Learn why you’re experiencing a sudden drop in milk supply, and what you can do to increase it quickly. There are some misconceptions surrounding milk supply, especially if you exclusively breastfeed. Whether you breastfeed on demand or pump on a set schedule, you can maintain a healthy milk supply, even after a sudden dip in milk output. Read below to find the reason your milk supply has tanked, and how to increase it for your baby.
Have you experienced a dip in your milk supply, despite your best efforts to keep it up? It’s one of the most frustrating, stressful things I’ve ever gone through.
We put a lot of effort into keeping our milk supply plentiful for our babies, and to see it suddenly drop down can send us into panic mode. But don’t worry!
You can still save it!
It’s more than possible to revive a dwindling milk supply and turn things around.
Breast milk is full of nutrients and antibodies, customized specifically for our babies based on their needs. How cool is that? Unfortunately, there’s so much that goes into maintaining your supply, and most new moms are caught off guard once their little ones are here. There’s more to it than simply offering the breast when you think your baby is hungry.
There are foods you should avoid while breastfeeding, supplements that can boost your milk output (or harm it), and a bunch of factors that determine how much you’re able to produce. From a bad latch, to ill-fitting flanges, there’s a lot to consider.
I’ve broken down the top reasons you may be experiencing a sudden drop in your milk supply, along with my best tips for increasing your milk supply fast. You’ve got this, Mama!
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How To Tell If Your Milk Supply Has Suddenly Dropped
It can be difficult to determine if your milk supply has tanked while exclusively breastfeeding, since most moms are not sure of the exact amount of milk their baby is getting each feeding.
If you’re concerned about your baby getting enough breast milk, you definitely want to be proactive about it, but understand that many normal things are commonly mistaken for a low milk supply.
Here are the main signs of low milk supply for exclusively breastfeeding mamas:
- Your baby is producing an insufficient number of wet diapers
- Your baby is suffering from signs of dehydration, such as a sunken fontanel, dark colored urine, and lethargy (to name a few)
- Your baby is not gaining enough weight
You should also watch your baby as he/she nurses. There’s a clear difference between suckling and drinking, which you should be able to see and hear during a letdown!
Mistaking Cluster Feeding and Growth Spurts For Low Milk Supply
Many breastfeeding women confuse cluster feeding and growth spurts as an indication of a low milk supply.
They assume that their baby is feeding for long periods of time, and frequently, because they’re not producing enough. And I admit, I’ve worried about that myself, even knowing that it’s completely normal!
If your baby is producing enough wet diapers for their age, they aren’t suffering from signs of dehydration, and they’re gaining weight at a normal rate, you more than likely have plenty of milk. Cluster feeding is a good thing, anyway. The baby is telling your body to produce more milk!
You should always see a doctor or lactation consultant if you’re worried about your baby or milk supply. You can do a weighted feed, though many lactation consultants claim this isn’t very accurate.
A doctor would be best for checking your baby and their weight, and a lactation consultant would be ideal for checking for issues with your baby’s latch and your supply.
It’s much easier to tell when your milk supply has suddenly dropped when you exclusively pump. Obviously the biggest sign of a drop in milk supply when pumping is when you’re not able to pump as much milk each session.
When this happens, the first thing you should check is that your pump parts are in working order. The valves, tubing, and membranes should be replaced every 3 months. Usually you can easily order replacement pump parts on Amazon, no matter what brand of pump you use! That’s what I always did in a pinch.
Misconceptions About Low Milk Supply
These things are commonly mistaken as a sign of a low or dwindling milk supply, but they’re perfectly normal!
- Frequent or prolonged feedings (cluster feeding)
- Your baby takes a bottle after a feeding
- Your breasts do not feel engorged or “full” anymore
- Baby is not feeding as long
- You aren’t able to pump very much breast milk
- Your breasts no longer (or never did) leak milk
- Your baby wakes to feed at night
Why You Might Be Experiencing A Sudden Drop In Milk Supply
Milk Supply is Regulating
Between 6-12 weeks postpartum, your milk supply will begin to regulate. For moms with an oversupply, this can happen a little later.
