Do I have low milk supply?

By admin
Verified by: Jerilyn Pleticha, BSN, RN, IBCLC

Breastfeeding is definitely natural but far from easy. Anything that can make breastfeeding easier and help you get on the right track from day one is definitely vital.

As a new mom – there is just SO much to know about breastfeeding a baby!

What is a genuine low milk supply?

There will often be times that every breastfeeding mom will ask herself whether she has enough milk for her baby.  

If only breasts came with some sort of gauge telling us how many ounces the baby has drunk.

One question we really must ask ourselves is if it is a genuine low milk supply or if it is a perceived one.

The points below may help put your mind at rest and if you genuinely do have a low milk supply you can read my article on how to increase milk supply in 48 hours.

It is important to note that the behavior of your baby, the size and how your breasts feel, unsuccessful attempts at pumping and a nonexistent let down are not indicators of a low milk supply

However, there are a number of factors that may be responsible for a genuinely low breast milk supply such as diabetes, unstable blood sugar, having specific interventions during delivery or if you have given birth to a premature baby.

Genuine low milk supply and how to fix it

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Is my milk supply low if I don’t pump much milk?

Surprisingly breastfeeding and the amount you are able to pump are unrelated.

Although breast pump manufacturers have tried their hardest to replicate how a baby sucks, they haven’t been able to do it yet.

A baby feeds in a completely different way to how the pump extracts the milk from your breasts.

Plenty of mothers who are able to breastfeed successfully are unable to pump very much at all.

So not being able to pump much is not a sign of low milk supply.

Some moms are unable to pump well due to the unnatural electrical sounds the pump makes.

Related: The Ultimate Breastfeeding Class, everything you need to know under 90 mins

Pumping is an acquired skill completely different from nursing and can depend on the type of pump used as they are all different.

A Fantastic course is the Milkology Pumping course. You can read my review here

Some women have success with a hand pump, others with a double and some only with a hospital-grade pump.

Is my milk supply low if my breasts are soft?

This normally happens when your body adjusts to the amount of milk that baby needs and is not a sign that you have low supply issues.

When you are no longer as engorged as you were In the first few weeks after childbirth some women worry that this is a sign of dwindling milk supply.

They associate a fuller breast with more milk, however a smaller breast is just as capable of making enough milk as your body isn’t made for storing milk in fact the majority of breast milk is made at the beginning and end of the feeding session.

Related: Best Bassinet for Breastfeeding

If I don’t leak any milk or have stopped leaking does it mean I have a low milk supply?

No, it does not. Some women leak for weeks on end and others just a small amount or not at all. You may find that as the weeks progress that you aren’t leaking quite so much as the early days.

Do I have a low supply if feeding times are short?

Many babies are able to get all they need within 5 minutes so this isn’t an indication of a low breast milk supply.

Babies are able to use their mouths and jaws to efficiently extract all they need.

In the early days a baby can take up to 30 minutes to take a full feed but that time reduces as the baby learns how to feed efficiently.

Sometimes it does. If mom is concerned that she is constantly breastfeeding without much break, and baby isn’t satisfied, then that would be a call to a breastfeeding professional to seek assistance.

Is my milk supply low if I don’t feel my let down?

The letdown feels like a tingling sensation running down your breasts when the milk lets down. Some women don’t feel it at all and others only feel it for the first few weeks after the baby is born. Some women worry when they no longer feel the sensation but it is perfectly normal for it to do so and is by no means an indicator of low milk supply

Do Small breasts mean I have a small amount of milk?

You cannot tell how well someone will be able to breastfeed or on their production of milk solely based on the size of their breasts. Large breasts are a combination of fatty tissue and glandular tissue. Small breasts normally have enough glandular tissue to be successful at breastfeeding.

Does waking frequently during the night mean I have low milk supply?

A baby that wakes all night is not an indication of a low milk supply. Breast milk is easily digested usually within 2 hours so breastfed babies need to eat more frequently t hen formula fed ones.

Some babies need to suck continuously and others just want to be close to mum in order to feel secure. A baby that wants to feed and be close to mom all night is not an indication that they are not getting sufficient amounts of milk or that you have a low breast milk supply.

If my baby won’t go down after a feed do I not have enough milk to satisfy him?

Newborn babies often fall asleep while they are breastfeeding, and it is near enough impossible for you to try and stop them doing this as the circadian rhythm hasn’t been established and breast milk is a natural sleep inducer.

