There is nothing more frustrating on your breastfeeding journey than the mystery of a sudden drop in your breastmilk. 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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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”
What causes breastmilk supply to decrease?
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 cause of a dropping breastmilk supply 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. Menstrual Period
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.
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
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.
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). Even some hormonal birth control can affect the amount of breastmilk you make. 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
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
All in all, there are multiple reasons that may cause a breastmilk supply drop. 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.”