I thought I would be fine.
My works was getting busier.
I missed critical deadlines and I felt miserable for not performing well enough.
So I started dropping one mid-morning pumping session.
I was able to catch up with my workload and got the acknowledgment that I desperately needed (I was in the fence of quitting btw, things were tough).
My pumping output was fine initially, but after a few weeks, I saw a huge drop in my supply.
I freaked out...
Just like any other pumping mom whom milk supply suddenly drops.
And again, I was coming back to Google, searching ways to replenish my milk supply again.
But do you know, skipping pumping session is only one among several reasons of sudden milk supply drop.
One may be easier to identify and fix, while some others are not.
Are you worried if your milk supply would suddenly drop?
Or have you experienced milk supply drop before but having no clue what causes it?
In today's post, I would go through with you 8 Things That Cause Milk Supply Drop and what you can do about it.
1. You breast pump needs a tune up
Do you notice any difference in the vacuum strength?
Does it feel weaker?
Some pumps start to create this problem if they are overused.
If you are still under warranty, it's not harmful to get your pump checked for any possible issues.
When was the last time you change your breast shield's membrane or valve?
If it's been more than a few months, it's time to get them replaced.
Check the tubing. Do you notice any condensation there?
Tubing condensation may interfere the auction strength, so if you do, change to a new tubing while you are trying to get the condensation out of there.
2. You frequently skipped pumping sessions
If you are regular pumper, frequently skipping pumping session may hurt your milk supply.
Why I said, 'may', but not 'definitely'?
This is because every mom has different breast milk storage capacity, that is the amount of milk that can be stored inside your breast.
Mom A used to pump 3x at work and could collect up to 600 ml (so around 200 ml in each session).
Then she dropped her session into twice at work, but still managed to get 600 ml consistently.
This is because her breast can store up to 300 ml breast milk (roughly), so even with the pumping schedule change, her milk supply is still stable.
Let's compare with mom B.
She also got 600 ml of milk with 3 pumping sessions at work, but when she reduced it into two, she could only get 500 ml total.
Why is that?
Because she has smaller breast storage capacity.
Perhaps her breast could not store up to 300 ml of milk, but only 250 ml.
So the moment her breast is full and her next pumping session is not due yet, her breast slows down the milk production, no more storage!
Which one are you? Type A or B?
Only you can answer this question, but for me, I'm type B mom.
But.., how can you know how much milk your breast can keep before it slows down?
Well, honestly, I don't have the exact answer.
But you can find the clue from your baby's feeding pattern.
If your baby nurses pretty frequently, that may signal that you have small breast storage capacity.
But if your baby nurses, say, every 3 hours or even more, it may signal that you have larger breast storage capacity, and thus, you can afford to pump less frequent.
Now, the most important question.
What can you do to bring back your milk supply?
1. Bring back the skipped session
By bringing back the skipped session, you essentially tell your breast to produce milk more frequently, because you empty it more frequently, too.
Remember the golden rule of milk production:
"The emptier the breast, the faster milk production is, and the fuller the breast, the slower the milk production would be."
2. Power pumping
It may take some time to bring back your depleted supply.
To make things faster, I recommend doing power pumping to boost your milk production.
You can either set aside an hour a day to do 3 short 10-min pump with 10-min break, or do the 2-hourly pump for 48 hours.
3. Your baby starts sleeping through the night
This is such a big milestone that every parent are waiting for.
When the baby starts sleeping through the night, the parents also get the rest they desperately need, too.
However, from milk supply point of view, there's a long gap the last feeding at night and the first-morning feeding.
If your breast is not emptied at all throughout the night, it may start thinking to reduce the milk production.
And that's why your milk supply drops.
Also, another similar thing that may cause milk supply drop is your baby is still nursing throughout the night, but she's just comfort nursing.
She's nibbling at your breast, but NO milk is actually drawn out.
What to do:
1. Offer your baby to nurse again
This may sound counter-intuitive, but it is the easiest to do.
Your baby may sleep a few hours earlier than you, and the moment you are ready for bed, just arouse her a bit to nurse on.
Most babies would happily accept the offer, and nurse for a few minutes.
2. Wake up to pump
Yeah, if you prefer letting your baby sleeps through the night but you don't want your milk supply drops, then wake up to pump.
Research has shown that sometime between midnight and early morning is the best time to pump, because your prolactin level (the hormone responsible for your milk production) is at the highest, and therefore if you pump during that time, chance's are you will get quite a good amount of milk.
If you are unable to wake up to pump (I know, we all need sleep, haha), then at least try to squeeze one more pumping session, choose the time that works best for you (and you know you can be consistent with it).
Say, if you are comfortable waking up a little bit earlier then pump, just do this.
Else, if you feel you better off pumping after your baby sleeps, go for this.
The main point of this extra pumping is to replace the missed feeding that you used to have before your baby started sleeping through the night.
Also, still related to this, but in general, if you are reducing the number of feeding and pumping you do throughout the day, there's a chance that your milk supply may drop.
Every mother has this magic number that corresponds to how often her breast should be emptied throughout the day.
If the you pump / nurse less than your magic number, your milk supply will start to dwindle down. So it is important to keep the frequent feeding / pumping to keep your supply up.
