There is nothing more frustrating on your breastfeeding journey than the mystery of why your milk supply suddenly dropped. The reasons why your breast milk supply suddenly decreases are varied. But no matter what the reason, you will likely find yourself curious about how to increase your breastmilk supply.
You may not even realize it, but there are multiple things in your life that can cause your breastmilk supply to drop. These can include diet, your daily lifestyle choices, health, and even some medications.
It is important to understand how each of these things can cause your breastmilk supply to drop so that you can make the appropriate changes if possible.
The following is a compilation of tips, tricks, and information to help you better understand the reasons why breast milk may suddenly drop, and what you can do to increase it.
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What is the Average Breast Milk Production?
Before you assume your milk supply suddenly dropped, it’s important to understand why and how your milk production changes.
In the early weeks of breastfeeding, you have plenty of milk. Your body is learning how much breast milk your baby requires. Milk production changes on your baby’s demand; it is a supply and demand system after all.
Your supply will naturally have an ebb and flow to it. During cluster feeds and power pumping, your supply goes up. When your baby starts to eat solid foods, you notice an increase because your body needs to produce less milk.
An average baby requires 30 ounces of milk per day, and most mothers produce just the right amount for their baby. That means you generally need to produce one ounce per hour.
When Does Breastmilk Supply Drop?
Breastmilk supply operates on a supply and demand method. The more milk that is taken from the breast, the more milk you will make.
According to Heather Hanks, M.S. Nutritionist, “You may notice that your supply drops around three months postpartum. This is completely normal as your body is regulating to become a more efficient producer. You might notice that your breasts no longer leak if they become too full, and this does not mean that baby is not getting enough milk. It just means that your body has stopped overproducing and is becoming more regulated to your baby’s needs.”
There can also be more environmental factors attributing to the timing of your breastmilk supply drop, and the author of Filled with Grace states that “a decrease in breast milk was usually a result of stress, lack of water intake, or not pumping enough while at work”
How Do You Know if Your Milk Supply Suddenly Dropped
Exclusively pumping mothers easily determine when their supply drops, but if you are breastfeeding or doing a combo, it’s hard to determine if you have a sudden drop in milk supply.
It can be deceiving.
For example, mothers assume they can tell their supply by how full their breasts feel. The truth is that, over time, your breasts will gradually not have the same fullness feeling. After some time, you won’t get engorged at all.
Fussiness isn’t always a sign that there is a problem either. Babies go through leap weeks and expected times of fussiness. However, it could be a sign of a problem.
Even pumping less isn’t truly an indicator of a loss of supply unless you pump regularly. Women with well-regulated supplies often have times when they pump less.
Here are some signs that your milk supply suddenly dropped.
Fewer Wet Diapers
The best indicator of proper breast milk intake is tracking your baby’s wet diapers. The average number of wet diapers per day depends on your baby’s age.
- 3 Weeks: 7-12 Diapers
- 3 Months: 6-10 Diapers
- 6 Months: 8 Diapers
- 12 Months: 4-6 Diapers
Fussiness combined with fewer wet diapers or frequent rooting is often a sign of your baby being hungry still. Many babies comfort feed, so fussiness is difficult to use as a standalone sign of supply issues.
Weight Gain Issues
You typically don’t want to get to this point, but if you find that your baby has slowed down with his weight gain or loss weight, then you more than likely have a supply issue.
10 Reason Your Milk Supply Suddenly Dropped
It seems that the timing of your breastmilk supply drop can be attributed to not only normal fluctuations but also many outside factors, some of which are not entirely in your control (such as a drop near your period). It is important to understand, however, that a breastmilk supply drop doesn’t mean the end of your breastfeeding journey and can often be corrected.
Studies have found that the number 1 reason a mother’s milk supply suddenly dropped is stress.
“There is an awful lot happening at once for new moms and it can be easy to feel overwhelmed. Between adjusting to your new baby’s schedule and a lack of sleep, your body can begin to change. Stress hormones like cortisol can rise and drastically reduce your natural supply.” states Conor O’Flynn, O’Flynn Medical.
