Though low milk supply is a common problem, it can be difficult to detect. This article will discuss some of the most common signs of low milk supply at different stages in a mother’s breastfeeding journey. Knowing if you have a low milk supply is very important if you are breastfeeding. In this article, I have elaborated the key signs of low milk supply in months 1, 2,3,4,5,6, and 7 that you can understand to determine if you should see a lactation consultant.
Let’s start with understanding whether you truly have a low milk supply.
Is your milk supply low?
Breastfeeding mommies often think that their milk supply, yet their production is okay. But how do you tell your milk supply is indeed low? Your baby suffering dehydration, less wet or dirty diapers, lack of tears when crying, and weight gain or constant weight are the sure signs of your low milk supply.
Breasts that do not leak, little extraction of milk when you pump, sudden softening of your breasts, fussiness of your baby, and baby nursing for long, however, are myths of the signs of a low milk supply.
Please read on to learn of the valid signs of a low milk supply, the causes of low milk supply, and how to increase your milk supply.
Here are General Signs of low milk supply
The following are the signs of low milk supply, indicating that your breastfeeding child is not getting enough milk.
- Few wet/dirty diapers daily. Breastfed babies getting sufficient milk should have 6 to 8 wet or dirty diapers each day. Thus, a baby producing less than 6 diapers per day shows that you have a low supply of milk.
- Dehydration. A baby who has not produced urine in hours, does not produce tears when crying, is excessively sleepy, has low energy levels, or has a sunken soft spot on their head indicates dehydration. The signs of dehydration show that you have a low supply of milk because you are the source of their hydration.
- Lack of weight gain. A baby who is not at their birth weight 2 weeks after birth or gains weight steadily after the first few weeks could signal insufficient feeding, meaning you have a low milk supply.
Signs of Low milk supply in the first month (1 to 4 weeks)
The most common low milk supply sign in the early weeks is not producing enough milk. Other signs include: low energy, feeling run down, and feeling like you are not producing enough milk. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it is important to see a lactation consultant.
In the first weeks of breastfeeding (week 1 to 4), a low milk supply is very common. Most of the time low milk supply in weeks 1 and 2 does not mean that you will have low milk supply problems later on. It is possible that a low milk supply will continue until your breast tissue matures further or have taken some steps to increase supply. Most of the time these problems work themselves out by week 3 if they are going to be fixed at all.
A more drastic low milk supply sign at early weeks can be the baby not gaining enough weight (below 5%). This means you must see a lactation consultant immediately! Low weight gain during the first month can lead to low weight gain later on, which can cause serious health damage.
Signs of Low Milk Supply Signs in month 3
If you are exclusively breastfeeding, the signs of low milk supply at 2 months include; not producing the daily average recommended by your baby, low wet and dirty diapers, low weight gain in baby, low number of feedings every 24 hours. Low supply signs at three months include; not producing enough milk to meet your baby’s growth rate.
At 3 months low supply signs include some similar signs as month 2 such as;
- low weight gain in the baby: An average girl at 4 months weighs 12 lb 14 oz (5.8 kg) and a boy weighs 14 lb 1 oz (6.4 kg) and if your baby’s weight is below 12 lbs (for a girl) or 14 lbs (for a boy), low milk supply may be the reasons.
- low number of feedings every 24 hours; At month 3, your baby should be fed every 2.5 to 3 hours, bringing the number of feeding times to 6 or more times per day.
- low wet and dirty diapers; if your baby is having less than 6 wet diapers per day, then it means their food intake is less than normal.
Signs of Low Milk Supply Signs in 4 months
At 4 months low milk supply signs include;
- low weight gain in the baby: At month 4, if you have a baby girl, the normal weight should be 14 lb 3 oz (6.4 kg) and if you have a boy, the normal weight should be 15 lb 7 oz (7.0 kg). If your infant girl has less than 14 lbs or your infant boy has less than 15 lbs, it is a good indicator that you are producing less milk to maintain the normal weight for a 4-month old.
- low number of feedings every 24 hours; at month 4, your baby’s feeding times should not be less than 4 and fewer feeding sessions means low milk supply.
- low wet and dirty diapers; If your baby is having less than 4 wet diapers in a day at month 4, then it may be a sign of low milk intake.
Signs of Low Milk Supply Signs in the 5th Month
At 5 months low milk supply signs include;
- low weight gain in the baby: The average weight for a baby girl at 5 months is 16 lb 1 oz (7.3 kg) and for a baby boy is 17 lb 8 oz (8.0 kg). If your infant girl is below 16 lbs or your infant boy is below 17 lbs, low milk supply may be the reason.
