Breastfeeding is one of the most important phases that every new mother has to deal with. For some, breastfeeding can be a pleasant journey where the time spent during breastfeeding is considered the best time to bond with your infant. However, for some mothers, breastfeeding can turn unpleasant if they find themselves producing less breast milk. In spite of trying to comfort your fussy baby by breastfeeding, lack of breast milk can be a cause of serious concern.
At your infant's routine medical check-up, if the weight gain is not found good enough compared to his or her age, then there is a possibility that he or she is not fed well. The chances of this being high is when the baby is exclusively on breast milk as the source of food and if your body is not producing ample breast milk to fulfil the needs of the growing child. In such scenarios, it is advised that you seek the help of a lactation/breastfeeding expert and consultant who can advise you on techniques to boost your breast milk supply.
Read on to get an idea about the common causes that are the prime culprit behind a low milk-supply.
• Weak glandular tissue
There could be various reasons why a woman's breasts might not have developed normally, meaning that they might not have ample milk-making ducts. For a normal woman with no problem as such with the glands, the ducts grow during the pregnancy period and breastfeeding your infant further stimulates its growth. To overcome the problem with insufficient glandular tissue, your doctor might prescribe a medication. Pumping also helps in some cases. Most of the time, you will need to use formula milk as supplement to fulfil your baby's hunger and growth needs.
• Hormonal issues
When trying to conceive, if you have come across difficulties related to thyroid ailments, diabetics, hypertension, polycystic ovarian syndrome or other hormonal problems, then it is also likely that these issues good hinder your smooth breastfeeding journey. Production of breast milk is dependent on the hormonal signals that the breasts receive. In such cases, it is advised that you consult your doctor to get your hormones under control.
• Breast Surgery
Breast surgeries done previously irrespective of medical or cosmetic reasons could affect/reduce your breast milk supply. The intensity of breast surgeries affecting your milk supply depends on various factors such as time passed between the surgery and you giving birth, type of surgical procedure, etc.
• Use of hormonal birth control
For some breastfeeding women, the use of birth control pills could reduce the supply of breast milk. Any type of hormonal birth control - patch, injection or pill could result in low milk supply.
• Intake of certain medication/herbs
The chemicals found in certain common medicines could affect the supply of breast milk. Most of the cold medications contain pseudoephredine which has been associated with reduced milk production if taken by a breastfeeding mother. You can consult your doctor for alternate medication in such cases. Also, intake of bromocriptine, methergine, large quantities of sage, parsley and peppermint have been linked to reduced breast milk supply.
• Infant's sucking capability
Your little one may find it hard to suck the milk from the breasts. Some infants are found to have a tongue-tie. This means that your baby will find it difficult to extract milk because the thin membrane of tissue found at the lower part of the mouth holds the tongue too tightly. The actual sucking process that a child follows is to use the tongue to compress the breast so that milk is pushed inside his or her mouth. If you feel that your baby has a tongue-tie, check with your paediatric doctor who can improve the baby's breastfeeding capability by clipping the membrane. Cleft lip and cleft palate in babies can also reduce their milk extracting capabilities.
• Reduced night-time feeding
Going by the theory that cutting down night-time feeds can help your bay sleep longer hours at a stretch can actually have adverse effects on the baby's weight gain. Skipping night-time feeds can lower the level of prolactin - the hormone that is responsible for signalling the breasts to produce milk. This results in your breasts producing less milk.
• Scheduling feedings
The rate at which your breasts prepare milk is based on how full or empty they are. When already filled, they produce less milk and vice versa when they are empty. If you have scheduled your feedings or using a pacifier in between feeds, in such cases, the amount of milk stored in your breasts is already high, hence making your body slow down the milk production there on. To address this issue it is advisable that you feed your baby on demand.
• Medications at birth
Sometimes it is seen that the medications used during labor, for instance the epidural or anaesthetic, can negatively affect your baby's ability to latch. The best solution to this issue could be pumping your milk to enhance its supply.
• Supplementing with formula
Using formula milk for whatsoever reason could trick your body into producing less breast milk. Ensure that you do not let the breast milk supply go down. Talk to your lactation expert whenever necessary.