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Help! Milk Production Advice Needed

One of our dear readers is seeking your suggestions on increasing her milk supply.  Any chance a mama's been in her situation?

My son turned five months this week and at the very same time, with no other big changes I can think of, my breast milk production has gone off a cliff! When I'm with him, I have to feed him way more often to keep him satisfied. When I'm at work, I'm getting half what I used to when I pump -- and not near enough to keep up with what he needs at daycare. He used to sleep through the night and now he's waking up two or three times. My breasts constantly feel empty. I called the lactation consultant and she suggested taking more herbs (I've been taking a lactation support blend I found at New Seasons for two months), so I doubled that. But at this point, I'm going to deplete my freezer stash of breast milk tomorrow and I'm faced with having to supplement with formula. Now, I realize that formula isn't poison, but I was really hoping to make it to at least six months on breast milk alone. It's such an emotional issue, and the LC didn't have any advice for me on supplementing. Have any other Mamas out there found themselves in this position? Any advice on starting with some formula? Anything I'm not thinking of that could be to blame for this sudden drop in breast milk production?


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the sudden waking in the night could be purely developmental and/or teething. the increased need for nursing might be teething and/or a growth spurt. the empty feeling might be normal regulation of your milk supply too (http://kellymom.com/bf/supply/breast-fullness.html) is it possible that your period is returning? i know several people who have had supply dips right before getting their period back, for about a week, and then it rebounds just fine.

kellymom also has an interesting page on how to tell if your supply really is low (http://kellymom.com/bf/supply/low-supply.html) - several of the things you mention are discussed there.

of course, none of that helps with the fact that your baby clearly wants to eat more than you're easily able to supply right now! don't feel guilty if you do need to supplement, but make sure to keep pumping and nursing too to keep up the supply that is there.

oops, crying baby. gotta run. good luck!!!

hope you find the help you need and soon.

i finally figured out how to wean my 2 year old. OMG is right.

see, it's a two edged sword. wean at 6 months or 2 years? it's all nervewrecking. hugs to you :)

I had a similar experience when my daughter was the same age and I had the same dread of supplementing - I just wanted to make it to six months! However, it was clear that she wasn't getting enough ... she was hungry ... so I started making her an extra 8 oz/day of formula for day care and we both feel much better. It seems my production has stabilized somewhere that is just short of what she needs. I'm using Earth's Best formula, which is expensive but organic, whic makes a mama feel a little better :)

Good luck!

Something similar happened to us, and that's about the time we also started with a teeny bit of rice cereal in the evenings. My pediatrician said she normally suggests waiting until the 6 month mark before starting solids, but some kids are ready for it earlier. Anders was never big on nursing, but the solids seemed to help, and we nursed until his first birthday.

This is probably obvious to most (but wasn't to me in my sleep deprived state at the time). Do your full feeding of breast milk and then offer the bottle of formula. (If you decide to go this route). I was obsessed with the 8 oz bottle size and I would fill it with my measly pumpings and then fill the rest with formula. Then he would only drink 4 ozs. and it hadn't been my precious breast milk, it had been a mix. OK, even as I write this it seems so obvious. But it took way too long for me to figure out, first a bottle of whatever breastmilk we had, then formula. By the way, fenugreek turned the corner for me, but it took a few days to kick in.

The obvious.....are you drinking enough water, eating well, getting some rest? (haha)
I took Vitanica lactation blend, lots of great herbs to enhance the milk flow. It helped a lot.
I also made my own goat milk formula (goat milk has very little lactose and is easier to digest than cow). I gave my daughter one bottle of this formula a day since she was three or four months old. Email me if you want the recipe.

Wow, I feel for you. It IS such an emotional issue. I struggled with my milk supply decreasing, as well. The combination of our commitment to breast-feeding and my own feelings over the prospect of failing to succeed with my "primal motherly purpose" (according to my post-partum-gripped mind) compelled me to pursue all options...at any rate, I found supplements (that truly did increase my milk supply: Fenugreek helped somewhat, but Domperidone helped immensely. It's a prescription med used to treat gastrointestinal tract problems, but increases breastmilk as a side effect. I got a small supply from my OB, but it's extremely expensive in the US (and not covered by my insurance), so I bought a bunch online from a Canadian pharmacy. I used it for several months; it significantly increased my milk supply and I had no negative side effects. My baby nursed until she was 14 months old. I would not have psychologically well-handled stopping to nurse at four-five months when my milk supply decreased, so continuing was good for me, as well.