- low number of feedings every 24 hours: At month 5, your baby should be fed every 3 to 4 hours, bringing the number of feeding times to 4 or less times per day.
- low wet and dirty diapers; if you are having less than 3 wet diapers in a day, it means that your baby’s food intake
Signs of Low Milk Supply Signs in the 6th Month
At 6 months low milk supply signs include;
- low weight gain in the baby: The average weight for a baby girl at 6 months is 17 lb 2 oz (7.8 kg) and for a baby boy is 18 lb 11 oz (8.6 kg). If your infant girl is below 17 lbs or your infant boy is below 18 lbs, low milk supply may be the reason
- low number of feedings every 24 hours: At month 6, most babies are eating every four to five hours, so if your baby is not feeding that often, low milk supply may be the culprit.
- low wet and dirty diapers: If you are only having two wet diapers a day at 6 months old, low food intake may be the reason
Signs of Low Milk Supply Signs in the 7th Month
At 7 months low milk supply signs include;
- low weight gain in the baby: The average weight for a baby girl at 7 months is 18 lb 3 oz (8.2 kg) and for a baby boy is 19 lb 14 oz (9.0 kg). If your infant girl is below 18 lbs or your infant boy is below 19 lbs, low milk supply may be the reason.
- low number of feedings every 24 hours: At month 7, most babies are eating every four to five hours, so if your baby is not feeding that often, low milk supply may be the culprit.
- low wet and dirty diapers: If you are only having two wet diapers a day at 7 months old, low food intake may be the reason.
Signs that do not indicate a low milk supply
While the above discussed are valid signs of low milk supply with breastfeeding moms, there are many misconceptions about the signs of a low milk supply.
- Your breasts do not leak milk or leak a little. Breast leaking is not a sign of milk supply because it usually stops when your milk supply adjusts to your child’s feeding.
- Sudden softening of your breast. Breast sudden is unrelated to milk supply because it happens when your milk products adjust to your baby’s needs,
- Little to no milk production when you pump. The amount of milk you pump does not equate to your milk supply because a baby with a healthy suck milks more than any breast pump.
- Your baby drinks down a bottle of formula after breastfeeding. Your baby drinking a whole bottle of formula after nursing does not indicate that supply insufficient milk as it’s a normal occurrence.
- Baby fussiness. Children become fussy for a myriad of reasons even when they are well-fed.
- Nursing frequency. Your baby breastfeeding for shorter periods does not indicate your low supply of milk. Babies nurse for shorter durations as they grow older because they become more skilled in sucking. Babies also nurse for a longer at times because of growth spurts, alerting your body to produce more milk
- Your breasts not feeling full of milk: From as early as the 4th week postpartum, your supply will start to regulate and between feeding sessions, your breasts may not seem full but that’s perfectly normal. It’s not an indication of low supply
- Your baby’s feeding periods are erratic: If your baby’s feeding periods are erratic, it does not necessarily mean you have a low supply. Just like adults, they may feed more in some sessions than others.
- Less sensation to let down: If you do not feel the sensations to let down, it doesn’t mean that you have a low milk supply. Milk supply regulates slowly and at times, the periods to let down may not come as expected.
A baby nursing more frequently is also not a sign of a low blood supply. Babies breastfeed more often as they grow older because breast milk digests quickly (1.5-2 hours). Also, baby nurses more often feel more secure through contact with their moms.
Causes of low milk supply
But what really causes a low milk supply? Below we discuss the most common causes of low milk supply.
- Hormonal Changes. Different psychological events, including the return of your period or becoming pregnant again, causes hormonal shifts, affecting breast production.
- Latching or feeding issues. Improper latching by your baby may cause a low supply of milk because they may fail to drain your breast contributing to decreased milk production.
Here is a detailed guideline of proper latching.
- Introducing solids. Your breasts are likely to produce less milk when your baby starts eating solids because they will spend less time breastfeeding.
- Illness or use of particular medications. Illnesses such as infections limit your breasts’ production of milk. Medications such as Sudafed also reduce your milk supply.
- Going back to work. Returning back to work causes you to have less milk supply because the change causes you to stress that affects your breast’s milk production.
- Use of pacifiers. Your baby may spend less time nursing because of the use of the pacifier, causing your milk supply to drop because nursing is a supply and demand process.
- Health or anatomical issues with your baby. A baby suffering from jaundice or tongue-tied causes a decrease in milk production because of their limited nursing.