2. Supply and Demand
Breastfeeding works by supply and demand. “The biggest reason for a drop in milk supply is due to decreased stimulation to the breast. You have to move milk to make milk” answers Katie Clark. “When mothers are nursing or pumping less often, this can simply lead to a decrease in milk supply.” states Jocelyn Bermudez
Sheila Dukas-Janakos, IBCLC, MPH is CEO of Healthy Horizons Breastfeeding Centers explains that it comes down to both frequency and milk removal: “Early on during breastfeeding, the supply is regulated by the amount of stimulation and frequency. This increases prolactin (the hormone that tells the body to make milk). The second factor is how much milk is removed at each feeding or pumping session. Later, as prolactin decreases, the most important factor becomes breast emptying, not frequency. If you skip feeds or/and or pump sessions, your milk supply will adjust down to meet the new demand for less milk production.“
In older babies who have been eating solids, milk supply gradually decreases as the nursing sessions are less frequent and solids are now starting to replace some of the previous nursing sessions. By 12 months, solids have taken over and milk supply will have naturally decreased.
3. Hormonal Changes
Hormones surrounding the onset of your period can easily be one of the reasons why your breastmilk supply decreases. This decrease is usually temporary and your supply will return once your hormones are back to normal.
This most often happens when your menstrual cycle returns. While exclusively breastfeeding may defer your period for a bit, every woman is different. When your period comes back varies widely, so if you notice that you have a dip in your milk supply, your period may be on its way.
Another possible reason for a sudden drop in milk supply is starting a new birth control medication. Birth control introduces outside hormones to your body, so it may cause a disruption in your supply.
Hormonal birth control contains estrogen, which is linked to drops in milk supply. Make sure you talk to your doctor and let them know you are breastfeeding so they can prescribe to you a progestin-only hormonal contraceptive.
Other culprits could be hormonal issues like hyper or hypothyroidism and PCOS. These hormonal health problems could be the reason your milk supply suddenly dropped. Your doctor may give you medications to treat the imbalances and regulate your milk supply.
4. Supplementing with formula
This is akin to the supply/demand issue. Exclusively breastfeeding your baby will of course drive higher demand. This will cause your body to create more milk. However, if you begin supplementing with formula every day, or even multiple times a day. This will tell your body that there is no longer a need for so much milk. Therefore, your breastmilk supply will drop.
The amount of liquid you consume directly affects how much breastmilk you produce for your baby. “Hydration is one of the first areas to go by the wayside for the breastfeeding mom, but it should be one of the most important. Drinking at least half your body weight in water per day is a good place to start.” states Trista Best, Registered Dietician
Breast milk is over 80% water, so drinking water supports milk production. However, increasing your water intake isn’t a way to increase milk production.
Follow your thirst; it’s the best indicator of what your body needs as far as hydration.
6. Getting Sick
Being sick as a mom is no fun in itself, but it can also cause your breast milk supply to drop. The sickness itself doesn’t do it, however, the fatigue, diarrhea, vomiting, and decreased appetite will cause a drop all on their own.
Don’t stop breast-feeding if you get sick; it will further decrease your milk supply.
It might seem counterintuitive to keep your baby close while you are sick, but continue to nurse your baby protects them from catching whatever sickness you have. Your mammary glands contain white blood cells that produce antibodies, protecting your baby.
Also, research shows that breast milk contains lactoferrin and interleukin, both of which contain antimicrobial and pro-inflammatory properties. These will stimulate your baby’s immune response to your illness.
Breastfeeding is amazing!
Certain medications can cause a decrease in breast milk production.
One of the most common is Pseudoephedrine (a common ingredient in allergy and cold medications like Sudafed). You should always speak with your doctor before trying a new medication when breastfeeding.
Medical issues in mom or baby either one can cause a breastmilk supply drop. According to Dr. Waqas Ahmad Buttar, Family Physician, “too low or too high BMI, polycystic ovarian syndrome, insulin resistance, hypothyroidism, stress, and underdeveloped breast glandular tissue all contribute to low breastmilk supply.”
