Reasons for low supply

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Studies have shown that not making enough milk is one of the most common reasons mothers stop breastfeeding before they would have liked.  These mums are either not making enough milk to meet their baby’s needs or perceive they aren’t.  These are two very different scenarios.

There are many possible reasons for mothers who have an identified low supply. They can be divided into two broad categories.

Mother related causes

  • Inadequate stimulation and removal of colostrum/milk by;
    •  not feeding the baby according to his cues
    • ‘stretching the baby out’ by following a rigid feeding schedule
    • using formula or dummies inappropriately
  • If unable to feed baby directly at the breast, not expressing regularly or effectively
  • Breast surgery (augmentation or reduction), where there may be interference to the ductal system, removal of milk making tissue or disruption of nerve supply in the breast
  • Medical conditions that affect the production or release of hormones such as;
    • thyroid or pituitary disorders
    • diabetes
    • polycystic ovary syndrome
    • retained fragments of placenta or membranes following birth
    • post-partum haemorrhage
  • Inadequate amount of mammary tissue known as hypoplasia.  This is difficult to determine as the size of the breast is largely due to the amount of adipose (fat) tissue

Baby related causes

  • Baby is unable to latch and or remove milk effectively as a result of;
    • positioned at the breast in a way that inhibits/interferes with baby’s own reflexes and behaviours that enable the baby to latch and feed effectively
    • prematurity
    • ankyloglossia (tongue-tie)
    • recovering from assisted birth (forceps or vacuum delivery)
    • severe jaundice causing sleepiness
    • cleft lip +/- palate
    • low muscle tone eg. Trisomy 21
    • neurological impairment