Your body has learned from the past weeks of pumping or breastfeeding, and it knows how much it needs to produce to keep up with your baby! This is a good thing! It still has the ability to produce more as your baby’s needs increase, but things will start to change around this time.
You may notice your breasts feel softer or less engorged, and you may not be overproducing quite as much. If your supply drops down to the point where you’re not producing enough to meet your baby’s needs, you can still turn things around!
Pump Parts Need To Be Replaced
Moms who pump need to replace their pump parts every 3 months! These parts include the tubing, membranes, and valves, which naturally get worn down over time. The membranes and valves in particular are important to replace, as they’re what makes the suction happen.
Many women swear they notice a huge increase in milk output by switching to duckbill valves! I tried this with my manual pump, and it worked for me! It’s worth a shot. Make sure you order some that are compatible with your pump. These are the ones I ordered, and they work with several different brands of pumps.
Returning Back To Work
Returning to work or school presents several challenges for new moms. It’s a hard and emotional time, and you’ll likely experience stress over it, and that alone can decrease your milk output.
Not to worry, though! It’s more than possible to maintain a healthy milk supply as a working mom.
There are several things you should do before going back to work to ensure it’s a smooth transition. Familiarize yourself with your breast pump beforehand, and learn all the ins-and-outs of pumping.
For a full, detailed guide, check out The Ultimate Back to Work Pumping Class by Milkology. For $19, you’ll learn everything you need to know about keeping your supply up after going back to work, without having to spend countless hours searching through forums and Facebook groups for tidbits of information. The best part is, it helps you create a customized and unique strategy that maximizes milk expression!
Decongestants are great at drying up your sinuses and mucous. Actually, they work too well, and they’ll dry up your milk right along with it! In fact, doctors often suggest taking decongestants when mothers want to dry up their milk at the end of their breastfeeding journey. You’ll definitely want to stay away from these when you’re sick.
Ahh yes, stress. No matter what started it, stress can create big issues with your supply. You’ll notice a drop in your milk supply, then you’ll stress about not producing enough, which can lower it even more. It’s horrible!
No matter what, try to stay relaxed and calm, especially during nursing or pumping sessions. Play some relaxing music, meditate, do whatever you need to do to feel at peace. Sometimes simply not watching your letdowns like a hawk can help!
Many women who bottle feed unknowingly overfeed their babies. I’ve certainly done it. It’s easy to do, especially when we just want our babies to feel full and satisfied. But just because they can drink 7 ounces at a time, doesn’t mean they need it.
When your baby is bottle fed without implementing paced feeding, they don’t always know when to stop. The milk hasn’t hit their tummies just yet, so they keep drinking. It’s just one of the many reasons it’s important to practice paced feeding.
This causes mothers to think they’re not producing enough to keep up with their baby’s needs, when they really just need to cut back on the number of ounces their babies are drinking at every feeding. Check with your doctor if you’re unsure of how much your baby should be drinking based on their age.
It makes sense, doesn’t it? Breastfeeding women need to stay super hydrated to keep their milk supply up. Most women notice that they’re unusually thirsty while breastfeeding, but others don’t even think about it. Make sure you’re drinking plenty of fluids, or your milk supply may take a dip!
Fenugreek? Whaaaaat? Fenugreek is supposed to increase milk supply, isn’t it?
Well, not for everyone!
For some women, fenugreek can have the opposite effect. It’s upsetting, for sure. You take something that claims to provide a boost in your milk supply, and it ends up lowering it even more! Unfortunately, there’s no way of knowing how it will affect your supply until you’ve tried it out. However, if you suffer from thyroid issues, it’s best to avoid fenugreek.
Thankfully, I found these supplements that are fenugreek-free! They work wonderfully!
As if getting sick wasn’t bad enough on its own, it can decrease your milk supply as well. Don’t forget, you can’t take decongestants! There’s really no winning, huh?
