Is my milk supply too low? 

Let’s dispel some myths about low milk supply.

I know a mother whose mother-in-law was convinced her new grandson was starving because the mother’s breasts were “too small to feed a growing baby.” The baby was also spending a lot of the day nursing, which seemed to indicate to the MIL he wasn’t getting full.

These ideas are clearly nonsense. First, breast size has nothing to do with milk supply. An A cup can produce the exact same amount of breast milk as a D cup. Second, it is perfectly normal for newborns to nurse twelve times per day (or more) during the first month. That’s because breast milk is so easy to digest.

However, the idea got in my friend’s head, and she naturally started to worry. Was her milk supply too low to support life? Her son’s pediatrician put her mind at ease saying, and I quote, “For some of these formula-loving maw-maws, ain’t nothing good enough unless it’s got rocket fuel in it.” He pointed out that her baby was growing at a normal rate and that it’s normal for a baby to nurse all day during the early months because “he’s learning just like you, and he needs a lot of practice at first.”

Are you experiencing insufficient milk supply or perceived insufficient milk supply?

I wish this doctor could talk to every mother who wanted to breastfeed and/or pump for the first year (or longer). He might clear up a lot of unnecessary stress. Studies show that 35% of mothers discontinue breastfeeding because they believe their milk supply is too low. This is called perceived insufficient milk supply, and it’s a much more widespread problem than actual cases of low milk supply. In fact, according to medical experts, a much smaller percentage of women – between .01% at the very low end and 5% at the very high end – are incapable of producing sufficient breastmilk.

Why do so many women worry about low milk supply?

One study in the Journal of Nursing Scholarship suggests that perceived insufficient milk supply may be a result of women misreading infant satisfaction cues and points out that “many researchers, clinicians, and breast-feeding women do not evaluate actual milk supply.” Both of these point to another problem: many women don’t know much about breastfeeding when they begin, and they don’t receive a lot of helpful support. Sometimes, they even get bad advice.

Back in ye olde days, mothers would have had lots of exposure to breastfeeding within their extended family and communities. It would have just been a fact of life. After the rise of infant formula in the early 20th century, breastfeeding began to decline in America. For a long period, nursing in public was taboo, and even today, there isn’t much support for breastfeeding mothers. It wasn’t until 2010 that the Affordable Care Act protected breast pumps, lactation support, and breastfeeding supplies as essential benefits.

In other words, modern moms can be forgiven for feeling insecure and uncertain when they start breastfeeding. Am I doing this right? Is this the right amount of milk? How do I know if he’s full? We lost a few millennia of insight and wisdom on the subject during the 1900s.

What should you do if you’re worried about low milk supply?

First, remember that stress impacts milk production negatively, so worry less. Easier said than done, right? If you’re worried, go ahead and talk with a trusted medical advisor to put your mind at ease. Evaluate your milk supply. Assess your baby’s growth. Give yourself and your baby time to learn the ropes.

What are some causes of low milk supply?

While actual cases of low milk supply are infrequent, there are moms who aren’t able to produce a sufficient milk supply. The following medical issues can contribute to low milk supply:

  • Insufficient duct development
  • Hormonal or endocrine problems such as diabetes and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
  • Scarring of the nipple caused by surgery, piercing, etc.
  • Tongue-tie, cleft palate, and other sucking impediments

Other factors can also affect milk production, including:

  • Hormonal birth control
  • Some medications and herbal supplements
  • Stress
  • Frequency of breastfeeding sessions
  • Use of formula
  • Interruptions to breastfeeding or pumping schedule

Can a breast pump boost milk production?

How frequently you empty your breasts throughout the day has a big impact on your breast milk supply. A breast pump can help you boost and maintain your milk supply by supplementing your nursing sessions. As baby’s breastfeeding schedule becomes less time-consuming, lots of moms add pumping to their schedule to keep their milk supply maxed out. This also allows you to build up a supply of breast milk to use in case you decide breastfeeding isn’t working out for you over the long run.

Learn more about the best breast pumps for maintaining your milk supply.

Milk N Mamas Baby is owned and operated by women who have experienced the joys and the fears of being a mom. We can relate to your worries about low milk supply. We’ve been kept awake at night by the same problems, and we’re here to offer our support, insights, and encouragement when you need them. Get in touch today.