Ogbugoh Terundu Joy
Breast milk is the primary source of nourishment for newborn babies before they are able to eat and digest other foods. It is highly nutritional in value and breastfeeding in itself creates an amazing bond between the mother and child.
First time mums may start producing breast milk 3 or 4 days after delivery while an experienced mom might start production earlier.
Low milk supply is a major cause of concern for most mums intending to exclusively breastfeed as this can lead to malnutrition. Let us now look at the causes of low milk supply below…
1. When you supplement breastmilk or breastfeed irregularly
The breast is always producing milk, but the amount it produces depends on how empty the breasts are. If the baby is sucking frequently, the breast would tend to produce more milk. One reason nurses encourage mothers to keep breastfeeding their babies even when “nothing is coming out”.
So when breastmilk is supplemented with formula or pacifiers, your baby is likely to spend less time on the breast therefore sending a message to the breast that less milk is needed and the breast in turn produces less milk. The same applies to when a baby is fed sparingly. A baby should be fed on demand, and as long as possible to stimulate the breast in producing more milk. If supplementing is utmost necessary, endeavor to pump the breast as well as this would stimulate supply.
Certain drugs can affect the production of breastmilk. So always check with your Doctor that your medications are suitable when breastfeeding. This also includes oral contraceptive as these have been shown to reduce production of breastmilk supply in moms.
3. Improper Latching
Latching refers to the attachment of a baby’s mouth to its mother’s breast during breastfeeding. If the baby is not properly positioned, she won’t be able to suck properly hence, getting very little milk in the process and causing pain.
So always position your baby properly, keeping your fingers away from your nipple so that it does not affect the way your baby latches on. Aim the nipple towards the baby’s upper lip, head, slightly tilted back. When she opens her mouth wide, insert the whole areola. A proper latch would have the nipple and the whole areola inside the baby’s mouth. Her chin ought to touch the breast and her nose free.
4. Drugs, Alcohol and Cigarettes
A breastfeeding mom should not smoke cigarettes or consume alcohol as these may reduce the milk supply.
5. Hypoplasia of the Mammary Gland
Also referred to as Insufficient glandular tissues (IGT). There are times mother’s breast produces insufficient milk or no milk even when the baby is properly latched, baby is frequently fed and has no issues sucking.
In this situation, it could mean different factors including, underdeveloped mammary tissue, damage to the breast duct, hormonal imbalance, or injury. A mother struggling with these should visit a lactation consultant who is knowledgeable in IGF issues for help.
Supplementing breast milk and medications are likely solutions to the situation. However, it is worth continuing to breastfeed no matter how little the milk produced is, because even small amounts of breastmilk can help in building up the baby’s immune system and contribute to its growth and development.