What causes a low milk supply?

VARIOUS factors can cause a low milk supply during breastfeeding, such as waiting too long to start breastfeeding, not breastfeeding often enough, supplementing breastfeeding, an ineffective latch, and use of certain medications. Sometimes previous breast surgery affects milk production.

Other factors that can affect milk production include:

•Premature birth

•Maternal obesity

•Pregnancy-induced high blood pressure

•Poorly controlled insulin-dependent diabetes.

Although many women worry about low milk supply, insufficient breast milk production is rare. In fact, most women make one-third more breast milk than their babies typically drink.

To boost milk production:

•Breastfeed as soon as possible. Waiting too long to start breastfeeding can contribute to a low milk supply.

•Hold your baby skin to skin right after birth and your baby will likely breastfeed within the first hour after delivery.

•Breastfeed often. For the first few weeks breastfeed eight to 12 times a day — about every two to three hours.

•Check your latch. Make sure your baby is latched on and positioned well. Look for signs that your baby is swallowing.

•Be alert to feeding problems. Offer both breasts at each feeding. It's OK for your baby to nurse on only one breast at a feeding, occasionally, but if this happens regularly, your milk supply will decrease. You might pump the other breast to relieve pressure and protect your milk supply until your baby begins taking more at each feeding.

•Don't skip breastfeeding sessions. Pump your breasts each time you miss a breastfeeding session to help protect your milk supply.

•Hold off on the pacifier. If you choose to give your baby a pacifier, consider waiting until three or four weeks after birth. This will give you time to establish your milk supply.

•Use medications with caution. Certain medications decrease milk supply, including medications containing pseudoephedrine (Sudafed, Zyrtec D, others). Your health-care provider might also caution against certain types of hormonal contraception, at least until breastfeeding is firmly established.

•Avoid alcohol and nicotine. Drinking moderate to heavy amounts of alcohol can decrease milk production. Smoking can have the same effect.

Maintaining your milk supply during breastfeeding is important for your baby's health and growth. If you're concerned about your milk supply or your baby's feedings, talk to your doctor, your baby's doctor, or a lactation consultant.

— Mayo Clinic

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