Low Milk Production
What causes low milk production?
Sometimes a delay in the time when your milk comes in turns into an ongoing problem
with low milk production. You may have been producing enough milk. But then milk production
slowly or suddenly decreases. It's normal to worry about your milk production. But
know that there are a few normal things that happen when breastfeeding.
First, about a few weeks to a month after birth, a nursing parent's breasts will feel
softer and seem smaller than before. This is normal and doesn't mean your milk supply
is too low for your baby's needs. Also, your baby may sometimes increase how often
they nurse in order to increase your milk supply. This is called cluster feeding.
It's normal and doesn't mean there's a problem with your supply. True milk supply
problems can often cause a baby to show signs of hunger, fussiness, or poor weight
Some of the conditions linked to a delay in your milk coming in may also have an ongoing
effect on milk production, including:
Conditions from a baby's delivery, such as having a caesarean section, premature birth,
stress during birth, and certain medicines
Excessive bleeding (severe postpartum hemorrhage)
Some pieces of the placenta stay in the nursing parent's body (retained placental
Thyroid conditions, polycystic ovarian syndrome, diabetes, or obesity
Past breast surgery that cut some of the nerves, milk-making tissue, or milk ducts
Not enough glandular breast tissue
Other things that can also lead you to have low milk production include:
Smoking or drinking
Some medicines and herbs
Hormonal forms of birth control. This is especially true for birth control that has
estrogen. But some nursing parents have a drop in milk production even after taking
progestin-only birth control during the first 4 to 8 weeks after delivery.
Nursing or pumping less often
Getting pregnant again
If low milk production seems to be a problem, but your baby seems to be sucking effectively,
talk with your healthcare provider or certified lactation consultant (IBCLC). They
may advise you to:
Increase the number of times you breastfeed or pump to 10 to 12 times in 24 hours.
Increase the amount of skin-to-skin contact you have with your baby. Take off your
shirt and baby's shirt and place your baby on your chest with a sheet or shirt over
both of you.
Review your health history with your provider or lactation consultant. This may help
to find out if a health condition, treatment, or medicine is interfering with milk
You also may want to:
Pump your breasts for a few minutes after breastfeeding.
Think about renting a hospital-grade pump if you think you'll need to pump for a long
Ask your provider or IBCLC about taking a galactagogue. This is a medicine or herb
that increases breastmilk production.
Think positive. Low milk production often can be reversed. But any amount of milk
you produce is valuable for your baby.