The best thing you can do for simple colds is stay hydrated and opt for natural remedies. If it’s severe, of course, go to the doctor. Your health is important!
Missing Feedings or Pumping Sessions
The number one milk supply killer is missed feedings and pumping sessions. As tempting as it may be to sleep through a pumping session, it’s never worth it, trust me!
When you exclusively breastfeed on demand, if your baby sleeps for a longer stretch of time during the night, you don’t need to wake them up to maintain your supply. This is mainly geared towards moms who pump, and those who spend time away from their baby.
You’ll definitely need to express some breast milk to keep your supply where it needs to be. When I was exclusively pumping, I made sure to pump every time my son had a bottle at the very least. That’s the best thing you can do!
Herbs that can Affect Milk Supply
Certain herbs can lower your milk supply, and many new moms have no idea! Here are a few that you should avoid while breastfeeding:
- Lemon Balm
Birth control is known for lowering milk supply. Even the types of birth control that claim not to mess with your milk output can lower your supply! Hormonal changes in general can affect your supply, and almost all birth controls produce hormonal changes on some level.
I took birth control for one week shortly after my son was born. It was the first time since I was a teenager, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. It was the mini-pill, which isn’t supposed to affect milk supply. But it sure did! As soon as I quit taking it, my milk output increased, and I haven’t looked back.
My doctor was very clear with me about it. He said no matter what kind it is, it affects everyone differently. There is no one birth control that will work for every breastfeeding mother. Essentially, we’re guinea pigs anytime we try out a new birth control.
It may have adverse effects, it may not. It’s up to you to make the decision on whether or not you want to be on birth control, and to test out different ones and hope that it doesn’t make your supply tank.
Baby’s Started Solids
When your baby starts eating solids, you may notice a dip in your supply. It can be a natural thing, or a bad thing! The phrase “food before one is just for fun” is not true. There are several reasons it’s important to start solids before one, with the biggest one being nutrition.
According to Parents, “Starting solids by 6 months helps with oral-motor development and is also important to provide your baby with all the nutrition needed to ensure proper growth, including sufficient amounts of iron and zinc.”
However, it is important to remember that breast milk (or formula) should be your baby’s main source of nutrition for the first year of their life, with solids being their secondary source of nutrition.
This means you should always offer solids after breastfeeding or giving your baby a bottle, so they’re getting full on milk first, and topping off with real food.
While you may be trying to get rid of any extra baby weight still lingering around, exercise can decrease your milk supply. That doesn’t mean you have to lay around on the couch every day until you’re done breastfeeding! You can and should make light exercise a priority.
A decrease in milk output due to exercising usually happens when a mother is exercising too hard (as in, her body is not used to the amount of exercise she is now doing), and she is not staying hydrated enough. Make sure you eat plenty of food and drink lots of water, and don’t go overboard on working out all of the sudden.
Getting Your Period
When your period returns, or is about to return, your hormones change, which can cause a decrease in milk supply. Even when exclusively breastfeeding, some women get their periods back just a few short months after giving birth, while others don’t have another period until their baby is 2. Everyone is different.
Once your period returns, you may notice a slight dip in your milk supply every time Aunt Flo comes to visit.
Wrong Fitting Flanges
One of the biggest causes of low milk supply comes from wrong fitting flanges. Since everyone has different shaped breasts and nipples, there is no one-size-fits-all, and some women have a difficult time finding a size that works for them.
When you’re using ill-fitting flanges, you’re likely not expressing as much milk as your breasts are producing. You’ll finish a pumping session feeling defeated, when you have more milk that’s simply not coming out! Try different sizes, and learn how to hand express if pumping doesn’t seem to be working.
Not Eating Enough Calories
You definitely need to treat food like fuel while breastfeeding. You can’t skip meals and expect your milk supply to stay high. It’s also important to remember that certain diets can affect your milk supply as well. For instance, Keto is off-limits for breastfeeding moms.
