5 major causes of low breastmilk supply and ways to increase your milk

5 causes of low milk supply and how to increase it

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It’s not because you don’t eat enough oatmeal

Ever since I was a little girl, I wanted to be a mom. I looked forward to being able to breastfeed when my daughter was born in 2016. I thought it would just happen naturally.

But then.. she wouldn’t gain weight, she cried nonstop and ALWAYS wanted to nurse. She never slept. This went on for three weeks before I decided to investigate further. I felt very disappointed, and like my body was broken. Why couldn’t my body perform the most basic function of being a mother – feeding my baby? I had to give in and give her formula for the sake of her well-being, and swallow my pride. She grew and grew, and she did just fine. I told myself it was okay, because what was important was that she was fed.

Then I got pregnant with my son. After much research between pregnancies, a number of visits to a lactation consultant, blood panels done by my midwife, and trial and error, after having two children and being unable to produce enough milk – I came to the conclusion that there are valid medical reasons or technical reasons for not being able to exclusively breastfeed. These causes aren’t affecting the mom that isn’t “trying hard enough” – i.e. nursing on demand, pumping every feed, drinking enough water and electrolytes, not enough calories, your baby not being efficient at feeding, etc. I’m sure you’ve heard all those things, but for some moms, no matter how much oatmeal you eat or how much Gatorade you drink, you may find that your baby simply will not gain a single ounce or produce enough dirty diapers.

I discovered for myself that I have several major causes of low milk supply. But with all of my new knowledge, I was still able to feed my son more than half his needs with my breastmilk. I cannot guarantee the same results, but I hope this knowledge can help you get closer to your breastfeeding goals.

5 major causes of low milk supply

1) Insulin resistance: this is when your A1( (blood sugar) is high and greater than a reading of 3 in a blood panel. This can only be discovered by asking your doctor or midwife to get you some bloodwork. This is the culprit of what many low supply moms call “slow refill rate” – your breasts cannot make a sufficient amount for a full feeding until you have waited many hours. On-demand nursing does not seem to help and your child can nurse every few minutes and not get much milk until you wait several hours.

2) hypothyroidism: when your thyroid gland is underperforming and your thyroid hormones are not optimal. Again, you must ask your doctor for bloodwork.

3) baby is tongue and lip tied: oral ties and restrictions in your baby will cause your baby to not be able to efficiently extract milk. You will likely suffer from extreme nipple pain and “lipstick-shaped” nipples when baby nurses, or your baby cannot latch at all.

4) you are using the wrong size flanges on your pump (mostly important for if you are choosing to exclusively pump): using the flanges that came with your pump are likely not your correct size. Use a printable nipple ruler like this one to determine your size:

5) insufficient glandular tissue: this is a diagnosis that only happens when ALL other issues are ruled out. Your breasts simply did not develop enough milk-making glands during puberty and/or pregnancy. Your breasts may appear underdeveloped or have very wide spacing, though visual cues may not mean anything. You cannot tell from appearance alone that you have IGT, but it can be an indicator sometimes.

Best products & galactagogues to increase low milk supply

I have personally used all of the following products or similar, and found them to be helpful in getting my son at least 3/4 of his needs in breastmilk until he was 6 months old.

1) Inositol: works to regular blood sugar for insulin resistance.

2) Black seed oil: also works to regulate blood sugar, and can increase your “refill rate” if you have insulin resistance. This may help your breasts refill faster with milk more often than every 3 to 4+ hours.

3) Goat’s rue: this herb can potentially help increase milk-making tissue or improve the function of your existing tissue. It has been called the “herbal form” of the medication Metformin.

4) Shatavari: This herb can potentially help increase prolactin, which is the breastfeeding hormone and needs to be high to produce milk.

5) Fennel: This herb can help you get a faster letdown and faster flow of milk.

6) Nipple shield: can temporarily help your baby latch if they have a tongue or lip tie. I prefer these Lansinoh ones for their shape.

7) Duckbill valves for your pump: These can attach to just about any flange and can majorly increase suction. Replace them every 2 months for optimal performance. These ones linked here work for any pump or flange.

Important note: I would avoid fenugreek at all costs, as it usually can lower supply in moms with thyroid issues.

Remember the most important thing: your love is not measured in ounces, and any amount of breastmilk you give is a gift. And if you’re tired, it’s okay, too. Give yourself permission to quit. Formula is not poison. My kids did eventually thrive on all formula feedings. They are now 2 and nearly 4 years old, and are happy and healthy.

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