Breastfeeding might be the best thing for baby, but some mothers struggle with producing enough milk consistently. The issue sometimes is only a temporary one, caused by inconsistent feeding patterns or an illness. Other times, a serious medical condition threatens to permanently derail the ability to breastfeed. Learning about the common reasons mothers don't produce enough breast milk can help you to identify the problem and develop solutions.
Newborns nurse anywhere from eight to 12 times a day, or about every two to three hours, according to KidsHealth. However, many women take this to mean that babies should only eat every two to three hours, and they might be confused when their babies want to eat sooner. According to the website Kelly Mom, the reality is that some infants cluster-feed during growth spurts or for comfort. Nursing on demand -- when your baby shows signs of hunger, rather than when you think your baby should be eating according to a schedule -- will ensure that your breasts continue to make the milk that your baby needs. Breastfeeding is a business of supply and demand. The more demand your baby shows for breast milk, the more your breasts will make. By putting your baby on an arbitrary schedule, you interfere with this natural supply and demand chain.
Scheduling is not the only threat to breastfeeding supply and demand. Pacifiers might be useful for calming a fussy baby, but they can also cause your baby to nurse less by meeting his needs for comfort sucking, according to BabyCenter.com. Your baby might use the pacifier in place of nursing at times, and that can lead to your breasts producing less milk. Nursing strikes might also lead to lower breast milk supply, according to the website Breastfeeding Basics. Nursing strikes happen when your baby abruptly refuses to nurse. A nursing strike might not have any apparent cause, and it can last for a couple of days or a week. Continuing to offer the breast can help end the strike faster, and using a breast pump to express milk can help keep supply steady.
Breastfeeding can be hard on your body. According to Kelly Mom, you need to eat a healthful diet that includes at least 1,800 to 2,200 calories per day and drink plenty of water. Eating a poor diet or not drinking enough water can lead to a dip in breast milk supply. Stress and lack of sleep can also threaten supply, according to Breastfeeding-Problems.com. Ensuring a good night's rest each night can be difficult when caring for an infant who's still not sleeping through the night, but finding ways to get adequate sleep, such as through napping when baby naps, is essential to a healthful milk supply.
Some women suffer from medical issues that make it difficult if not impossible for them to produce the breast milk they need. Insufficient glandular tissue, hormonal issues, thyroid problems, and other medical issues can threaten milk supply, according to Breastfeeding-Problems.com. Common illnesses such as the flu can also cause milk supply to drop. Taking medication can put breastfeeding on hold because the drugs might be transmitted through the milk. Instead of quitting breastfeeding during this time, mothers can protect their supply by pumping milk instead and then discarding it. When they are feeling better, they can resume breastfeeding as before with no dip in supply.