In the case of the mother hemorrhaging, low iron stores immediately postpartum for the mother can attribute to low supply or slow transition to mature milk.
Medical issues in babies can include things like tongue ties, jaundice, baby feeling pain, low muscle tone, or prematurity.
Other causes of decreased milk supply are:
- Separation from baby
- spaced out feedings or a strict schedule
- supplementation with bottled feedings
- poor suck/swallow or latch in baby
- unaddressed imbalance in hormones
Some evidence suggests that mint decreases milk supply, but how much mint it takes isn’t proven yet. Many mothers note that they notice a decrease in their supply when they drink peppermint tea or eat too many peppermint candies.
Studies suggest that it has to be real mint or mint extract; artificial mint won’t lead to the decrease in milk production. That means mint herbal supplements should be avoided while nursing or pumping.
I’m sure the last thing you want to consider is that you are pregnant again, but the hormonal changes during pregnancy can cause a milk supply change.
Pregnancy doesn’t always decrease your milk supply, and when it does, it typically happens between 10 to 15 weeks. Mothers may experience a dip in production or their supply may totally dry up.
So, if you have a sudden drop in milk supply, take a pregnancy test!
Can Foods Cause Low Milk Supply?
It’s possible for foods to cause a low milk supply, but it tends to not happen suddenly.
The most common food that decreases milk production is caffeine. Those babies stay up all hours of the night, and our glorious cups of coffee may be a possible culprit for our milk supply issues.
Caffeine is a diuretic, so it causes your kidneys to let go of water, which may possibly lead to hydration. More people are dehydrated than they realize!
Dehydration is a problem for your body and your milky supply. Breast milk is 80% water, so if you are dehydrated, it will decrease your body’s milk production.
Some other foods may cause a dip, in particular a processed food diet. The foods themselves aren’t the problem, but the lack of nutrients is. Your body needs nutrients to nourish yourself and your baby.
Can Breastmilk Supply Increase After Decreasing?
You may be wondering if you can bring back your breastfeeding supply or how to increase your breastmilk supply after a drop – is it even possible? The answer is, YES. With a few tips and tricks you can often easily bring back your breastmilk supply after a drop.
However, if we can catch the issue within the first 4 to 6 weeks postpartum, it’s significantly easier. After, it requires a lot more intense measures, such as power pumping and working very closely with an IBCLC.
How to Increase Breastmilk Supply with These Tips:
1. Pumping/ Nursing more often
The biggest thing mothers can do to increase their milk supply is to remove milk more often. This might mean nursing their baby more often, pumping more often when away from the baby and even pumping or hand expressing after nursing to help upregulate their milk supply.” states Jocelyn Bermudez Lactation Consultant.
A simple and easy way that I’ve found to increase milk output is to use a manual silicone pump, like the haakaa or Elvie curve, on the opposite breast as you feed your baby. This helped me stockpile more breastmilk for my baby as well as increase supply.
Related Post: Free Printable Pumping Signs for Work
2. Take breastmilk supply supplements
The herb Fenugreek has been proven to dramatically increase milk supply and even provides additional health benefits beyond that. Tanya Taylor “saw an increase within a week of taking the supplements. The difference was like night and day and the frustration of not producing milk completely evaporated.”
Additionally, Legend Dairy’s Liquid Gold contains a powerful blend of organic ingredients designed to optimize breast milk production. Goat’s rue has a long-standing reputation for supporting a healthy milk supply in dairy animals and humans while milk thistle and shatavari are also traditionally used for added lactation support.
3. Eat breastmilk supply increasing food
There are various foods that you can include in your diet that would help increase the supply, called galactogogues. Some of them are:
- Oatmeals: They are rich in calcium and fiber.
- Salmon: It helps boost lactation hormones by making the milk more nutritious and healthy.
- Fennel Seeds: Fennel is a rich source of vitamin C. It boosts the quality as well as supply of your breast milk.