I personally noticed a dip in my supply when I tried going vegan for 2 weeks when my son was a few months old. Mostly I just wanted to help reset my habits and cut out processed foods, and going full vegan for a short period of time seemed to be a good idea. I’m not saying don’t try veganism while breastfeeding, but if your body is not used to it, it can certainly make your supply drop a bit.
Not to freak you out (or get you excited), but pregnancy can cause your milk to drop out of the blue. Usually moms don’t see a huge decrease in milk until they’re further along, but it can happen! You might want to take a pregnancy test to be sure.
When I was breastfeeding (and trying to conceive) I kept these pregnancy tests around at all times. I recommend it to everyone who’s had a baby, because it takes a long time for our cycles to regulate, making it hard to know when to test and when to avoid having sex. They’re cheap and effective, and you get a ton of them in one pack, so you can take a test every week if you wanted to, just to be sure.
How To Fix Your Sudden Drop In Breast Milk
Aside from fixing any of the issues listed above, here are some tips for fixing your sudden drop in milk supply fast! I’ve had dips in my supply time and time again. There were many points where I was a “just-enougher”. These things always helped me boost my supply back up to a good level.
Power pumping can be a total lifesaver! I wrote a thorough, in-depth guide on power pumping, why it works, and how to do it. I even go over the ins and outs of increasing your milk supply. Here’s a nifty graphic I made to remember the basics of how to power pump:
In short, power pumping sends signals to your body that it needs to produce more milk. You may not get more milk during the initial power pumping session, but some women see an increase in their milk supply as soon as the next day! For more info, check out my Power Pumping 101 article.
Drink More Water!
Water, water, water! I can’t stress that enough. Up your water intake. Do you already drink a lot of water? Try drinking an extra glass a day. You’d be surprised just how much you need while breastfeeding.
You can also drink Body Armor or Gatorade to stay hydrated and keep things interesting.
These lactation drops can be life changing! They helped boost my supply time after time. Just be careful when you first try them out, since they contain fenugreek. If you notice a decrease, don’t use them anymore. You may be part of the small percentage of women who don’t see an increase from fenugreek.
You should see an increase within 24-48 hours if your body responds well to the natural herbs found in them.
Mother’s Milk Tea
Mother’s Milk Tea has helped breastfeeding women for a long time now. I swear by it! Again, it contains fenugreek, so if you don’t respond well to it, you might want to avoid this tea as well.
Here is another lactation tea that promotes a healthy milk supply. The reviews speak for themselves with both of these products. I actually really like the taste too!
Take A Nursing Vacation
Nursing vacations are a great way to increase your milk supply! I used to take them all the time! It was a real love-hate situation. I loved cuddling with my baby in bed all day, but I also felt like I couldn’t live my life or do simple things like tidy up around the house, which bummed me out from time to time.
Basically, you commit to spending an entire day or two nursing your baby ALL. DAY. LONG. When they sleep, you still keep them near (this helps you produce more oxytocin). The constant suckling and cuddling can seriously increase your milk supply.
There’s a bit of prep work that goes into taking a nursing vacation, particularly if you work or have other kids. Make sure you have easy snacks and meals ready to go beforehand, and keep everything you need within arms reach.
Snuggle up, binge watch your favorite series, and let your baby nurse all day! It can yield some pretty awesome results!
The Ultimate Guide To Breastfeeding
This is another online course by Milkology, that I recommend to anyone interested in breastfeeding, and anyone looking to learn more about how breastfeeding works!
In just 90 minutes, it can change the game for you, especially if you’re struggling to produce enough breast milk. And it’s only $19! I mean, there’s nothing better than that. I’m really happy I came across this resource, and I hope you love it as much as I do!
Don’t worry, it’s stress free. You don’t have to “attend” at a certain time, interact with anyone, or anything like that. You work through it at your own pace, and you’ll have a lifetime access to it.
Have you experienced a sudden drop in your milk supply? What did you do to fix it? Do you have any questions? I’d be more than happy to help! Leave a comment below!
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