Most mothers have a full milk supply. They have normal milk signs and babies that grow well yet many worry that there is not enough milk for their baby.
A small number of mothers simply do not have enough milk to meet the baby’s needs and have never had enough milk. This affects an estimated 5% to 15% of mothers (Lee and Kelleher 2016; Neifert 2001) and can be called:
- Never having enough milk
- Milk not coming in
- Failure of lactation
- Primary lactation insufficiency
This is different from having a reduced milk supply (a milk supply that is full right after birth but decreases within weeks or months). Milk can also come in late.
There are numerous causes for never having enough milk that can be related to:
- Problems caused by labour or delivery.
- Hormonal problems.
- Breast problems such as surgery or lack of development.
- Illness in the mother around the time of delivery.
- Genetic conditions.
Unfortunately, it may be difficult to increase a milk supply in this situation and babies may need to be supplemented with milk for the entire time that they are breastfeeding or they will grow poorly. Depending on the cause of the low milk supply, a mother may or may not be able to increase her milk supply or have a normal milk supply with the next baby.
Some mothers worry that there is something wrong with the quality of their milk. However, it is the amount and not the quality that is the problem.
If you think that your milk supply is low, please see your health-care providers and ensure that your baby is growing well. Breastfeeding specialists can be very helpful in this situation.