Both experienced and first time mommies can experience a sudden drop in milk supply. There are many factors that can cause what seems like an immediate drop in your milk supply, and sometimes, the perceived low milk supply is actually your supply getting ready to increase with a new demand.
We are going to give you the tools you need to deal with a drop in your milk supply, as well as understand what may be causing the decrease.
No new mommy wants to worry about whether her baby is getting enough breast milk. Being responsible for a tiny humans nourishment is a lot of pressure, which is why educating yourself on the reasons behind a drop in milk supply and how to deal with it are so very important!
What causes a sudden drop in your milk supply?
There are many factors that can come into play with milk supply and lactation. We are going to go over the main culprits to a decreased supply in milk.
Baby's Demands Changed:
This is one of the largest factors in your milk supply - Baby's demand for milk. One of the fastest ways to increase your milk supply is to breastfeed and pump more. This is going tell your body that baby needs more milk, so make more milk. As your body adjusts to the increased demand, it may seem like you don't have enough milk. In reality, your body is probably gearing up to make more milk. As that process happens, you can notice that there seems to be less milk available.
During the early postpartum period, when the milk supply is being established (Lawrence, 1985), there is a positive association between nursing frequency and milk production (de Carvalho et al., 1983, 1985; Hopkinson et al., 1988; Salariya et al., 1978).Source
Baby could also be telling your body it doesn't need as much milk. If baby is feeding shorter lengths, or starts sleeping through the night, this change in demand will change your supply. This is very common as baby's go through growth spurts where they drink more, changes in sleeping habits and changes in the amount they nurse at one time. Baby might go through a week where they take amazing, 3-hour naps, which leads your body to believe baby doesn't need as much milk during the day. As baby comes out of that phase, and starts nursing again, you may think your supply dropped, when really the demand just changed.
How to deal with demand changes from baby:
The simplest way to deal with this issue, if you notice that your supply has dropped is to add more feedings in, whether baby really wants them or not. If you can't get baby to eat any more, add in more pumping sessions to encourage more milk. A few extra pumping sessions, or adding in some night-feedings will help get your supply back up.
Adding in birth control affects your hormone levels. Hormones are important to telling your body to lactate. If these hormones get out of balance with birth control, your body can become confused. When a new mother is lactating, estrogen levels are low, testosterone is higher. Most full-strength birth control pills, and specifically the Mirena IUD throw these levels out of balance. Typically, doctors prescribe a very light birth control pill to breastfeeding mothers to help decrease chances of pregnancy, yet not ruin milk supply. Breastfeeding in itself is a great form of birth control, and many mothers who solely breastfeeding do menstruate at all. This is a sign your hormones are where they are supposed to be.
How to manage hormonal issues and low milk supply:
If you are breastfeeding and menstruating you may need some form of birth control to prevent another pregnancy. If this is the case, you can ask your doctor for a few different brands to try, that are low-dosages. If you are on birth control as precaution, but not menstruating, you may want to go off the birth control and use other forms of prevention to allow your milk supply to get back on track. Make sure to look up cases of low milk supply with your specific birth control to see if other mothers have had the same experience. Your doctor should help you make a switch and resolve the problem.
As described, your hormonal levels are really important to maintaining a solid milk supply. For some new mommies, their hormones may not naturally go to the necessary levels for lactation. There may have been some hormonal issues prior to pregnancy and breastfeeding. Sometimes these little imbalances are easily helped with herbs and minerals. Part of the reason we added Red Raspberry Leaf to our Milk Dust formula is because it does so much for hormonal balance. Knowing this is a cause for a reduced milk supply, or sometimes a sudden drop, we wanted to make sure this herb can support our other lactation-boosting herbs like Fenugreek, Fennel, Milk Thistle, Brewer's Yeast and Tumeric.
The local effects of estrogen and progesterone in the breast prevent milk secretion during pregnancy. With their withdrawal in the postpartum period, the stimulating effect of the anterior pituitary hormone prolactin dominates and milk secretion is initiated and maintained.
Dealing with hormonal imbalances causing a drop in supply:
Diet changes can actually help a lot when it comes to balancing your hormones. Losing weight really helps as well. Extra fat means extra estrogen. Breastfeeding mothers need estrogen to stay low, but the more fat stored in fat cells, the more estrogen your body starts making. Eating a healthy, nutrient-dense diet full of fruits, vegetables and lean protein can actually do wonders for milk supply. It may seem like you are "dieting," but this is not the case at all. You are nourishing better. A diet is restriction on caloric intake. To assist your milk supply and hormones, you need to nourish your body better, so it can function better. Milk Dust is an amazing tool to help you do this because we've hand-picked specific nutrients you need while breastfeeding, that will also help curb those sugar cravings. Sugar cravings hit hard when there is a lack of nutrients in the diet.
Again, hormones are affecting your supply in this situation as well. This may cause your drop in supply to be temporary, and just monthly. Knowing that this is a temporary drop in supply should ease your mind a bit. Adding in some extra Milk Dust smoothies during this week, or adding some pumping sessions can help combat some of the menstruation affects.
Lack of Nourishment:
Many mamas think of caloric intake as affecting milk supply, but it is really nourishment that is most important. A mother can be eating thousands of calories a day, but still have a low milk supply. In this situation, this can be because the mother has extra fat, producing more estrogen, as well as being deficient in many essential nutrients. These nutrients are not just for the mother, but also for the baby. Your body is aware of all the nutrients your baby needs, and it wants to put those vitamins and minerals into its breast milk. If it can't do this properly, it also can't feed baby properly and everything gets out of wack. If you notice a drop in your supply, and you know it isn't hormones, it could be the quality of your diet.
How to eat when you experience a sudden drop in milk supply:
Don't run to the cheeseburgers, or even lactation cookies, which are full of fat and sugar. Drinking more smoothies made with Milk Dust is going to be very effective because you can blend up fruit and veggies with our protein powder. Your body can absorb the nutrients faster in a blended state (less work to digest), and it will be getting so many of the necessary postpartum vitamins, minerals and super foods.
Aside from adding in protein shakes, fill your day with oatmeal (unsweetened), sweet potatoes, lean protein like chicken and lots of fruit. You can add in healthy carbohydrates like quinoa, basmatti rice, brown rice and sprouted bread. In switching your diet to a nutrient-dense diet, you actually may feel more full because you can eat more volume. In this situation, the protein shakes can really help you get more nutrients in at once. Because it can take a few days for your body to start absorbing the nutrients and adjusting, using a tool like Milk Dust that supports your lactation with galactagogues can have tremendously positive affects.
Experiencing a sudden drop in milk supply can be scary, but understanding how to deal with a low milk supply is so important.
Milk Dust is here to help you. We support lactation through herbs and nutrients, as well as offer a fast and simple tool to help new mommies nourish their bodies properly.