Reduced milk supply

Did I lose my milk?

Sometimes a mother’s milk supply is full right after birth but decreases within days, weeks, or months. This is called a reduced milk supply or “losing your milk.” Mothers frequently talk about it, but it is relatively uncommon with normal breastfeeding. With a reduced supply, the mother will see evidence that the baby, who has been growing well, is not taking in enough breast milk and does not grow well without supplements. The mother may notice that her breasts are less full than expected or that her periods have returned. The baby may have shorter feeds and feed more or less often than expected, tug and pull at the breast, or reject it. Mothers may also notice a decrease in the amount of milk that they can express.

A) Describing a reduced milk supply

Some mothers have a full milk supply right after birth but the supply decreases within weeks or months. This is called a reduced milk supply or “losing your milk.” It is different from never having had enough milk or the milk coming in late.

Even though mothers frequently worry about losing their milk, it is relatively uncommon if they are breastfeeding effectively. Milk supply concerns are commonly caused by a baby's crying or frequent feeding (Wood 2021).

There are a number of causes of a reduced milk supply. We have found that in our clinic, the most common cause is the unnecessary use of infant formula resulting in a lack of adequate milk removal.

It may be possible to increase a reduced milk supply.

B) Signs of a reduced milk supply

Mothers with a reduced supply:

  • Have babies who have breastfed exclusively and have grown well.
  • Had good milk signs.
  • Now see signs that their baby is not taking in enough breast milk.
  • Have a baby who is not happy without supplements of milk.

These mothers may also notice:

When expressing, mothers may:

  • Have previously expressed roughly the same amount of milk each day.
  • Now notice the amount of expressed milk is decreasing.

If you think that your milk supply is reduced, please see your health-care providers. Babies in this situation will need to be supplemented with milk temporarily or permanently.

References

Wood NK, Odom-Maryon T, Smart DA. Factors Associated with Perceived Insufficient Milk in the First Three Months of Breastfeeding. MCN Am J Matern Child Nurs. 2021 Jul-Aug 01;46(4):223-229