Are You Struggling with Low Milk Supply? Five Questions to Ask Yourself

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To my fellow breastfeeding mamas – whether you are exclusively pumping, breastfeeding on demand, pumping while working, or following an Eat-Play-Sleep routine – I see you! There is so much to think about to ensure your little one is fed.

As with many first-time mamas who choose to breastfeed, I was not aware of all the challenges and sacrifices I would experience when I started this journey with my first. Now, with my second, I am more confident with the process and I even have a clear ‘troubleshooting’ checklist to go through when I notice a dip in my supply.

Below are five questions that you can ask yourself if you start to experience the dreaded ‘dip’:

Question 1: What is my feeding routine?

Breastfeeding is based on supply and demand: the more your nurse or pump, the more milk your body will produce. So, if you often skip feedings or do not pump regularly while away from your little one, your body will start producing less milk. Ideally, you should be nursing or pumping every three hours during the day with one longer break of six to eight hour at night (once your little one’s pediatrician approves).

Question 2: How is my diet? Water intake?

What, and how often, you eat and drink will affect your milk production. While there is no consensus on how many glasses of water to drink while breastfeeding, make sure you are consistently drinking throughout the day, and if you are drinking caffeine or salty food, I recommend adding two or three glasses per day. If you are bored with plain water – coconut water and coconut-based drinks like Body Armor are great for hydration and have really helped my supply.

In terms of food – make sure you have a balanced diet. I have noticed that when I increase my protein, not only do I produce more milk but it also looks thicker. I try to eat plenty of protein snacks throughout the day like raw nuts, peanut butter, and protein shakes. If you are eating dairy, then cheese and yogurt are great snacks as well. My ultimate milk-booster is oatmeal! It has become a staple in my diet and I have it daily with coconut milk, nuts and fruit. I usually have it before my night pumping session and before dream feeding my little one. Finally, try to avoid empty calories like high sugar snacks, as they will not help increase your milk supply. When I crave something sweet, I make these lactation brownies or these no-bake cookies as the flaxseed and brewer’s yeast will help milk production.

Question 3: Are medications/supplements interfering with my supply?

You should check with your doctor if the medications you are taking are safe for breastfeeding, but supplements might also be the reason you are struggling with your milk supply. One of the biggest culprits is fenugreek. This is an ambiguous one as it found in many products that are marketed as lactation friendly like Mother’s Milk tea and MotherLove More Milk Plus capsules, so make sure you check carefully! While fenugreek has traditionally been considered a great supplement for milk production, more and more research has shown that it can have the reverse effect on many nursing mothers. This is why I absolutely avoid it as it had destroyed my supply with my first and it took weeks of tears, sleepless nights, and sacrifice to get it back.

I have instead used supplements from Legendairy Milk as they are fenugreek, gluten, vegan and sugar free. Their website is packed with resources that will help you through your nursing journey. I absolutely recommend it.

Question 4: Do I have the right pump parts?

For those of you who pump, if you are noticing a dip in your supply you might need to look at the parts you are using. Do you have the right flange size? Have you recently replaced your parts – more specifically the ones that will lose their elasticity like the duckbill valves and the membranes in the backflow protectors? Check your pump’s website for recommendations on how often to replace specific parts.

Question 5: Should I speak with a medical professional?

Changes in your supply can also be due to more complicated issues that a lactation consultant (IBCLC) or a doctor should address. There might be an underlying medical reason for your low supply. Likewise, your little one might have some oral restrictions (tongue and/or lip tie) that are affecting their latch and how they are nursing. Both my sons needed to be seen by a pediatric dentist to have their ties revised and we worked with a trained IBCLC to help improve their latch and therefore my supply.

I encourage all moms, even if you are not nursing for the first time, to speak with an IBCLC as all babies are different and no two nursing journeys are the same.

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Léah Lavender
Léah was born and raised in Abu Dhabi in a Lebanese family and grew up speaking three languages: French, English and Arabic. She moved to Australia for college where she met her Wichita-born husband, Paul, while they were both completing their graduate degrees. After getting married in Lebanon, they had a brief stop in San Francisco before deciding to make Wichita home. Since becoming a mother to a very cheeky and energetic toddler, Levi (2018), Léah has slowly transitioned from full-time community building work with the Greater Wichita Partnership into a more flexible contract role allowing her more time to build castles, blow bubbles, and raise Levi multilingual.

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