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Thread: How common is a TRUE low supply?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
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    Default How common is a TRUE low supply?

    I have heard of several women who were unable to nurse their babies because of low supply. I don't know the details about how they came to that conclusion (ie. if they were correct), but I am curious how common is it for a woman to be unable to provide enough milk for her baby -- at least in the first 6 months -- I understand that after that it is normal for the baby to need some other foods in addition to breast milk.

    It does not seem likely to me that a low supply could really be all that common because how would we have made it as a species if we could not feed our young a significant percentage of the time? I made this point to my sister-in-law and she countered that in many societies wet-nurses are common, so it would be possible for low-supply women to rear their young as long as a milk-producing woman was around to provide the milk.

    Does anyone know? I have looked around on various websites but have not found an estimate to the incidence of TRUE low supplies.

  2. #2
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    Jan 2006
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    Default Re: How common is a TRUE low supply?

    There are a few very rare situations which would cause low supply.

    One is called "primary lactation failure", possibly caused by insufficient glandular tissue in the breasts. One estimate puts this number at 1 in 1000 mothers.

    Some others mothers experience hormonal imbalances, untreated diabetes or hypthyroidism-which untreated can affect supply. Another problem called Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) can negatively affect supply. I don't have the numbers on these other causes of low supply, but I believe overall the total number for women who are really unable to produce milk is very low. I will look around and see if I can find more.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
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    307

    Default Re: How common is a TRUE low supply?

    Your suspicions are right on, it is not very common for there to be a true medical condition resulting in low milk supply. Usually it is a matter of a combination or preventable issues such as a mother not nursing her baby "on cue" and putting baby on a schedule, going too long before a feeding, taking antihistamines (can inhibit milk production), not enough fluids, rest, etc.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
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    61

    Default Re: How common is a TRUE low supply?

    IMHO many causes of low supply are caused by medical mismanagement. Unnecessary birth practices like epidurals, unnecessary c-sections, failure to provide donor milk for temporary set-backs, bad advice from doctors and nurses and even lactation consultants, unnecessary panics over so-called slow weight gain or re-gain, etc. You know, don't nurse more often than every 4 hours, don't let baby use you as a pacifier, formula is as good as breast milk, etc.

    I will disagree with other people on this issue though, that I think low supply is very underdiagnosed. It is a shame since it is so discouraging and women tend to give up bfing as a result of it, not realizing that there ARE things that can be done with fixing bad latches, galactagogues (food, herbs, medications) and supplemental nursing systems (Lact-aids etc.)

    Bottom line is nobody knows, because low supply isn't considered a medical condition with clear guidelines for a diagnostic workup. Family docs and pediatricians are underqualified to diagnose, and access to LCs is very limited in many areas (no insurance coverage, just not available in many geographical areas, etc.) BFing isn't a well-respected medical specialty, in part because it crosses two pre-existing specialties, OB and pediatrics. OBs don't know nothing about babies, and Peds don't know nothing about moms
    Last edited by MaryJaneLouise; June 8th, 2006 at 10:43 AM.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: How common is a TRUE low supply?

    Quote Originally Posted by cgproberts
    It does not seem likely to me that a low supply could really be all that common because how would we have made it as a species if we could not feed our young a significant percentage of the time? I made this point to my sister-in-law and she countered that in many societies wet-nurses are common, so it would be possible for low-supply women to rear their young as long as a milk-producing woman was around to provide the milk.
    Wet nursing came around for those who were wealthy enough (i.e., nobility) and had other responsibilities so they did not or could not nurse. But using a wet nurse was not common for the average woman. I think you are correct.
    Susan
    Mama to my all-natural boys: Ian, 9-4-04, 11.5 lbs; Colton, 11-7-06, 9 lbs, in the water; Logan, 12-8-08, 9 lbs; Gavin, 1-18-11, 9 lbs; and an angel 1-15-06
    18+ months and for Gavin, born with an incomplete cleft lip and incomplete posterior cleft palate
    Sealed for time and eternity, 7-7-93
    Always babywearing, cosleeping and cloth diapering. Living with oppositional defiant disorder and ADHD. Ask me about cloth diapering and sewing your own diapers!

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2006
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    19

    Default Re: How common is a TRUE low supply?

    I thank u for addressing this topic. I am mommy to 5 and with each one I have struggled with baby weight gain. All of them seem to have the same body structure. My youngest is 8 weeks and he too is struggling in this area. I just wonder... I am currently trying to increase my supply with herbal suppls, pumping, we EBF on demand, have never given DS artificial nipples, co-sleep, yadayadayada. Can I really not make enough milk for my babies? I am abale to pump milk, so I know I have milk, but at what point does one's boby say "that's it, I can't make more milk". Just does not seem to make sense to me, but it doesn't make sense that there are babies that are really chunky and they nurse exclusively too. I know genes play a role, but I have never had a chunky baby and I just think that one of the five would have been a chunker, right??

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