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Thread: Low Milk Supply

  1. #1

    Question Low Milk Supply

    Hello to everybody! This is the first time I have posted to this website and I hope that with the help and support of all here that I can get some solid helpful advice for my beautiful wife and beautiful 5 month old baby girl (and myself), we are new parents!. I must admit we have been somewhat hesitant on reaching out to LLL, the principal reason being that--while we are energetic and loyal supporters of breastfeeding and other natural rearing methods--many of our acquaintances and local LLL members who are like ourselves breastfeeding parents, have an air of elitism and exclusivity towards parents such as ourselves who can't quite go "all natural" as it were. An example of that is for instance the fact that my wife must use a nipple shield in order for our little one to properly latch and feed, while it is frowned upon by the "elites" as being "artificial" and "unnatural", it is either that or immediately go to another "artificial" source such as a bottle. I am curious if there are other parents who feel as we do about these matters.

    I apologize for the somewhat long-winded introduction but I felt it somewhat necessary, we just want help not condemnation. Now on to the reason I am posting; my wife has recently seen drastic reduction in her supply for the past two or so weeks and it has both of us somewhat concerned as we normally get on average 5oz per breast and have been pumping approx. every other day with our "Medela Swing" pump after each feeding to get out whatever is leftover. It seems now she is only getting 5oz between both breasts now; the milk takes much longer to come in than it used to. We have taken pregnancy tests and at this point we are not pregnant. If there isany advice on how to increase her supply or any guidance on why or what might be causing the issue, we would appreciate the help.

  2. #2

    Default Re: Low Milk Supply

    I just wanted to say well done to your wife for breast-feeding. I had to use shields to start with as I has problems, and then suddenly at 3 months my baby just didn't like them, problem sorted, and we stopped overnight. But for me using them meant I was able to ebf, and still am ebf.
    However, I was warned that using them can cause supply problems. I expect someone with more knowledge will come on soon and correct me if I have this wrong. But I was told that they don't allow the breast to properly empty. Supply = demand, and so use of them can diminish your supply. I think it is an individual thing, I've read about people who used them for months and months with no problems and others whose supply dried in days after using them.
    Anyway, I'm sure you'll get someone more knowledgeable soon...

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2006

    Default Re: Low Milk Supply

    Welcome to the forum!

    The reason many people frown on the use of nipple shields is not because it's "unnatural", but because shields have the potential to a) make breastfeeding more difficult and more importantly, b) slow milk transfer and reduce milk supply by creating a barrier between baby's mouth and the breast, reducing stimulation to the breast. Don't get me wrong: the shield is an excellent tool for a mom confronted with a baby who has trouble latching, but it's not something everyone should use. Which is something very few people know, because shields are often handed out like candy by supposedly knowledgeable health professionals!

    Now, on to your main issue. 5 oz of milk per breast is not normal supply. It's actually extreme oversupply. When supply is well matched to demand, most moms are going to make around 1.5 oz per hour, often from both breasts combined. So even 5 oz from both breasts combined is above and beyond what your baby needs.

    What usually happens with milk supply is this: when a mom first starts nursing, she makes much more milk than her baby needs. This is nature's way of making absolutely sure the baby gets fed while mastering the tricky art of breastfeeding. When a mom is making more milk than her baby needs, she will feel "full" or engorged fairly often, she may leak a lot, she may experience a strong letdown sensation, and she may be able to pump large quantities of milk with relatively little effort. But this state of affairs does not last forever, nor should it. Making extra milk is a waste of metabolic energy and also puts mom at increased risk for plugged ducts and mastitis. So after a while, most moms see their milk supplies adjust to a level which is more in sync with the baby's demand. When that adjustment happens, it's normal for the mom to rarely or never feel full or engorged, to leak less or not at all, to feel a reduced letdown sensation or no letdown sensation at all, and to see her pump output decline to a more normal level (2-3 oz every 2-3 hours when she pumps in place of a feeding, or even less after a feeding or if she does not respond well to the pump).

    Generally all you have to do is to nurse the baby and watch diaper output. As long as diaper output remains normal, you can ignore what the pump "says" about milk supply. This is true even if a woman gets absolutely nothing from the pump, because babies are almost always better at emptying the breast than even the best pump and because not all women respond well to pumping or to their particular pump.

    The only caveat that I have for you is that if a mom is using a shield, and her milk supply is dropping, and she is seeing baby increasingly fussy at the breast or is seeing diaper output fall below what is normal, then she needs to work to drop the shield- because again, the big problem with shields is that they can slow milk transfer to the baby and reduce supply.

    ETA: useful link on shields and how to wean from them if that has become necessary: http://kellymom.com/bf/concerns/child/wean-shield/
    Last edited by @llli*mommal; October 28th, 2012 at 12:24 PM.

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