The Things That Decrease Breast Milk Supply

What can lower breast milk production and what you can do about it

baby sleeping on mothers chest
What can cause a decrease in your breast milk supply?. Tara Moore / Getty Images

What Can Cause Your Breast Milk Supply to Go Down?

You may not realize it, but many things can interfere with the production of breast milk. If you're breastfeeding and concerned about your milk supply going down, take a look at these eleven issues that can cause a decrease in your breast milk supply. By understanding what lowers the supply of breast milk and making a few changes to your daily routine, you may be able to turn it around and begin increasing your milk production once again.

 

  1. Not Getting Enough Rest: Recovering from childbirth, motherhood, and breastfeeding a newborn can be exhausting. Postpartum fatigue and tiredness can interfere with breastfeeding, and it's one of the common causes of a low breast milk supply. It might not be easy during the first few weeks, but it's very important that you get enough rest.
     
  2. Ignoring Your Health: Illness or an infection can cause your body to make less breast milk. If you suspect that your milk supply is low because of a health issue, see your doctor for an examination. If you have an infection, your doctor may need to prescribe an antibiotic. Other illnesses, such as low thyroid function (hypothyroidism) and anemia, can also interfere with breast milk production. There are treatments that your doctor can prescribe that are safe for breastfeeding mothers, just make sure that your doctor knows that you're breastfeeding. 
     
  1. Having Too Much Caffeine: Soda, coffee, tea, and chocolate are OK in moderation, but large amounts of caffeine can dehydrate your body and lower your production of breast milk. Too much caffeine can also affect your baby. Some of the caffeine will pass to your baby through your breast milk. It can build up in your child’s body causing irritability and sleep problems.
     
  1. Smoking Cigarettes: Smoking can interfere with the release of oxytocin in your body. Oxytocin is the hormone that stimulates the let-down reflex. This reflex releases the breast milk from the inside of your breasts and allows it to flow out of your body and into your baby. If your breast milk is not released, it will not drain out of your breasts and stimulate your body to produce more. It's best if you don't smoke, but if you do, you should never smoke near your baby. To help with let-down, try not to have a cigarette within two hours of breastfeeding.
     
  2. Drinking Alcohol: Alcohol, like smoking, can get in the way of the let-down reflex. Alcohol may also change the flavor of your breast milk, causing your baby to breastfeed less. If your child breastfeeds less often, you will make as much breast milk. An occasional drink is considered OK, but it is not advised to drink alcohol regularly. Not only can it decrease your breast milk supply, but alcohol passes into the breast milk which can put your baby at risk for a developmental delay.
     
  1. Taking Certain Medications: Certain prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications can interfere with the let-down reflex and breast milk production. Antihistamines, decongestants, and diuretics can all negatively affect your breast milk supply. Tell your doctor that you're breastfeeding before he or she prescribes any medication.
     
  2. Being Under Too Much Stress: Physical, emotional, and psychological stress can lower your supply of breast milk. If you're concerned about privacy while you're breastfeeding, you may feel self-conscious or embarrassed. These feelings can interfere with let-down. Other causes of stress such as anxiety, pain, financial difficulty, and relationship troubles can also add to a lower amount of breast milk.
     
  3. Using Excessive Amounts of Herbs and Spices: When taken in large doses, some herbs such as sage, parsley, oregano, peppermint, jasmine, and yarrow can cause a decrease in your breast milk supply.
     
  4. Starting Birth Control Pills: If you've started taking birth control pills to prevent another pregnancy, it could be affecting your breast milk supply. Some birth control pills contain estrogen, a hormone that can cause a decline in your milk production. Talk to your doctor about using a progesterone-only birth control pill.
     
  5. Becoming Pregnant Again: If you become pregnant again while you're still breastfeeding, the hormones of a new pregnancy are known to cause a decrease in your milk supply.
     
  6. Not Paying Attention to Your Diet: What a breastfeeding mother eats and how much water she drinks has not been shown to cause a significant decrease in the supply of breast milk. Moms all over the world can make enough breast milk for their babies even when their diet is limited. However, a healthy meal plan and adequate hydration are important for your overall health. If you are experiencing a lower breast milk supply, it certainly won't hurt to eat healthily, and drink plenty of fluids during the day.

Will You Be Able to Rebuild Your Breast Milk Supply?

If your breast milk supply is decreasing and one or a combination of the things on the list above could be contributing to it, then you can often increase your breast milk supply by trying to fix the problem and breastfeeding or pumping more often. There are also some foods and herbs that you can use that may help increase milk production. Of course, sometimes there are things that you can't change like a new pregnancy or certain health problems. In those case, talk to your doctor and your baby's doctor. Most of the time, you can continue to breastfeed, but you may need to add a supplement to be sure your child gets enough breast milk. 

 

Sources:

Lawrence, Ruth A., MD, Lawrence, Robert M., MD. Breastfeeding: A Guide For The Medical Profession Eighth Edition. Elsevier Health Sciences. 2015.

Riordan, J., and Wambach, K. Breastfeeding and Human Lactation Fourth Edition. Jones and Bartlett Learning. 2014.

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