There are many great suggestions from all of the other mommies. I hope you can find the right combination of solutions for you and your son.

This is also probably something you've already considered, but my milk supply goes way down if I've had a lot of caffeine. I figure it must be because it is a diuretic and I'm dehydrated.
Good luck.

I had the exact same thing happen at 4.5 months. My wonderful lactation consultant at Adventist Medical Center suggested taking fenugreek pills (like a few of the posts have said here.) I got mine in the Fred Meyer health food area. The trick was to take 10 pills a day. Sounds like a lot but within 2 days, I could have fed a small country! I was only on it for 9 days and by that time, my milk had stabilized. The only side effect, it made me smell like maple syrup!! :)

Get your thyroid checked, my dear. Postpartum hypothyroid can lead to, among other things, a rather sudden decrease in milk production. Happened to me... once I started thyroid medication my milk went right back up.
Get your TSH, T4 uptake, and free T4 checked right as soon as possible. Good luck.

The only other thing I have to add (and this may be on kellymom I didn't click) is skin to skin time. I had a similar problem when my son was 4 months because I got a really nasty virus that landed me in the E/R for dehydration. My milk supply took a big hit even though I pumped in the E/R. We did fenugreek, mother's milk teas (they have fennel and other things too), oatmeal, extra pumping at night, and then skin to skin (and lots and lots of feeding!). I bet to add to the mix, your little one is going through something of his own (like JJ said, teething or growth spurt or both!). Lots of hugs to you -- I know it's very stressful and I ended up in tears over it several times and my hubby just didn't understand... Good luck!

I also recommend skin-to-skin time. This helped me when my milk production was getting too low. And be sure you're eating enough calories. I know it can be hard when there's so much to keep track of. Hang in there, and good luck!

I had breast reduction surgery 10 years ago, so milk supply was a huge issue for me. Domperidone worked wonders - the fenugreek and blessed thistle combo recommended by the lactation consultants did nothing but make me smell like maple syrup : ) I noticed an increase in supply even after I stopped taking the Domperidone. Probably the more you stress about it, the worse the problem will get - so much about milk production is related to our subconsicous. Rest is crucial, and skin-to-skin time -- even taking a whole weekend to do nothing but hang around with the babe and nurse -- is a recommendation I remember from the Drs. Sears. Also, relaxation and visualization techniques helped me immensely while pumping - in some cases even doubled the amount I was able to produce. Best of luck, and know that you're doing your very best for your baby, no matter if you are able to breastfeed or need to supplement with formula.

I had a quick drop off in milk around the same time. But it turned out to be because I wasn't eating enough. I tried to cut a few things out of my diet and the milk just diappeared! I understand how stressful it can be - I freak out. It probably took me about a week to get back to enough milk flow and I was eating ALL THE TIME. I asked my lactation consultant as well and the suggestion I liked the most was dark barley malts. You can have one dark beer in the evening and it will relax you as well as give you those malts that aid in milk production - not to mention much needed calories. I wish you the best!

First, I feel for you and I hope these suggestion help. I am a new mom and two weeks after we came home for the hospital my milk supply dropped after too. The Lactation Consultant (LC)at Providence recommedend that I take fenugreek and blessed thistle combo. I know that fenugreek is on sale for half price at Wild Oats. I take 3 fenugreek capsules three times a day. The same for the blessed thistle. I also drank nursing tea but the LC said it really dosn't help. I also recommend lots of skin to skin contact and resting. I noticed that my milk supply is the highest after a good nap. Best of Luck to you and your little one.


OH, I have so been there with the nursing problems!

