This article is for women with decreased breast milk, meaning they started out with an adequate breast milk supply but something has caused it to decrease recently. We’ll look at the causes for decreased breast milk and steps you can take to return breast milk production to it’s former levels.
The Causes of Decreased Breast Milk
Growth spurt – In this case there hasn’t been a decrease in breast milk supply, but because baby is trying to get as many calories as possible and breastfeeding all the time (or drinking more bottles, if you are an exclusive pumper) is can seem like you’re suffering from decreased breast milk. Growth spurts typically last 3 to 7 days and you may find that your baby returns to a typical amount of breastfeeding afterwards.
The return of your monthly cycle – The return of your monthly cycle is a sign that your hormone profile has shifted from lactation to fertility. When this happens, the lactation hormone (prolactin) is pushed to the side by the fertility hormone (estrogen). This often is often accompanied by decreased breast milk.
Giving bottles or pacifiers – Giving bottles or pacifiers can lead to decreased breast milk. If some of baby’s sucking is satisfied by a pacifier or a bottle, baby will be less likely to comfort suck after breastfeeding. Comfort sucking continues to stimulate the breast and helps maintain an adequate breast milk supply. If you’ve recently started giving your baby a pacifier, stop and see if your breast milk supply rebounds.
Aggressive dieting – If you have recently cut a large amount of calories out of your diet, it may cause decreased breast milk production. In general it takes about 500 calories to produce a day’s worth of breast milk. If your body doesn’t haven enough calories available to make the milk, less milk will be made. Begin dieting gradually to avoid a decrease in breast milk production.
Supplementing – If you are giving your baby a supplement (either formula or previously frozen breast milk) it can lead to decreased breast milk supply. Your body doesn’t know you’re giving a supplement, so it will cut production to meet baby’s lower milk demands. Be sure you are pumping or using an SNS System whenever giving a supplement.
Overexertion & Aggressive Exercise – Have you started training for that marathon and noticed a decrease in breast milk production? Any kind of overexertion or aggressive exercise routine can cause a backlash in your milk supply. Even when medically cleared to do so, gradually return to exercise.
Stress – Has a new stressful event recently happened? If so that can cause decreased breast milk production. Returning to work or school is a classic example of decreased breast milk production due to stress (and challenges with pumping frequently.) Try to minimize stress: ask for help when needed and find time to do some relaxing every day.
Pregnancy – Just like with the return of your monthly cycle, pregnancy causes a shift in your hormones away from lactation and can result in decreased breast milk. There isn’t much that can be done with this cause of decreased breast milk production and nipple soreness typically makes breastfeeding too uncomfortable for most moms to continue.
Solid Foods – If your baby has begun eating solid foods, your baby will begin to require less and less calories from breast milk. When this happens your body naturally responds by decreasing breast milk production.
These are some of the more typical causes of decreased breast milk production. Correct (if possible) the cause, then see our 11 ways to increase milk supply to get your supply back to where you want it to be.