Whether you have been breastfeeding for some time now or are just starting your nursing journey, something you may experience is one breast suddenly producing less milk than the other.
A sudden drop in milk production could be down to several issues including stress, diet, dehydration, menstruation or skipping a feeding session.
But the good news is there are some things you can do to get things back on track.
So let’s take a look at the possible causes of a fall in breastmilk production, as well as potential solutions, in more detail.
Why One Breast May Be Producing Less Milk Suddenly
As we covered in a recent article, it’s perfectly normal for women to have one breast that consistently produces less milk than the other.
Sudden falls in milk production, or even one breast stopping milk production all together, are also fairly common, especially if you are experiencing any of the below:
There’s no denying that despite its amazing joys, motherhood can be a stressful, anxious and tiring experience.
Cortisol, which is the primary stress hormone, can significantly reduce your milk supply, which is why every breastfeeding moms needs to be aware of the impact that stress can have on their bodies.
And the frustrating thing about stress is that the more you worry about it – and the more you worry about your falling milk supply – the worse things usually get.
Try developing a postpartum plan that outlines who can help you (partner, other family members, grandparents) with everything from feeding to sleep, grocery shopping and household chores.
Knowing there are people there to help, and being reassured there are planned times for you to rest, sleep and relax, will give you a sense of control over your day and should reduce your stress levels accordingly.
Some women are tempted to diet after giving birth, in an attempt to lose their “baby weight” quickly, while others find themselves neglecting their own dietary needs given everything else that’s going on.
Either way, it’s important to remember that women who nurse need to consume hundreds of extra calories per day.
You might also be surprised to learn that some eating certain foods can actually decrease your milk supply, while some foods can do the opposite and increase it.
Make sure you are getting enough calories each day – breastfeeding moms typically need an additional 330 to 400 kilocalories (kcal) per day vs pre-pregnancy per day to meet their nutritional needs.
Eat a balanced diet of fruit, vegetables, grains, protein, and a little bit of fat, because foods like brown rice, oats, lean meat, garlic, chickpeas and herbs are all proven to help help increase a woman’s supply of breast milk.
But what will certainly make you dehydrated is not drinking enough water.
And because breast milk consists of over 80% water, being dehydrated is bad news for your milk supply.
Remember that you should be passing urine often (it should be colorless or pale yellow), and keep an eye out for the following signs of dehydration
- Passing urine infrequently
- Dark yellow color of urine
- Dry tongue and mouth
- Stopped sweating
- Feeling tired, light-headed, or dizzy
4. Skipping Feeding or Pumping Sessions
One of the most important things about about milk production is that it’s a game of supply and demand.
What this means in practice is that the more milk that is emptied from your breasts, the more your body produces.
Knowing this, it’s easy to see that if you miss a feeding or pumping session, it effectively sends a signal to your body that your baby needs less milk.
Many moms find that breastfeeding or pumping 8 or more times in each 24 hour period is enough to keep your milk supply up.
Whatever your schedule, try to make sure you never miss a feeding or pumping session.
If you notice your supply is falling in one breast, you could try power pumping.
This involves using a breast pump in between your regular breastfeeding sessions, which acts as a way to tell your body it needs to produce more milk for your baby.
Did you know that your breast milk supply can naturally drop when you are on your period?
Menstruation can affect your milk supply, especially during the end of the cycle or during your period, thanks to a decrease in prolactin concentration.
And what’s perhaps even more interesting is that your baby may not want to latch on while you are menstruating, because your breastmilk actually changes in taste during your period.
If you are interested in why, it’s because the chloride and sodium levels increase in milk during your period, and the levels of lactose (which tastes sweet) go down.
You might find that nursing on your period is uncomfortable, especially at the start of your cycle, because your nipples may be sore.
Some ways to minimize the discomfort in the hope of increasing your milk supply include:
- Nurse your baby as often as possible, and keep them on the breast for as long as you can.
- Use breast milk lotion rather than numbing creams to relieve the area.
- Try pumping instead – you may find this less painful than having your baby on the breast, and emptying your breast will ensure your milk supply doesn’t suddenly drop in one of both of your breasts (see our explanation of supply and demand above).
Other Tips On How To Increase Milk Supply
As we mentioned, the critical thing about milk production is that it’s a game of supply and demand.
In practice what this means is that the more milk that is emptied from your breasts, the more your body produces.
With this knowledge in mind, here are some other helpful tips for increasing your milk supply in response to a sudden fall in milk production.
1. Offer Your Baby The Breast That Has Dropped In Supply First
Offering the breast or side that has fallen in supply first can help that side to produce more milk, because babies often nurse more vigorously at the start of a feed.
Starting at the side that produces less milk can therefore encourage that side to start producing more milk, because as we mentioned above, the more a breast is emptied, the more milk it will produce.
2. Pump or Double Pump The Breast That’s Fallen In Supply
Similarly, pumping the less productive side in-between and after feeding is another way to take advantage of the supply and demand nature of breastmilk production.
If you do this you successfully you may then find you have some excess breast milk, which can be great for multiple things including making lotions, having milk baths and soothing sore nipples.
3. Massage Your Lower Producing Breast
Massaging the breast that has fallen in production can also be a good way to get things back to normal.
Massaging your breasts in order to produce more milk can be done in three simple steps:
- Apply a hot, moist compress to your breast before you start to nurse, because this can open up your ducts and stimulate letdown.
- Lightly massage from the top of your breast down and over the nipple using your fingertips.
- Press on your breast and massage in a circular motion, as this will encourage milk to flow toward your nipples.
4. Skin To Skin
You probably know that skin to skin contact with your baby is vitally important immediately after birth.
But there’s nothing to say you have to stop straight after your baby is born.
So continue having direct physical contact between you and your baby for the first few months, as you may find it helps release prolactin and stimulates oxytocin, which increases milk supply and can help combat a sudden fall in production.
5. Talk To A Specialist
Last but by no means least, you might want to consider visiting a doctor or lactation consultant.
These are certified health professional who specializes in breastfeeding issues, and can help with issues including sore nipples, breastfeeding positions and of course your milk production.
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