My first thought on reading your post was that the LC didn't sound very helpful. I strongly, strongly urge you to call the divine (it's not too strong a word!) Dixie Whetsell and her fabulous LCs at Beyond Birth. 503-232-2229. We mamas in Portland are so lucky to have them here. They will talk to you on the phone for free and give terrific advice; they are the calming voice you need to hear. And if you do end up paying the $90 for them to come to your house and consult, believe me, it will be the best baby-related money you've ever spent.

I've had this issue off and on with my son, he's nine months now. The first round of a decreased milk supply I took fenugreek capsules 3, 3X a day. By the second day I noticed a difference. The second time around (when my little one was about 8 months) the fenugreek didn't help. My lactation consultant recommended More Milk Plus. I picked it up at Wild Oats. It's a little expensive but it did the trick. I also added a few pumpings during this time to help out. I pumped in the morning before my son woke up and at night before I went to bed. If felt like I took on a part time job temporarily but it did the trick for me. Best of luck, it sounds like you are a wonderful mom!

I don't have much to add except I agree with a lot of the above. I pumped more than I nursed for 14 months with my first and had supply issues for a good chunk of that time. It's horrible, I know. Here's what helped me:

1. Fenugreek, tea and supplements
2. Oatmeal for breakfast every day! I ate steel cut oatmeal and added almonds for extra protein.
3. Don't cut your carbs! If you're hoping to lose baby pounds just wait until he's eating solids and your supply isn't such a critical issue. Any extra weight may come off naturally at that point anyway.
4. Water water water. No alcohol. No caffeine. (Easier said than done, I know.)
5. Get as much sleep as you can. If your body is worn out it will slow milk production. (Again, easier said than done! But make it a priority.)

And I agree you should get your thyroid checked, especially if your hair is falling out, too. Check out the book The Thyroid Solution to learn more about thyroid issues.

Good luck!

A delightful nurse I met a few years back, who pretty much saved my life in other aspects of nursing, assured me unofficially that dark beer is the way to go. She was Irish or English, I think... it appears that this is a commonly accepted European trick for increasing milk supply, despite the conflict with Americans' latent puritanism.

Meanwhile, I agree with NoPo Mama that it may be time to think about easing into solids. I tried to wait the full six months with each of my kids, but they got so ravenous and moochy at five months that I finally took the hint.

I, too, faced some of this with Everett, when I was working and not pumping enough at work to give him during the day. I think he was even younger when I started supplementing... 3 or 4 months. I felt terrific guilt for a minute and compensated by continuing to let him reverse cycle like crazy. Even now that Truman's 18 months old (and never had a similar problem), I *still* feel like it's my duty to let them drink as much as they want at night.

anyhow. I got over the guilt and ended up nursing Everett until 18 months, and never felt a twinge when I started supplementing occasionally with Truman, about 5 months old. I figure as long as you do as much as you can, as long as you can, you did your duty.

Having 'the girls', as I call them, whose mom did god knows what drugs during pregnancy and breastfeeding, harming them quite obviously, I no longer beat myself up over little imperfections like supplementing before the magic age of six months. you're a great mom, no matter how much milk gets into that little bottle at the end of the pump each day! yay for you for caring enough to agonize over it, and know that so many of us have been where you are.

but definitely take the fenugreek. it helped me *and* there's a bonus: your sweat smells like maple syrup. so you can skip a shower here and there no problem!

(p.s. yes to lots of hydration, that always helped me, but I couldn't live without caffeine, lots of it, and my milk was always bountiful when baby asked for it... we all have our crutches and that's mine :)

When I went back to work after my son was born, I started to notice a decrease in my supply. I definitely attributed that to the fact that I wasn't as relaxed anymore. Fenugreek helped a lot, and adding in an extra (yuck) pumping helped, too. But what really helped was relaxing myself right before I pumped at work. I had a magazine or book, and would start reading for a bit, while deep breathing...just for a few minutes. Looked at a photo of my son, visualized him and it all helped my body relax and my milk let down.
Remember not to pressure yourself. You're doing a wonderful job, whether you nurse or not.

I second the above advice, and offer this kinda odd but effective (for me) additional bit: Eating something with chickpeas or oats in it beforehand has always seemed to help my "output." A midwife suggested trying these helpful foods & lo & behold, she was right!

