Causes and Solutions for a Sudden Drop in Milk Supply

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

While breastfeeding is a natural thing our bodies are made to do, it can still be challenging. Sometimes we overproduce, while other times, we underproduce.

Several issues can cause a Sudden Drop in Milk production: Lack of sleep, your diet, feeling stressed, not feeding on demand, skipping nursing sessions, and menstruation. However, with a few tweaks here and there, you can increase your milk supply back quickly. Some women can’t breastfeed. 

Some new moms are lucky to have a great start with an abundance of milk in the beginning, and then it slowly diminishes over hours or a few days.

Don’t worry; it is common and happens to many women. But, most of the time, there are plenty of things you can do to get your milk supply back up and running.

It is not a cause for concern. Typically, all you need to do is change some aspects of your lifestyle, and your supply should increase.

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Does a Sudden Decrease in Milk Supply Mean I Can’t Breastfeed Anymore?

Most often, a drop does not mean you cannot breastfeed anymore. Most of the time, you can fix it with a change in your life. In some rare cases, you cannot get your supply back. However, that is only the case for some moms. Typically, it takes 3-5 days to get your milk back.

At any time, you can access a professional who will walk you through your specific concerns with a Certified Lactation Counselor or IBCLC. They are experts in breastfeeding and can show you how to build your supply in your particular case.

Why Does Milk Supply Drop?

Why did my milk supply suddenly drop? There are many reasons why your milk supply can suddenly drop. Most of the time, it can be a little simple thing that is going on in your life. Here are some things that can cause your milk supply to drop.

Lack of Sleep

Lack of sleep is one reason why your supply might drop. While it is hard to sleep when you have a newborn, try taking a nap when you can. When you are sleep deprived, your body has a hard time producing milk; this helped me sleep better.

Before birth, list 3-5 things that will help you sleep well. For example, if you need to read for 10 minutes, take a hot bath, or have a cup of herbal tea to help you sleep before lying down, make a plan to help you sleep.

A written postpartum plan can be helpful to look at regularly for you and your support team to help you get the sleep you need after birth.

Diet

The things you eat do affect your milk supply. For example, mint is known to drop your milk supply, along with other herbs. Some foods increase your supply while others decrease.

Be aware of the foods that reduce your supply and eliminate them from your diet. You can also not be eating enough, which can also alter your milk supply.

Along with a postpartum plan for sleep, add in areas like foods you will have available to help you get nourishing foods during breastfeeding.

Suggestions can be low sugar energy bars, beef jerky or apples, and peanut butter. If you make large meals ahead and freeze a portion of them, you can thaw a portion out, to warm up during busy days.

Lack of Water

The less water you drink, the less milk you will produce. Because milk is a liquid, your body will need more than your regular intake. Always have water near you, or your milk might suddenly drop. I am terrible at remembering to drink water throughout the day, but this bottle was a game-changer.

Stress

Stress is one of the leading causes of why your milk will drop. You tend to stress more when you notice your supply dropping, hurting your supply even more! Stress harms your entire body, including your milk production.

Stress is another good reason for a postpartum plan. It gives you a sense of control over your day.
If you plan how you will sleep and eat and have others helping you, like your partner, your mom, or others who will ensure you adhere to your plan, your stress will decrease, and your milk supply won’t drop.

Postpartum Depression

Postpartum depression is a common condition that can affect mothers after giving birth. It is estimated to affect up to 1 in 7 mothers and can cause symptoms such as sadness, anxiety, difficulty sleeping, and loss of appetite.

Postpartum depression can also affect breast milk production and supply. This can happen because the hormones involved in lactation, such as prolactin and oxytocin, can be affected by the changes in mood and emotional state that occur with postpartum depression.

Additionally, mothers with postpartum depression may have difficulty with the physical and emotional demands of breastfeeding, which can affect their milk supply.

There are treatments available for postpartum depression that can help mothers to manage their symptoms and continue breastfeeding if desired.

Not Nursing on Demand

When you nurse, it tells your body that you need to produce more milk. If you don’t, you will lack the milk your baby needs. Try to nurse when your baby is hungry, not on a schedule. It will help your body to produce effectively.  

Skipped Pumping/Feeding Session

Similarly, if you skip a feeding session, your milk will decrease. Again, this is because your body needs those sessions to keep up with your milk supply.

The same goes if you are pumping. Again, missing a session will slowly reduce your supply.

Breastfeeding or pumping 8+ times in 24 hours may help keep your supply up.

Power pumping or pumping for 10 min, then stopping for 10 min, for one hour two times a day for two days in a row, can be helpful to boost your supply. In addition, having an extra pumping session helps boost your milk production.

Baby Milestones

Your milk supply might drop at certain milestones in your baby’s life. For example, when your baby starts eating solids, they will typically need less milk; therefore, you will see a drop.

You won’t have those feeding sessions when they start sleeping through the night, so your supply will also drop.

Babies go through growth spurts at two weeks, six weeks, two months, and six months, as well as other times of their first year.

They can eat more often and for more extended periods. If your supply decreases, you can pump 1-3 times daily and finish the feed with your pumped milk in a bottle or spoon-feed.

Periods

The changes in your body can also affect your milk supply. For example, some breastfeeding moms notice a drop in supply during their periods.

When you become pregnant, you can also see a reduction in your supply as your body has more hormones.

The drop in milk supply associated with your period can be related to a decline in blood calcium levels; to overcome this, you can take a calcium/magnesium supplement.

If you decide to try this, you should start taking the supplement when you ovulate, generally about two weeks before you’re due for your period.

Look for the combined calcium/magnesium supplement, as breastfeeding moms must take calcium with other supplements. Please consult your healthcare professional for advice concerning this.

