It’s a situation most breastfeeding moms fear: What if I’m not producing enough milk for my baby?
Often times, these fears are unfounded. Many moms start to panic unnecessarily when their baby wants to eat more often than usual, when really the baby is just going through a growth spurt. Or moms think that if their breasts aren’t as engorged as they once were, they aren’t producing as much milk, when really their breasts are just getting more efficient at producing milk.
But occasionally, moms will legitimately start to notice that they are pumping less milk in each session than they did a day or two earlier. What could be going wrong?
Thankfully, almost everything that can cause your milk supply to drop can be easily fixed, and with a few changes, you should be able to bring you supply back up again in a few days.
Here are six of the most common things that may cause your milk supply to drop and what you can do about it.
- Your Breast Pump is Losing Suction
Using a pump that is not working optimally is by far the most common reason that women start producing less milk. If you’re not replacing your valves once a month, they will start to stretch and fail overtime. So, if you notice your milk production has gone down, start by replacing the valves, checking for any cracks in the tubing, and making sure that all of the parts fit together correctly. Also, if your motor has outlived its original warranty (about one to two years for most pumps), it may have less suction, causing you to pump less milk.
- Your Baby Is Eating More Solid Foods
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends feeding babies breastmilk exclusively until they’re 6 months old, and then having solid foods compliment breastmilk until they’re 12 months old. Experts recommend feeding your baby breastmilk about an hour before giving him any solid foods so he still gets his main source of nutrition from breastmilk.
When you first start introducing solids, a lot more of it will end up on the baby’s face, hair and highchair than it will in his mouth, so you probably won’t notice much of a change in how much breastmilk they drink. But as they get more interested in solids, you may notice that he will start drinking less breastmilk, causing your milk supply to drop. If you notice that your breast milk supply is dropping too quickly or too early, however, make sure you are feeding your baby breastmilk before he eats any solids and you may need to cut back on the amount of solid foods you’re giving your baby.
- You’ve Gotten Your Period, Or You’ve Gotten Pregnant Again
There’s a common misconception that you can’t get your period if you’re still breastfeeding. However, this is not true. While some women won’t get their period again until after they stop breastfeeding, others will get their periods as soon as six weeks after giving birth. Although it’s perfectly safe to continue breastfeeding while you have your period, higher levels of estrogen can cause your calcium levels in your blood to drop, which can decrease your milk supply, especially for the few days before and after your period starts, and you might feel more pain and tenderness in your breasts. To keep your levels up during your period, make sure you eat foods with enough iron, get plenty of liquids, and try a calcium or magnesium supplement (ask your health care provider about how much to take).
- Your Baby Starts Sleeping Through the Night
Having your baby finally sleep through the night can be both a blessing and a curse. While it’s amazing to be able to get more hours of sleep in a row, dropping a nighttime feeding will send a signal to your body that it’s time to produce less milk. If you are trying a sleep training method and your baby starts to lose weight, you may want to consider reintroducing an overnight feeding to bring your milk production back up.
- You’re Stressed Out
Did you know that stress can affect your milk supply? According to studies, the more stressed you are, the harder it will be for you to have a let-down, which can reduce your milk supply. If you suspect stress and anxiety are affecting your milk supply, try to do things to help you relax when you pump, such as listening to calming music, lighting candles, or watching some funny videos. And of course, seek professional help if you need to.
- You’re Taking Birth Control
Similar to getting your period, starting to take birth control pills again can also affect your hormone levels, which can lead to a decreased milk supply. If you think this is the culprit, you can talk to your doctor about switching to a different method of birth control or try to boost your output by power pumping or taking some herbs and supplements designed to boost milk production.