I am so grateful I logged onto urbanmama's today! I am trying to get my milk up. I have a 2.5 month old and my milk is 1/2 what it was with my 1st child.

Lots of great advice that I will be sure and use.
Thanks and best of luck.

with the fenugreek, did you take 2 pills 5 times a day or 5 pills 2 times a day? Or, rather, how often did you take it?

Re: Dosage of Fenugreek...Gah, I don't know. I think I took 2 pills 3 x day but I don't know how mch was in a pill. And I didn't do it consistently. I also drank the tea a lot. I seem to recal that it got difficult to find. I still have some Alvita that I'm drinking so man, that must be 2+ year old tea!

But really, it was the oatmeal that really did it for me.

Now that I'm breastfeeding again, and love beer, I looked online for info about the "beer is good for your milk" theory -- just to make sure it's really ok before I send hubby out for a growler from Laurelwood. I was sad to find out it that it's an old wives tale. A study shows alcohol decreases milk production, although it does stimulate a hormone that makes breasts feel fuller. Here's a link: http://www.drgreene.com/21_1907.html

I guess it's tea for me. :(

Omega 3 oils work wonder for my milk production. I take ground flaxseed in smoothies or fish oil. Good luck!

The beer suggestion is DEFINATELY an old wives tale...but I happen to think the old wives usually know what they're talking about! My grandmother would probably rush a pint of Guinness to your house.

I posted this in the wrong forum by accident, so I'm copying it here, a little late.

You know me, I gotta defend the beer. This article completely ignores the beneficial aspects of beer and focuses solely on alcohol. It's a spurious conclusion to state that since alcohol is bad for milk production, that beer is also bad. Not true -- some styles of beer are full of beneficial nutrients. For example, some of the stouts (sweet/milk/cream/oatmeal) are low in alcohol and contain higher percentages of vitamins like iron and B6 than other beers. Historically, these stouts were an excellent way for nursing mothers to consume needed calories. Milk stout as a style has been around since about 1910, and it contains the sugar lactose, which is derived from milk (though not all commercial examples today contain lactose.) Some examples to try are Mackeson (one of the originals, but the export version avail in the US is different than the traditional), Rogue's Shakespeare Stout, Elysian's Dragonstooth Stout, Sam Adams Cream Stout, and of course Widmer's Snow Plow - a milk stout, a seasonal brew avail now. Some of the USA breweries, particularly in the NW, tend to overdo some of the beer styles, adding too much hop and too much alcohol, but we are very, very lucky to have so many and such good breweries out here. So try some stouts!(and try them a little cooler than room temp, not ice cold)

STRESS is a huge contributor to lowered supply in my experience - and for that reason, I second the vote for the LCs at Beyond Birth - they are AMAZING! Just having someone to realistically look at your situation and provide expert support was a gigantic relief for me.

My daughter has had breastfeeding issues from the beginning, including repeated nursing strikes (probably due to the fact that she's also had a bottle since week 2 due to weight loss issues, an dlearned really quickly that the bottle was easier than the breast). Last week, after several days of that struggle, my supply was dropping - I was convinced it was because of the lack of baby stimulation, BUT once I accepted that my picture of breastfeeding wasn't going to happen, and decided to give her breastmilk in the bottle, my pumped supply almost instantly doubled. I truly believe this is because I relaxed and let my baby help me make the decisions about what was working and what wasn't. Stress alleviated = increased supply!

And if you do need to supplement - it's okay! I know how hard it is - I cried for hours after watching my tiny infant take those first swallows of something other than breastmilk. But you are doing a great job and your baby has been given a wonderful start! Just look at those fat cheeks and think about his satisfied belly - and heck, buy the organic formula if it eases your feelings somewhat. We use Baby's Only from New Seasons, which for some reason is half the price of Earth's Best.

I am also struggling with this issue. Thank you to all the mamas who posted their advice. I have an appointment scheduled for Monday with Beyond Birth, and I am VERY encouraged to read your rave reviews.

Here are some things that have helped me, and I have generally been able to pump anywhere from 10-18oz per day. I freaked out when it got down to ten because my little guy can really eat too.