When you finish breastfeeding you put the baby down in a cold crib unlike being near a warm mommy and the crib doesn’t feel or smell like you so the baby will wake up as it doesn’t feel safe, secure, calm and content. Don’t worry your baby will learn to sleep independently but this varies from child to child.

My Baby will happily take a bottle after what I believed was a full breastfeed, does that mean I don’t have enough breastmilk?

Most babies love to suck and given a pacifier or bottle of formula or expressed milk and they will happily glug it down.

This is not a sign of a low breast milk supply however if you regularly top the baby up with an extra feed then it can negatively affect your supply if you decrease breastfeeding/pumping from 8-12 times a day

My baby is feeding constantly does that mean I don’t have enough milk to satisfy him?

Babies have small stomachs that need to be filled frequently. For some babies, it is just the norm to feed on a frequent basis, just the same way some adults prefer to eat little and often. Some babies cluster feed in the evenings and this too is very normal and not a low milk supply issue.

Things that can cause a genuine low milk supply:

1.Breast surgery, breast reduction or augmentation.

It also seems that of any surgery breast reductions would have the most negative impact on supply.

2. Breasts that are widely spaced or asymmetrical, or very tubular with a bulging areola.

3. polycystic ovarian disease (PCOS) can cause women to have insufficient glandular tissue causing issues with low breast milk supply

4. Untreated low thyroid levels can cause a mom to have low breast milk and infant poor weight gain in some cases.

5. Are you using a pacifier or lots of formula bottles?

6. If you have struggled with breastfeeding previous kids it doesn’t mean you will with this one.

In the same way that every pregnancy and labor is different the same could be said for your breastfeeding experience with subsequent children.

7. Milk coming in late from 7-14 days rather than day 3.

Occasionally a mom could see that her milk hasn’t come in the way it does for most moms.

Especially if there is blood loss during birth, traumatic birth, or an extensively long labor.

8. Tongue and lip ties can cause issues with latch, therefore, affecting a mom’s breast milk supply.

9. A difficult delivery. A long stressful labor and the use of Pitocin, anesthesia, antibiotics, and IV fluids are known to slow down the production of breast milk. Excess IV fluids. Statistics show over 4 Liters in birth can extend milk coming in.

10. A baby being born prematurely and the associated issues such as feeding immediately after birth and a stressful birth could cause your breast milk to dwindle

11. If you suffer from diabetes it could take a while for your milk to come in. The huge numbers of C sections in diabetic moms, Induction of labour, premature delivery and the separation of baby and mom at birth could all have a part to play in having a low breast milk supply.

12. Having fragments of the retained placenta could affect breast milk supply: It will affect supply due to the body believing you are still pregnant.

It can prevent the hormonal changes needed in your body to send the signals needed for breast milk production to start.

Once these fragments are removed you should see a shift and breast milk should start flowing.

If there is a delay in retained placenta coming out, breastmilk supply may not ever come in.

Ideal conditions for breastmilk supply is by days 7-10 at the latest.

The longer the time after that, the less likely the milk will come in at all, or fully.

How do I know baby is getting enough milk?

1. Wet and soiled diapers

2. Baby’s hands are opened and relaxed

3. From the fourth day they should do at least 2 yellow poops

4. Watch baby feed

5. Listen to baby making swallowing sounds

6.The biggest indication of a baby getting enough milk is by growth charts that will show them gaining weight.

Initially up to a 10% weight loss is normal and they should regain that within 2 weeks.

Diaper chart

The first day one wet/stool,

day 2—2wets/stools,

day 3–3/3,

day 4 4 or more of each

IV fluid has been shown to create false weights for babies because of a false overweight on the baby it may seem they have lost weight.

6. Your baby comes off the breast by themselves when they have fed.

Signs baby isn’t getting enough milk:

  • Signs of hunger even after breastfeeding
  • Spending a very long time feeding
  • Crying
  • Frustration
  • Irritability
  • Less than 6 wet nappies in 24 hour
  • A reduction in bowel movements
  • Jaundice
  • Weight loss
  • Dehydration

If you see any of the above signs you must contact your doctor, anything over a 10% weight loss in the early days could be an issue as it was in my 5th baby’s case.

He lost 13% of his birth weight and hadn’t regained after 10 days it turned out he had an infection and once he had the antibiotics he started gaining weight almost immediately.

At this point, I chose to give him breast and formula to stop him from getting sick and I was ultimately able to get him back onto 100% breast only after a few weeks.