If you are experiencing a sudden drop in breast milk supply, you may panic. There are some reasons for this that you can often fix as quickly as the problem started.
Why a Sudden Drop in Supply?
Are you feeling the stress of motherhood? If you read magazines or watch commercials, you may believe that the biggest stressors are how quickly you’re losing the baby weight or how much sleep you’re getting at night. In reality, this question is one of the biggest stress points for breastfeeding mothers: Is my milk enough for my baby?
Most mothers will worry about the amount of milk that they’re producing at some point, but in many cases, the supply has normalized rather than diminished. You may think that you’re producing less when you’re really producing just enough to meet your baby’s needs. The human body is amazing when it comes to intuitively determining how much breast milk is in demand, but there are some cases in which diminished supply is a serious problem.
Some signs of a diminished supply may include:
- Fewer wet and dirty diapers produced by the baby.
- A lot of crying during feeding and other signs that your baby isn’t getting milk from the breast.
- The baby’s loss of weight or failure to gain weight at a healthy rate.
If you notice even one of these signs, it’s important to see your pediatrician or doctor. If it is determined that you aren’t producing adequate milk for your baby’s needs, work with a lactation specialist to determine potential causes. There are many factors that may be at play, including:
- Medication or supplement that you’re taking
- Infrequent breastfeeding sessions
- Blockages or other problems with the nipples
- Uncontrolled diabetes and other medical conditions in the mother
Once you have identified the cause, you have a fighting chance of reversing the damage and continuing on for months of healthy breastfeeding. What you do next will depend on the cause of the diminished breast milk supply.
Medications & Supplements
Some prescription and over-the-counter medications can interfere with milk production, and some supplements can cause problems as well. If you catch the problem quickly, you should be able to stop using the medication or switch to an alternative medication in order to increase your milk production naturally.
You don’t want to put your health at risk by stopping a medication without medical supervision or against the advice of your doctor. See your doctor before discontinuing use, and work with your doctor to find an alternative if possible. If you’re taking dietary supplements that aren’t essential to your health, discontinue use to see if your milk supply increases. You should also check with your doctor to see if the supplement is safe while breastfeeding, since it may transfer to the baby through your milk.
You may need to increase your pumping or breastfeeding sessions to stimulate the production of more milk. In other cases, just changing the medication is enough to produce an adequate supply of milk.
Infrequent Breastfeeding Sessions
If you’re not breastfeeding enough, you’re sending your body signals that less milk is needed. If you suddenly change the demand…your body may think the milk is not needed! This often happens suddenly when moms go back to work and don’t take the time to pump enough.
You can usually boost your production again by increasing your breastfeeding sessions and/or pumping extra milk to signal that more is needed. If you want to use a pump to increase demand for milk, consider starting a freezer stash so that you have breast milk on hand if you don’t have enough to satisfy your baby at times.
If you’re breastfeeding infrequently because you’re a working mother or are otherwise separated from your baby for long periods of time, consider pumping on a routine schedule throughout the day. Most companies are now legally required to allow reasonable breaks and a private space for pumping, so utilize that right and keep your milk flowing through regular pump sessions.
Blockages, Infections & Medical Problems
Some women experience cracked, dry nipples and blocked pores that can become infected. This doesn’t always interfere with milk supply, but it’s possible and it can cause a sudden drop in supply. You may also want to have your doctor check you for diabetes and other medical conditions that can interfere with your ability to produce milk. You may be able to improve your flow of milk by getting those medical conditions under control or perhaps switching medications related to the condition.
In some cases, the problem is your lifestyle choices. If you smoke cigarettes, are obese, or have other unhealthy habits, it may interfere with healthy breastfeeding. Your doctor will be able to pinpoint those issues and guide you to proper solutions. In many cases, lifestyle adjustments are last ditch efforts to find all potential causes, but improving these issues is healthier for you and the baby in the long run.
What If There Is No Known Cause for the Sudden Drop in Supply?
If you cannot determine a likely reason for your milk supply to suddenly drop, you can still work with a lactation specialist to improve your supply naturally. This may involve pumping more regularly to increase the demand for your milk or changing the times that you breastfeed and/or pump to include morning feedings. That is the time of day when many women produce the most milk.
Don’t give up on breastfeeding until you have worked closely with a lactation specialist. There are many ways to increase supply even if you don’t know what is causing the problem. You may need to supplement with a bottle in the short term, but most women can resume breastfeeding successful with a little strategic planning and consistent follow-through to the milk-boosting plan.
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- Common Breastfeeding Problems and Solutions