1.Eat oatmeal at least once a day
2. Drink Mother's Milk tea or Fenugreek tea-New Season's has a Mother's Milk brand that works well.
3.Eat yams once or twice a day
4. Drink lots of water
5. Find a way to take at least a little time 20-30 minutes to do something that you enjoy doing on your own to de-stress.
6. Pump always at the same times of day and plan your work schedule around it as possible.
7. Don't give up!

I hope these help. I find also that my milk supply goes down if I am stressed, sick or not eating well so try to control those factors if you can although I know a dropin milk production can produce stress. Once I just had to supplement for a couple of days to give myself a chance to catch and activate all the advice mentioned above. My little one survived and we were able to get back on track so don't worry you will figure it out!

I know this is an old thread, but I was perusing the message boards and found this was a struggle I had also been through. The one tip I got was never offered to me by my LC but by a family member. When my supply dips, like before my period- and I had that same six month 'crash'- I sleep with my baby at night, shirtless. In the beginning I got a bed rail and we co-slept with Dad. Now he's too big (13 months), so we camp in a nest of pillows and blankets on the carpet. This works better than anything else. The close contact and nighttime unrestricted nursing really amps it up!! Not to mention the cuddle time is really special. I think my son really likes having his mama all to himself sometimes, and he never has trouble going back to sleep in his own bed the next night. It also seems to get us both through those teething and/or restless growth spurt nights.
It's worth a try if you're comfortable with the idea.
Good luck and good nursing!

researching on web tonight because my daughter is ten months old and I went overnight from 12-18 oz. while at work to 6-8 oz. I am obviously having some hormone changes my face looks like pizza, but still no period. Work has been uber stressful lately but I think I have been handling it pretty well. She just doesn't seem as satisfied and I clearly feel less let down. I used fenugreek early on so I will break it back out and oatmeal seems popular so I will try that. Feel free if you have anymore ideas. As for mom of five month old, I definately remember the same with our daughter and it was her lower teeth which actually came in at eight months, but she went through some bad teething from about 5 1/2 to six months. Come to think of it maybe her top teeth are coming in now?

I have had to supplement formula from early on because I don't apparently produce enough milk for him. It started when my son got jaundice and it wasn't caught until we left the hospital. He was lethargic at feeding and no on in the hospital connected that his slightly high bilirubin and lethargic eating were connected. His bilirubin level only went up and a day later we were back in another hospital that our pediatrician sent us too for jaundice and dehydration. It was very traumatic and tiring, and this probably affected my milk production. however, on of the lactation consultants I have since seen thinks I may have a lack of adequate glandular tissue as well. Who knows what the reason is, but I know I have more stressed than ever in my life! I was very upset at first to realize I would always have to supplement with formula since I only get about an ounce out of me it seems. However, I'm still hopeful, at 6 1/2 weeks that my supply can increase. The only problem is that I've had a myriad host of breast/nipple soreness issues so that makes me not breast feed for as long.
Currenlty I breastfeed him first, until I can tell he's got what he can and I'm not too sore, then give him a bottle. Now though, he's getting bigger and we're increasing the amount of formula he's getting so that my supply only accounts for 1/3 or 1/4 of what he eats. It will only get less and this upsets me though a midwife told me just one feeding a day gives him what he needs in antibodies. I want to weigh him again before and after a feed from me to see if I'm still giving him an ounce, but maybe I should just stop being so neurotic about it and accept it.
Can my supply still increase???
Also, anyone have remedies for a vasospasm???

