Concern over milk supply is very common among breastfeeding new-mothers. Most women experience low milk supply sometime during their lactating phase. It is important to understand the signs of low milk supply as it can impede the baby’s nutrition intake.
Another interesting fact is that many women, especially new mothers who are producing enough breast milk, tend to believe they have a low milk supply.
However, true low milk supply, if not detected at the right time, can be potentially dangerous for a newborn
In this article, you will learn 12 signs of low milk supply you should pay attention to. Read on.
What Is Meant By ‘Low Milk Supply’ In Breastfeeding Mothers?
Your milk supply is considered low when there is not enough breast milk being produced to meet the baby’s requirement. While some mother faces this issue soon after giving birth, some mothers experience low milk supply after a certain period of time, like after two months, three months, etc.
However, it is one of the top post-pregnancy concerns of the mothers, and low milk supply can take a toll on a mother, more often, emotionally.
What causes low milk supply?
The quantity and quality of breast milk produced depend on several factors. Some medical conditions of both mother and child can result in low milk supply. Do you think what the role of a baby in breast milk production is?
Well, breast milk production works on the basis of ‘demand and supply.’ If the demand is high – meaning if the baby sucks a lot of milk – more milk will be produced. Some underlying medical issues or congenital issues may prevent the baby from sucking milk, and this will result in signs of low milk supply.
Premature babies, babies with congenital malformation like a cleft palate or cleft lips, babies with down syndrome, some neurological conditions of baby, conditions like tongue-tie, GERD, etc., can hinder the baby sucking milk. This can bring about a low milk supply.
Likewise, some painful breast conditions like a cracked nipple, mastitis, engorged breasts, plugged duct, etc., can hinder breastfeeding. Physical issues like flat or inverted nipples and latching issues can also get in the way of breastfeeding.
Any situation that hinders easy breastfeeding can result in low milk supply. Some underlying medical issues like thyroid issues, hypopituitarism, iron deficiency, diabetes, hormonal disorder, etc., can result in low milk supply.
Some rare medical conditions that cannot be corrected can also result in low milk supply, making breastfeeding a real challenge.
For example, mammary hypoplasia, also known as insufficient glandular tissue or IGT, is a condition in which the number of glandular tissue within the breast that produces milk is drastically low.
How common is low milk supply?
Low milk supply, which cannot be corrected or managed, is very rare. Although many women worry about low milk supply, a real issue of insufficient breast milk production is not common.
Even though the mother may not produce surplus milk to “leak,” most of them do produce more than enough milk for their babies.
Therefore, just because your breasts are small-sized, you cannot pump milk, or you cannot experience ‘let down,’ never jump to the conclusion you don’t produce enough milk. Those are not signs of low milk supply. Also, the soft breast is not a sign your breast milk is decreasing.
12 Signs Of Low Milk Supply In Mothers
No wonder the mothers are always worried if they are producing enough milk for their babies. Breast milk is the primary food and the best food for babies under six months.
Exclusive breast milk is recommended during the first six months for the baby because breast milk carries all the vital nutrients for the child’s growth and development in its easily digestible form.
Inadequate intake of breast milk coupled with a lack of intake of alternate like formula can hamper the baby’s growth and development- both physical and mental. Therefore it is important to detect the signs of low milk supply right away and take measures to correct it.
Unlike bottle-feeding, in which we can see and measure the quantity of milk the baby is having, breastfeeding is a concealed process. You cannot see how much milk your breast holds or how much milk the baby is drinking. Then, how to tell if milk supply is drying up or breast run out of milk during a feeding?
Here are 12 signs of low milk supply you should pay attention to.
1. Poor weight gain
Newborns tend to lose birth weight during the first weeks. However, they get back to their birth weight in about two weeks. After that, they start to gain 150 to 200 grams per week. However, if there is a low supply of milk, the baby will not regain birth weight at a normal pace.
Also, if the milk supply is considerably low, they will not put on weight at a healthy rate. The second wave of weight loss during the initial months of a newborn, or if the baby lost more than 10% of its birth weight or fails to gain weight by days five to six, could be the sign of low milk supply.
