Signs of low milk supply

Potential causes of low milk supply – Transcript

At various stages during your breastfeeding experience you will find that your milk supply will drop. This is quite common and it is good to know the signs that can alert you to this – so please look at the video which helps you to know signs that will tell you that your baby is getting enough milk.

And If you find that those signs are not there, in evidence, then you will know that your supply has taken a drop. So there are plenty of possible reasons why your supply has dropped, and this video seeks to help you to identify the cause and to take you through the steps that you can take to rectify that.

So firstly it’s good to know that when your baby feeds at the breast, every time your baby swallows some milk, your body makes more on that particular side.  There is a factory scenario going on. So where there’s lots of swallowing going on, your body is making more milk – and sometimes there can be reasons why less swallowing and therefore less emptying of the breast is happening. (In that circumstance, therefore, your body will make less at that time on that particular side).

So one thing I want to talk about, for instance, if you offer formula in place of a breast feeding, (mixed feeding) there will be less  stimulation going on at the breast, so in effect you are putting in less demand in,  therefore there is less emptying going on, and your body makes less. I do want to stress, however, there are times when formula supplements are really necessary – and in those situations I would encourage you to look at the videos relating to combination feeding and ways to boost supply.

Of course if you are using formula, you are likely to be using a bottle – and you can imagine, babies can certainly take formula from a bottle quite fast.  It’s a very different sucking mechanism. And you can imagine babies who are faced with a bottle can often, (it’s easy access!) drink milk very rapidly. They don’t’ have to work particularly hard to access that milk and they can often wolf down a whole load of milk faster than they would at the breast – so some babies will get confused at the breast because the flow is slower.

Asian mother breastfeeding her baby girlSo I would suggest that you use breast compressions when your baby is feeding at the breast if you are having to offer formula for any length of time. Breast compressions will help to push extra milk to your baby when he’s attached to the breast and this will help to keep your supply up.

So moving on now from the formula issue, another common reason why your supply can potentially drop is if you have been tempted to schedule feeds (normal patterns) Now that can mean either cutting the feed short or being very regimented regarding the timing of feeds – and I do understand why a lot of ladies would do this and that is because there are lots of very strict parenting books on the market which actually put breast feeding on a schedule – and I do want to reiterate that these regimented regimes are not based on evidence, and it’s a sure way of reducing your milk supply.

So it’s far better to watch your babies feeding cues and let him come to the breast as often as he wants. Let him feed for as long as he wants as well, but please use breast compressions if your baby is falling asleep at the breast for instance, or hanging out a lot.

Another potential reason that can cause your supply to drop is the overuse of dummies. (Now) some babies are so passive that they will suck on a dummy when really they were trying to tell you that they wanted to feed at the breast – and some of these babies will just allow themselves to be pacified that way without stimulating your supply, so this can drop your supply.

I did actually see a lady where this happened. Her baby wasn’t gaining weight well and she stated that she allowed her baby to use a dummy for maybe 2 hours a day, and the supply had really dropped dramatically, and consequently her baby didn’t gain the weight  – but as soon as she stopped using the dummy, the weight gain started to pile on.

And another point about dummies is that sometimes certainly in that first 1-4 weeks when you and your baby are learning how to breast feed, dummies can interfere with the latching itself.

Another really common reason why your (milk) supply can drop, and sometimes it drops very early on even in the first few weeks of breast feeding, is if your baby is particularly sleepy. Sleepy babies, particularly sleepy newborns do need to be proactively woken in order to stimulate that supply – so this is a specific issue and I would encourage you to look at the video related to this.

And sometimes I come across quite a few breast feeding women who said they’ve been encouraged, even from the beginning, to only offer one breast per feed.(one breast or two?) This is in fact a sure way of reducing your milk supply. It’s good to offer both breasts per feed to give your body a chance to get that milk supply established – but, I do want to mention that if you happen to have an oversupply, you might find that offering one breast for feed works very well.

However, if your supply has dropped, then allow your baby to feed from one side for as long as he will feed and then offer the other side. It is a sure way of boosting that supply – and I do want to reiterate that it is important to look at the weight gain and the wet and the dirty nappies. All of these are really good evidences of your supply increasing.(reliable signs)

So all of these points that I’ve mentioned, are normal everyday things that can happen when you’re breast feeding which can very soon be rectified, but sometimes the reasons can be due to other things. For instance, it can be that your baby is not stimulating your supply adequately enough because of a tongue tie.  If this is the case, your baby may not have the tongue movements necessary to drain the breast adequately.newborn baby hand pointing with the finger

And sometimes, although certainly more rarely, medical conditions that you yourself have, can impact on your milk supply – and this could be anaemia, hypothyroidism, or polycystic ovary syndrome. Any of those medical conditions can have an impact.

And if for instance you’ve had a retained placenta after the birth of your baby, this can affect the hormones involved in milk production and cause a problem with milk supply.  And if, for instance you have had a large blood loss during delivery, this usually means a 1000 mls or more, you may have even had blood put up afterwards because of that high amount of blood that was lost. This can sometimes impact on that full milk supply.

And sometimes a low milk supply can be caused by what is known as hypoplastic breasts. That is that sometimes there isn’t enough milk making glandular tissue within the breast itself. Usually these breasts do appear fairly conical in shape and lacking in glandular tissue. Even in that situation, it is possible to still make a supply, some supply. Some women who look as if they have this type of breast can still make a full supply.  It is very variable from woman to woman.

And please bear in mind that any breast or chest surgery which you may have had in the past could impact that full supply and I would encourage you to look at the videos relating to breast reduction surgery and augmentation too.

And the final point that I want to mention, is that certain medications can potentially reduce your supply – and sometimes you can be taking these unwittingly, without realizing. Have a look at the video relating to medications and breast feeding – and have the numbers at your fingertips as to where you can get information from if you are taking a medication that might be impacting on your supply.

And I fully understand that if you are looking at this video, you are concerned about your supply. I just want to reiterate to look at the initial basic things first. Rule all of these things out because often, and for the majority of you it will be related to those things. But if you are in the latter categories, still know that it’s possible to boost your supply in that situation. Everybody is different. You all have a different interplay of hormones – and I’ve seen many ladies who even in those last categories are moving forward with breast feeding.

Review dates, references & further resources

Review Dates

Version 1.1 published in March 2019. Next review date: Jan 2022


If you require the reference sources for this article, please contact us. We will complete your request within 28 days.

Comments / Feedback

Part of what we provide depends on the feedback of its users. With that in mind we would love for you to give feedback on this video. Click here to leave feedback.

Generic filters
Exact matches only
Search in title
Search in content
Search in excerpt