifiers and other milk formulas.
- Massage the breasts every day to boost milk production.
- Apply slightly warm packs on the breasts. 
- Get sufficient sleep and drink plenty of fluids.

8.

Does Drinking Water Increase Breast Milk?

Yes. Drinking water increases breast milk production. Sufficient hydration is important for breast milk production. Studies show the amount of liquid intake affects breast milk production. Overconsuming water can also be harmful. One must drink an average of eight to ten cups of water (daily) to prevent milk drying and increase milk production.

9.

Why Are Some Mothers Are Not Able to Produce Milk?

Stress and anxiety are the leading causes of mothers' inability to produce enough milk. Lack of sleep, improper diet, and reduced liquid intake are other causes of reduced milk supply. Underlying medical conditions, polycystic ovarian syndrome, thyroid problems, diabetes, hypertension, and hormonal problems contribute to the fall in milk production.

10.

What Things Should One Avoid While Breastfeeding?

 
- Mothers should avoid:
- Eating unhealthy and heavily processed foods. 
- Alcohol consumption. 
- Drinking coffee containing caffeine.
- Eating spicy foods.
- Herbal supplements.
- Seafood (fish).

11.

How Long Does It Take for Milk Supply to Increase?

After 3 to 4 days of making colostrum, the breast becomes firmer. This indicates that the milk supply is increasing and changing from colostrum to mature milk. The milk becomes whiter and creamier, but this varies between women. Sometimes it may take longer for the milk supply to increase.

12.

Will Pumping Every Two Hours Increase the Milk Supply?

Yes. Pumping every two hours increases the milk supply. Pumping often can help stimulate breasts to produce more breast milk. Mothers can try pumping both breasts for fifteen minutes to every two hours in the initial weeks. After which mothers can return to their regular pumping routine.
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Dr. Richa Agarwal
Dr. Richa Agarwal

Obstetrics and Gynecology

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breast milk
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