2. Signs of dehydration
Breast milk is the only source of hydration for the baby. If the baby is exclusively breastfed and shows signs of dehydration like dark colored urine, significantly less quantity of urine, dry mouth, etc., it could be the sigh of low milk supply.
3. Inadequate poop
The number of soiled diapers can be a good indicator of if the newborn is getting enough milk. A baby getting adequate breast milk tends to poop regularly- around 5 to 6 times a day.
If the number of soiled diapers falls below three during the initial weeks of breastfeeding, it should be intimated to the doctor as it could be a sign of low milk supply. Likewise, small and liquid poops are also a sign of inadequate intake of milk.
4. Inadequate pee
Insufficient intake evidently results in the inadequate output. Therefore, the number of wet diapers can be counted as a pointer when it comes to the signs of low milk supply. Normally a newborn baby tends to pee regularly- around 8 to 10 times per day
If the number of wet diapers falls below 6 per day, or it appears clean and dry most of the day, it can be a sign of low milk supply.
Related Reading: 6 Things You Will Need For Breastfeeding
4. Breast appearing different
If you have hypoplastic breasts/ tubular breasts, you have higher chances of experiencing low milk supply. An annoying fact is that more often, a woman will not know she is having tubular breast until she becomes pregnant or until delivery
This issue cannot be solved as well, as the mother is born with underdeveloped breasts with less glandular tissues. You can still try to feed the baby if you have hypoplastic breasts, but this condition usually paves the way for true low milk supply or even full lactation failure.
5. Baby appears lethargic
If the baby seems very sleepy or lethargic, it could be a sign he is not getting enough milk. Inadequate intake of milk results in a low energy level.
6. Baby not able to sleep normally.
Normally newborns sleep four or more hours at a time. They usually awake to feed breast milk. However, if the baby cannot sleep for a while at a stretch, it could be because the baby is hungry.
7. Breastfeeding session being either too short or too long
When the breastfeeding sessions that is always shorter than ten minutes, it points towards the possibility that the baby isn’t getting enough milk, and it can be counted as the sign your milk supply is decreasing.
Likewise, if lactation sessions, every time lasts longer than about fifty minutes, can be an indication that your baby isn’t receiving enough milk due to low milk production.
8. Severe and unrelieved breast engorgement
If the mother has severe swelling in the breast that is not relieved, it can end up with a low milk supply. And the baby more often fails to get enough breast milk as breastfeeding is painful for the mother, and proper latching will not be possible in an engorged breast.
9. The breasts do not feel heavy
If you are having a normal supply of milk, you should feel your breast heavy, especially when you wake up in the morning. If you are not getting this feeling, it could be a sign of low milk supply.
10. No gulping sound
Always pay attention to your baby while breastfeeding. If you have sufficient breast milk, you could be able to hear the baby gulping many times during a breastfeeding session. If there is a lack of this gulping sound, especially during the beginning of the breastfeeding session, it could indicate low milk supply.
Related Reading: Foods To Avoid During Breastfeeding
11. Breastfed babies are not satisfied
Well-fed babies are calm, relaxed, and active after every nursing session. On the other hand, if the baby still appear irritated and fussy and put the entire hand into the mouth after the breastfeeding session, it could be a sign of low milk supply. The baby will not be content and happy after breastfeeding session
12. Assessment with a bottle of water
After the breastfeeding session, if you think the baby does not get enough milk, try to give him some previously expressed milk or water from a bottle. If the baby is hungry enough to devour it, it could be a sign of low milk supply.
While most of the issues that bring about low milk supply can be well managed and corrected by implying some tips and tricks, lifestyle changes, and solving the underlying issues, some causes are beyond our limit.
In such cases, we should look for alternatives like formula feeding so that the baby’s nutrition intake is not compromised. However, never quit breastfeeding, even if the supply is low.
The more you feed the baby, the more the breast gets stimulated. This might eventually increase breast milk production to a certain extend.