- Fenugreek seeds: Fenugreek is a great source of iron, protein, and vitamin C. It enhances the milk’s quality and also increases the milk supply within a few days of consuming the fenugreek herb.
- Garlic: Garlic is considered the most popular food to boost lactation in nursing mothers. It has been known for ages for its various medicinal and lactogenic properties.
- Barley: So oat milk, barley soup, brewer’s yeast, goats rue, steel cut oats, beer may all help.
- Marshmallow, the Filipino plant Malunggay and alfalfa are all popular in various parts of the world for improving milk supply.
Many others like carrots, ginger, thistle, ground linseed, kelp, and stinging nettle also improve milk production.
Also, you can purchase ready-made Boobie* Superfoods which are all delicious, vegan, gluten-free, non-GMO and soy-free. Here car some of the options that they have:
- Boobie Bar – packed with six powerful, milk-boosting superfoods, these delicious bars are the most convenient way to support a healthy milk supply.
- Boobie Body – Supermoms shakes available in four delicious flavors
- Boobie Bears – Superfood Gummies that solve three of mom’s most common issues (low milk supply, hair loss & getting sick) rather than focusing on only one.
- Boobie Bark – Boobie Bark is a crunchy, chocolate bark that’s perfect for healthy moms looking to Snack Fuller, in all stages of motherhood. The cocoa crunch flavor is delicious as a yogurt topping, with cereal or for snacking on-the-go.
Its nice that these snacks and treats are already made for you, but you can also make your own lactation treats with these recipes here.
4. Mother’s Milk Tea
If you enjoy herbal teas, this one may be an easy fix to consider. Drinking Mother’s Milk Tea is a great (and delicious) way to increase your breastmilk supply quickly.
5. Drink more water
This one may seem obvious but it is easy to forget about, especially as a new mom. Water is super important in your milk production. If you are not taking in enough water, you won’t make enough milk. Breastmilk is 88% water- you do the math.
“Always carry a large bottle of water around with you and make sure you’re having sips whenever you can. states Nadia McDannels. As a busy mom, it’s so easy to forget to drink water, but it’s so crucial, both to breastmilk supply and your overall health.”
6. Fix the latch
If your baby isn’t latched on properly they won’t be able to get enough milk. This will cause your supply to decrease. Making sure your baby has a good latch is so important.
It is so important that you take time to rest and get as much sleep as you can. Although this is easier said than done, do whatever you can to make arrangements so you are able to get some rest.
8. Try not to stress
If you can, try to keep things relaxed and focus on positive things. Stressing about the drop in your milk supply can cause more harm than good. Try to remain as calm as you can- your milk supply will return.
9. A well balanced diet
It is recommended that breastfeeding mothers eat a well-balanced, healthy diet. “We often hear mothers eating oatmeal, lactation cookies, blue Gatorade, and using herbs to increase their milk supply but this is anecdotal and not evidence-based. Mother’s cannot just eat lactation cookies and expect an increase in milk supply.” states Jocelyn Bermudez, Lactation Consultant
“Focusing on iron rich foods, such as dark leafy greens, whole grains like oatmeal, bone-in red meats, and cooking with a cast iron skillet are ways to help with that beyond iron supplementation.” explains Ashley Georgakopoulos, IBCLC
10. Moist Heat and Breast Massage
Research shows that a warm compress before nursing increases the amount of breast milk expressed. You can use a heating pad, hot water bottle, warm damp towel, or even a warm shower before nursing.
Another trick to help with your milk production is to try breast massages. Performing breast massages increase blood flow to your milk ducts, increasing your milk production. The increased blood flow also decreases soreness and engorgement
All you need to do is use three to four fingers at the top of your breast and massage downwards in a circular motion. You also can cup your breasts in both hands and massage in circular motions.
All in all, there are multiple reasons your milk supply suddenly dropped. Understanding the reasons for these drops can help you to prevent low milk supply in the long run. The right help and information can make all the difference in your breastfeeding journey.
If a mother has concerns about her milk supply, she should seek support from an IBCLC or healthcare provider to help coordinate a care plan that fits her individual needs.”