- Nursing your baby one breast per feeding. Giving your baby one breast at a time will minimize your milk production because the body senses that your breasts still have milk.
- Cutting the nursing period abruptly cuts your milk supply because it interferes with the supply-demand cycle.
- Schedule breastfeeding. Nurse your baby whenever they are hungry. Otherwise, breastfeeding your baby at a specified time causes a low milk supply because it interferes with the supply and demand cycle of milk production.
- Nipple shields. Nipple shields cause a less milk supply because they often interfere with stimulation of the nipple or milk transfer.
- Insufficient feeding. You must feed more calories (around 500/day) when breastfeeding to have an adequate milk supply.
Other related guides on Signs of Low Milk Supply
When to get help when you are concerned about having Low Milk Supply
You need to get it from a trained breastfeeding expert or a board-certified lactation doctor if you have a low supply of milk and your baby is not gaining weight or is losing weight to prevent further weight loss and enhance healthy growth.
Trained breastfeeding experts and board-certified lactation doctors rule out any medical condition of your child that could be limiting their nursing and advise you on how to increase your milk supply.
How to Increase your Milk Supply
Source: Prenatal Insights
You need to extract more milk from the breasts frequently to speed up milk production.
Below are specific ways you can employ to increase your milk supply:
- Nurse frequently and for as long as your baby is sucking to ensure that your child extracts as much milk as possible to facilitate increased milk production.
- Ensure your baby feeds from both breasts sufficiently during each nursing session to eliminate the accumulation of milk between feedings as it reduces milk production.
- Switch breasts at least three times during each feeding to prevent comfort sucking and increase feeding (for long periods).
- Avoid using pacifiers and bottles with your baby to ensure that sucking is only for breastfeeding as it minimizes comfort sucking of the nipple when nursing.
- Do not introduce solids to your baby of fewer than 6 months to ensure your baby breastfeeds as much as possible, increasing milk production.
- Prioritize your wellness. Moms should relax adequately, hydrate sufficiently, and eat a balanced diet to ensure their body is well enough to produce adequate milk.
- Ensure that your baby nurses properly by making sure they latch well when breastfeeding, avoiding nursing when they are sleepy, and not using nipple patches.
- Nursing Vacation. Spend a few days (one or two) skin-to-skin with your baby focusing on frequent nursing only. The relaxation, the frequent feeds, and the adequately milk-extracted breasts enhance milk production.
- Pump your breasts after or between nursing sessions to extract all milk after each breastfeeding session, enabling more milk production.
- You could use galactagogue, which is any substance that increases milk supply.
Source: baby gooroo
How to Increase your Breast Milk in One Day
You could increase your breast milk in a day if the cause of your low milk supply is improper nursing practices. You can increase your breast milk supply in a day by ensuring your baby latches properly on the breast, making sure your baby feeds on both breasts during every feeding, nursing frequently, and staying relaxed.
What can Help with Breast Milk Production
You can increase your breast milk production by eating well, taking lots of fluids, and using lactation-boosting substances. Lactation-boosting herbs include fenugreek, blessed thistle, fennel, stinging nettle, alfalfa, ginger, garlic, and goat’s rue.
How to Increase Milk Supply at Night
You increase your milk supply at night by extracting as much milk as possible through power pumping in the evening, cluster pumping or feeding, drinking lots of fluids (not alcoholic drinks), and increasing your intake of healthy calories. You can read our other guide on feeding at night.
Natural Ways to Increase Milk Supply
There are many ways of increasing your milk supply naturally, including:
- Eating a healthy anti-inflammatory diet with lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and foods rich in omega-3s, aiming for at least 2, 500 each day.
- Staying hydrated, with a recommendation of at least 10 glasses per day.
- Having sufficient sleep facilitate relaxation and consequently milk production.
- Implementing stress-reducing strategies such as exercises.
- Breastfeeding frequently and long enough to drain the breasts as much as possible.
- Using natural milk-boosting substances such as oatmeal.
- Stimulating your breasts using hand pumping the supplemental nursing system.
- Ensuring your baby latches well on the breast to enhance sucking and draining the breast milk.
I am Ashley Davis, a mom of three kids and the editor here at Motherhood HQ (formerly 10BabyGear). I have been a parent since 2011 and have been doing full-time consulting as a baby sleep expert since 2019. When I am not researching or testing the next baby gear hitting the market, you’ll find me teaching my toddlers a trick or two – especially over the last few months with the lockdown. I hope you’ll find my guides and reviews helpful as you make your next purchase decision. If you have any questions, you can reach me at email@example.com.