Is my baby getting enough breastmilk? 6 common reasons for low milk supply

Women's Health

by Jenna Marburger, RN, BSN, IBCLC

Dec 7, 2022

If you’re a new mom, you probably spend quite a bit of time worrying. It’s normal. And one common thing many breastfeeding moms fret about is whether their babies are getting enough milk.  

The good news is, most of you can stop—true low milk supply is rare.

But sometimes, you may notice signs that make you wonder if your baby is getting enough milk. Here’s how I answer my clients’ questions about that concern.

How much breastmilk is enough?

Depending on the baby’s age, weight and feeding frequency, milk production varies from mom to mom. But on average, breastfeeding mothers make between 25-35 ounces of breast milk per day, one to six months after birth. That’s according to Nancy Mohrbache, a lactation consultant and educator and author of The ‘Magic Number’ and Long-Term Breastfeeding.

Every mom and baby are different. However, if your baby is gaining weight appropriately and having good diaper output, things should be on the right track.

How do I know if my baby is getting enough milk?

If you are exclusively breastfeeding and/or pumping but your infant isn’t gaining weight or has low diaper output, this could be a sign that your milk production may be low. However, other factors, such as your baby not properly latching onto your breast, can not only cause poor weight gain and diaper output, but also lead to lower milk production. 

6 common reasons for low milk production

Several issues could be at play, including the following:

  1. Medical conditions. Some medical conditions, such as thyroid or hormone imbalances and breast or gastric surgeries, can pose a risk to your ability to make enough milk. Your providers and a lactation consultant can help you come up with a plan to make the most milk possible, although you may still need to supplement with formula or donor milk.
  2. High stress levels
  3. Poor diet
  4. Inadequate hydration
  5. Some medications
  6. Not emptying or stimulating your breasts enough. Not emptying or stimulating your breasts enough. The most common cause of low milk production is that your breasts are not being emptied or stimulated enough through breastfeeding or pumping. If you’re using a breast pump, you may not be pumping frequently enough or your pump flanges may not be a good fit for your breasts. 

What can I do to increase my milk production?

  • Breastfeed/breast pump more frequently. Empty breasts make more milk, so keep long gaps between breast emptying to a minimum. If breastfeeding, don’t feed your child on a schedule; feed them when they demand it. If pumping, pump at least eight times in 24 hours.
  • Ensure your baby is properly latching on to your breast. If they don’t, they may not empty your breast and inhibit full milk production.
  • Be sure your breast pump is a good fit. Flange sizing is very important, as are the settings on the pump. Invest in a good quality breast pump, and have a lactation consultant check that you have the appropriate flange size and pump settings.
  • Eat a balanced diet and stay hydrated. Your body needs to be at its best to produce adequate amounts of milk.

Occasionally, some mothers turn to herbal supplements or medications in attempt to help with increasing milk production. However, many moms do not see changes in milk production. Consult your provider and lactation consultant prior to starting to take any supplements or medications to ensure safety with breastfeeding.

If none of these things work, what should I do?

First of all, don’t blame yourself. You are not the only woman who has had this issue, and it doesn’t mean you’ve failed your baby. It’s something beyond your control.

Work closely with your healthcare providers and lactation consultants to identify what is preventing you from producing enough milk and come up with a plan to address the issue.

One option many mothers consider is continuing to breastfeed as much as possible and supplementing with formula or donated breastmilk. Donor breastmilk comes from mothers who make more than their babies eat. It is screened and pasteurized, then dispensed to other infants.

Other moms decide to discontinue breastfeeding altogether. This decision is very personal. You can talk with your doctor or lactation consultant to help make the transition to formula or donor breast milk as smooth as possible.

How can I connect with a lactation consultant?

Talk to your OBGYN and care team about connecting with a lactation consultant. As part of our commitment to helping your baby get off to a good start, Baylor Scott & White facilities offer lactation services and consultations for every stage of your breastfeeding journey.

Before you deliver, you can schedule an appointment with a lactation consultant to put a plan in place for successful breastfeeding. Prenatal classes are currently available online, or you can request a one-on-one meeting for more personalized breastfeeding education.

Post-delivery, you may want to use our inpatient services to assist you with basic breastfeeding techniques, like properly positioning your baby during feeding. Lactation consultants can also help you acquire a breast pump that’s covered by insurance. For mothers whose newborns are in neonatal intensive care units, we can arrange bedside consultations.

After you and your little one go home, you can still call on a lactation consultant for breastfeeding assistance, even if they are located at a different facility or healthcare system than where you delivered. Most insurance plans cover lactation services.

Proper nutrition is vital to your baby’s health and growth. If you’re worried about your milk supply, your doctor and lactation consultant can help. Contact your nearest Baylor Scott & White hospital to find out what lactation services they offer.

About the Author

Jenna Marburger, RN, BSN, IBCLC, is a lactation consultant with Baylor Scott & White Medical Center – Temple.

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