Gabrielle - I saw your comment on this old thread and had to respond ... even though I don't have specific advice, I can tell you to keep your chin up! I also went through a huge struggle with breastfeeding my daughter, and I felt enormous guilt over the formula supplementation. A great friend finally said to me, "You are doing the very best you can! An ounce of breastmilk is a great ounce. And formula is NOT POISON! It isn't as if you're putting Coca Cola in the bottle." Formula-feeding moms get very little support, so I want to send out a big hug and some reassurance that you're doing great! I fought and fought to get sole breastfeeding established, for 12 weeks. She either lost weight, or didn't gain enough, throughout that whole time. My daughter eventually went to formula only, because I was spending so much time with the pump trying to get my supply up, and so much time worrying and crying at every nursing session, we weren't getting enough loving, fun bonding time. I had to make that a priority and stop obsessing about the breast. Looking back, I feel bad that I put her and myself through some of it ... for instance, she went on a "nursing strike" (screaming and pushing away) that I now recognize was her pleading for me to feed her hungry belly. My supply and letdown just was not working (and yes, I hired a lactation consultant and took fenugreek and pumped ...) So, organic formula was stocked and I cried as I packed up the pump, and away we went. And it was fine! My daughter has had ONE cold, for ONE day, in her first nine months. She's fantastically healthy! And guess what? When you start solids, you'll feel like you have a whole new chance to nourish that little body in all the ways you feel are best. I'm having a blast buying organic veggies and fruits and proteins, and watching her grow and thrive. Courage, my dear! Whatever happens - breast or bottle - you're already the perfect mom for your son.

for vasospasm info and other causes see www.breastfeedingonline.com

or www.kellymom.com
and yes, there is hope for increasing milk supply - it would probably help to work with a lactation consultant familiar with hormonal/other causes of low milk supply.

Thank you everyone! I am so glad I came across this. All your messages have been so incredibly helpful! My son is 11 weeks and my supply dropped by almost 1/3 the past two days out of the blue! After reading these postings, I think my problem is a combination of stress and my period coming. I am going to try oatmeal, fenugreek, pumping and I am going to TRY to relax. Oh, if periods cause a decrease, how long does the decreased supply last? Days? A week???

Thank you everyone! I am so glad I came across this. All your messages have been so incredibly helpful! My son is 11 weeks and my supply dropped by almost 1/3 the past two days out of the blue! After reading these postings, I think my problem is a combination of stress and my period coming. I am going to try oatmeal, fenugreek, pumping and I am going to TRY to relax. Oh, if periods cause a decrease, how long does the decreased supply last? Days? A week???

As for me, my 4.5 month old baby has been on an on and off nursing strike since 3 months. I pump daily and twice have noticed siginificant drops in breast milk (at 3 months and currently). I increased pumping to 20 minutes of double pumping every 3 hours (even at night). I tried fenugreek tea (yuck) and ate oatmeal. Supply went back up and hopefully will again. Things got better when I decided that breastmilk didn't have to be delivered directly to be beneficial; so I didn't take the pushing away personally.

There is alot of great advice here. But, truly the best advice is, as Amy said....You are the perfect parent for your child.

Another really great resource is ' Nursing Mothers Counsel'. They provide free breastfeeding support. This is volunteer based peer counseling, Mama to Mama. The number in Portland is: (503)282-3338 and in Vancouver it's: (360)750-0656.

Also, a double electric pump will provide better results than a hand held pump or a single electric pump( Especially if you are away from your baby for a full eight hours ). Nursing Mothers Counsel also has great rates on pump sales and rentals.

Oh my, I have had a sudden drop in milk production after a day of extreme fullness. My son was 5.5 months at the time. I called my LC said it could be one of two things: 1) I could be starting my period again or 2) I was pregnant again... *sigh*

So far, I haven't found either to be true, but it took several days of constant feeding and some extra pumps right before bed to increase my flow again. I have also been taking a few fenugreek a day. I am still not what I used to be, but it is getting better.

Good luck!

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Thanks for the amazing post, Now I will read time to time that...

My milk supply dropped so much I could only pump 1/2 ounce at a time. I visited a lactation consultant and she told me to go online and order Breastea from breastea.com. I received it in the afternoon and stated it immediately. By the next morning I was engorged and able to pump a lot more. I can now pump 5 ounces at a time. I would definitely try it and see how it works for you.

Something similar has happened to me. I recently met with a lactation consultant because my milk supply had dropped down to only 1/2 per pumping. She recommended herbs and drinking Breastea from http://www.breastea.com

Honestly I was a bit skeptical because I haven't used herbs before. I'm now a believer though. It has worked outstanding. I'm up several ounces on my breast milk now.

She stressed the important of breastfeeding or pumping very often while using the herbs.

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