4. You are having your period
Period usually causes a temporary drop to your milk supply.
It can be a few days for some moms, while others have it for one full week.
What to do:
Personally, I didn't do anything about it.
I know it is temporary and my milk supply would bounce up again once the period is completed.
However, if you barely has any stash and you are a pump-today-for-tomorrow-feed type of mom, this temporary drop may freak you out because you may not get enough milk for tomorrow's feeding.
Here are some suggestions (excerpted from exclusivepumping.com):
- Take Calcium / Magnesium supplements
- Attempt more let-downs while pumping
- Consume lactogenic food or herbs (or drink a nursing tea)
5. Are you pregnant?
Are you possibly pregnant?
With pregnancy, there are hormonal changes occurring in your body that cause a decrease in milk supply.
The supply drop typically begins by mid-pregnancy, but some mothers experience it as early as the first month of expecting.
As your pregnancy progresses, the milk will turn into colostrum for newborn consumption later on.
Some nurslings react to the supply and taste change by self-weaning, while others keep nursing until past birth .
What to do:
This is a natural process and it's best just to let it happen naturally.
If your baby is less than 6 months old, you may need to watch her weight gain and supplement if needed.
If she's older than 6 months old, typically increasing her solid intake helps her to stay full while still enjoying the benefit of breast milk.
Should you wean your baby?
I guess it depends on your personal choice and whether you experience pain / contractions while nursing. I suggest you talking to your gynae to decide what's best for you and your baby.
6. Introducing solid food
In most cases, introducing solid food to babies should not reduce your supply.
This is because the very first solid food is meant to 'compliment' breast milk, NOT to 'replace' it.
However, some babies really like eating solid food to the extent that when it's time to nurse, they may nurse less than usual.
If you are worried that your baby may not get the sufficient amount of breast milk, see if this meal routine would work for you.
Nurse your baby first, then an hour later or so, feed your baby her food.
This way, your baby won't overeat and still gets the usual amount of milk from your breast.
Kellymom has a great explanation on how to introduce solid food without decreasing your milk supply. Head over here to read the full details.
7. Consuming anti-lactogenic food
Perhaps you didn't realize this...
Or perhaps it was a festive event...
But if you accidentally eat milk-reducing food such as sage leaves or parsley in large amount, your milk supply may suddenly drop.
I remember reading the book "The Breastfeeding Mother's Guide to Making More Milk"and there's a real story of how a mom stopped producing enough milk for her first babies, and finally engaged a lactation consultant to help her after the second birth.
She told the LC that her milk came in, but then suddenly stopped.
Turns out, her husband has been diligently serving her a chicken soup every day, heavily sprinkled with sage, a popular herb known to reduce milk supply!
Of course, he didn't have any idea that this herb can kill the milk supply.
The lesson here is:
Pay attention to what you have been eating.
In general, milk-reducing herbs can still be consumed BUT in small quantities, but if you keep experiencing supply drop without any other cause, it's good to stop it for a while to determine if it is the culprit.
8. Stress and fatigue
Stress oh stress..
This is a problem that frequently occurring for a pumping mom.
While a little stress may not affect your milk supply, a huge stress will.
Not to mention the insufficient rest due to the need of taking care of the baby, pumping, and more.
What to do:
I think saying 'don't be stressed out' won't work here.
1. First, I want you to take care of YOUR self.
I've been there before.
When you feel like racing all time, dedicating all your time and effort for your family and loved ones.
And you are left with little or no time to take care yourself.
You are burnt out, but you don't know how to stop the race.
And you just keep going.
Take a break.
If you used to take care of your baby by yourself, ask your spouse to help you just for an hour and do things you love: watch some movie, read a book, hang out with your girlfriends, it's up to you.
You may feel guilty doing it at first, but trust me, you deserve it, and you'll be back to your family feeling refreshed and happier.
Happy mom -->> healthy milk production
2. Prioritize and delegate.
If you can't have all done, then be it!
Your house may be a mess and you feel guilty for not having time to clean it.
Or you may buy food for dinner most of the time and you are guilty for not cooking a healthy homemade food.
The list can go on and on.
Don't try to be a perfect mom. This is not a good time for that.
Rather, prioritize what's more important for you and your family.
And if someone can help you to complete a task, then by all means, delegate that job.
A little confession:
When I was still working and pumping for my daughter, I had a live-in helper who helped me a lot with my household tasks, including cooking.
But you know, the inner me sometimes want to cook a meal for my family, my own cooking.
So I told myself, ok, you may not be able to cook every single day, so you should cook on the weekend.
I was still busy pumping on weekend, we tried to take the kids out to have fun with them, and I tried to catch enough rest so that I wouldn't fall sick easily.
And my desire to cook was pushed down to non-existent because I prioritized other more important things.
Did I regret it?
Not really.. I love cooking for my family but I know this time I need to prioritize for other things first.
When this phase of life has passed, I would have more time to cook for my family.
And as everyone say: This, too, shall pass...
There you go.
If you are currently experiencing milk supply drop, I hope you can finally find the reason behind it and do the action needed to bring back your supply.
Now onto you.
Have you experienced any milk supply drop before?
Were you able to find the cause and how to deal with it?
I've told my story and now it's your turn to tell yours!