The Sneaky Destroyers of Milk Production : Thyroid Function, Hormone Imbalance Or Nutrient Deficiency
We have written many articles on the causes of low milk production in breastfeeding mothers. If none of the other causes we have written about seem to fit your situation, consider having your blood checked for one of these sneaky destroyers of milk production. Particularly have your doctor check for the following:
Hypothyroidism – This happens when your thyroid gland is functioning below normal levels. Symptoms include weight gain, depression and low milk supply. Medication can be given to increase thyroid function.
Anemia – This is a low red blood cell count. The first symptom is fatigue which is difficult for a new mom to know if it’s a symptom of anemia or if she’s just tired from those middle-of-the-night feedings. Like an under-functioning thyroid, Anemia can affect breastfeeding and lactation and should be corrected with supplementing with iron, eating iron rich foods, and vitamin C, which helps with the absorption of iron. Look for an Iron / Vitamin C blend and take 30 Mg of iron and 200 Mg of Vitamin C per day with a meal.
High Testosterone – A certain kind of cyst (Gestational Ovarian Theca Lutein Cyst, to be precise) on one of your ovaries during pregnancy can cause it to produce up to 150 times the normal amount of testosterone. Symptoms include deepening of the voice, facial and body hair growth, male pattern balding, low milk production and difficulties breastfeeding. The reason is that high testosterone interferes with prolactin’s (the milk-making hormone) job of making milk.
If your blood test shows abnormally high levels of testosterone and the cause is a gestational ovarian theca lutein cyst, the simple fix is to simply wait 2 to 4 weeks after birth and continue breastfeeding and follow the advice for increasing milk production in our article on the 11 ways to increase milk supply. After that time, testosterone levels simply return to normal on their own without treatment.
Nutrient Deficiency – Being deficient in any nutrient can have a domino effect that reduces milk production. Correct any “low” or “low normal” with supplements. Be sure to have at least the following nutrients checked: vitamins C, D, B12, iron, zinc, folic acid, calcium and protein.
If the thyroid and other blood tests don’t reveal any problems, it’s not the end of the road. Sometimes the cause of low milk production remains a mystery, but it can still be treated and overcome in many situations. I’ve found that doctors frequently take this approach. One time I went in to see a doctor for a skin problem – sort of like a boil on my arm that wouldn’t go away. The doctor told me he didn’t know what caused it or even what it was but gave me a prescription anyway. He said, “If that doesn’t clear it up, come back in.” His solution worked, even though he didn’t know the cause.
Sometimes the cause of low milk production can be found out with a simple thyroid blood test, and a simple medication can restore your breastfeeding relationship. But other times you just have to treat breastfeeding problems even though you do not fully understand the underlying cause. See our article index for a complete list of helpful articles.