Hormonal Changes

Hormonal changes during pregnancy and after childbirth can affect the composition of breast milk. During pregnancy, the body produces higher levels of the hormones prolactin and estrogen, which help to prepare the breasts for lactation.

After giving birth, the hormone oxytocin is released, which helps stimulate breast milk production. Additionally, the hormone prolactin continues to be produced, which helps to maintain milk production.

Hormonal changes can also affect the amount of milk produced, with some mothers experiencing a decrease in milk supply if their hormone levels drop. 

Can Your Milk Supply Suddenly Stop?

Yes, a mother’s milk supply can decrease or stop entirely suddenly. They are known as lactation failure or insufficient lactation. There are several possible causes of lactation failure, including hormonal imbalances, medical conditions, medication use, and lifestyle factors.

In some cases, lactation failure can be temporary and can be managed with support from a healthcare provider. In other instances, lactation failure may be permanent, and the mother may need to use alternative feeding methods for her baby.

Breastfeeding mothers need to pay attention to their baby’s feeding patterns and wet nappies and seek support from a healthcare provider if they have concerns about their milk supply.

What to Do When Your Supply Drops

Now that you know so of the things that drop your supply, how do you increase your supply? Once you realize what is causing the drop, it is an easy fix; stop or change what went wrong. However, here are some other things you can do when you have a sudden drop in milk supply.

How To Get Your Milk Supply Back

Power Pump

Some moms find success in power pumping. To adequately power pump, rest for ten minutes and start over again.
Do this for an hour. You will end up pumping for 30 minutes in total. Try this once a day. Power pumping will typically jump-start your milk supply once again.
If you have never pumped before, it can also help increase your supply. Often when your baby eats, they don’t fully empty the breast.
You can try pumping after your baby has finished eating. This helps tell your body to produce more milk.

Mama of Five Recommends:

Not Hand Expressing

Breastmilk hand expression (BMHE) is a technique that involves massaging the breast to stimulate the mammary glands to release breastmilk. This technique can be used to promote lactation, soften to assist latching, relieve painful breast engorgement, and collect milk for future infant feedings.

Hand expressing is an underused tool and helps tremendously, not only to bring the milk supply back but to help establish breastfeeding long-term. 

Hand expression will increase the supply of 20-40% more milk than just pumping. Pumps like the haakkaa pump can help also.

Get More Sleep

As mentioned earlier, a lack of sleep is a cause of your milk supply dropping. Therefore, you need to find time to sleep again, which can be challenging with a baby.

When your baby naps, try taking a nap with them instead of doing chores. Head to bed earlier, find another time to rest, or try this.

Drink More Water

You need to drink a lot of water as water significantly affects your milk supply.

Carry a water bottle around with you all the time to ensure you are drinking; this is my favorite. Typically, you will need to drink half your body weight in water and then drink some more.

Once you do, your supply will increase.

Massage and Warmth

Many women successfully put a warm cloth over their breasts before pumping or breastfeeding.
They also find it beneficial to massage their breasts before as well.

This helps all the milk ducts to successfully release the milk so more will come in their place.
Massage and warmth also help prevent mastitis and other breast issues.

But, again, you can do this before and after to ensure all the milk comes out.

Manually Expressing Breastmilk

Hand expression is a technique that is used to extract breast milk manually. This technique can help increase milk supply, as it can help to stimulate the production of breastmilk by sending a signal to the brain to produce more milk.

It can also be helpful for mothers unable to breastfeed or pump using a breast pump. In addition to increasing milk supply, manual expression can help relieve engorgement, collect breastmilk for storage, and manage breastmilk supply when returning to work.

To manually express breastmilk, mothers can use their hands to gently massage and compress their breasts to stimulate milk flow. It may take some practice to become proficient at this particular technique.

Removing the use of a Pacifier

If your baby likes to suck on a pacifier, substitute your breast. This will show your body that your baby wants more milk and should produce more. Do this as often as possible, so your low milk supply will increase.

Better Diet

While some foods decrease your milk supply, some increase it. For example, many find success in lactation cookies. You can find them in many stores and even make your own. Just having the extra calories can help you have enough breast milk.

For some women, this can have the opposite effect and decrease supply due to blood sugar instability so be mindful of that.

Other foods that help increase your milk supply include oatmeal, carrots, fennel, nuts, and ginger.
Make sure you have a well-balanced diet, too, eating enough fruits and vegetables. You can also try supplements and lactation tea.

Many mothers report needing large amounts of tea, like 6-8 cups daily, to see an increase. If a galactagogue works, it will take 2-3 days to see an effect on supply.

However, consult your doctor before use, just in case. Many find success in drinking coconut water and Gatorade. Vitamins are also a way to increase and help your supply.

Again due to high sugar content, Gatorade may have the opposite effect on breastmilk supply, so keep an eye out for the impact on your breastmilk supply.

Mental Health

Because stress significantly impacts your milk supply, try to eliminate stressful situations as much as possible.

Try to find time to relax, whether taking a bath at home, reading a book, or going to the spa; find the time. When you relax and care for yourself, your body will produce milk again.

Write out the things stressing you and eliminate all the little stressors.

Many things can alter your milk supply. However, often, it is a straightforward fix. You should see your milk supply return to normal in a couple of days!

Figure out the cause of your sudden drop in milk supply, and then do the things necessary to get it back. You can try one or multiple things until your supply returns.

Take the Best Online Breastfeeding Class

If you are planning on breastfeeding your baby or even exclusively pumping, I recommend taking the Milkology course.

It goes through everything you need for breastfeeding and how to become a milk-pumping pro.

It is a breastfeeding introductory online course suitable for first-time breastfeeding moms and old-timers like me.

You can read my Milkology review here.

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