Nothing feels more devastating while breastfeeding than a sudden drop in breast milk supply. One day, everything feels as if it’s going right, and then the next day, your supply seems to dwindle.
What is wrong? What causes a sudden drop in breast milk? Did you do something wrong?
Not only is your baby upset, but you’re also upset and struggling to figure out how to fix the problem.
Before you freak out too much, make sure you take a look at the real signs of a drop in milk production. Once you feel confident that a supply loss happened, try these tips for increasing your breast milk supply. Your supply is part of a system, and you can increase what you lose.
Believe it or not, many factors suddenly cause a supply to drop, so let’s start looking at what could have caused this problem.
Why Did My Milk Supply Suddenly Drop?
A sudden decrease in milk supply happens for various reasons. Since milk supply is a supply and demand system, it’s not uncommon to have a small dip in supply from time to time, but a decrease is more severe and lasts longer than a day or two.
Before increasing your milk supply, you must find out what caused the sudden drop in milk supply. Here are the most common causes of a dwindling milk supply.
Lack of Sleep
It feels ironic that lack of sleep causes a sudden drop in milk supply when our breastfed baby often causes sleep deprivation. Sleeping when you have a baby is tough. Everyone tells you to nap when the baby sleeps, but if you have other children, you know that’s nearly impossible.
This is so important:
If possible, try to stay in bed longer in the morning and sleep as soon as possible. I know I often stayed up too late, waiting for moments of sanity without a child near me, but I needed rest more than quiet time. On the weekends, ask your partner to wake up with the baby and give you a few more hours of shut-eye.
Always watch what you are (or aren’t) eating when you notice a change in your milk supply. Some foods, such as mint, are known for decreasing milk supply. On the other hand, some foods increase your supply.
Learn what foods might reduce milk supply and take those out of your diet.
Another chronic problem is that you might not eat enough, damaging your milk supply. While some women experience an increased appetite while breastfeeding, that doesn’t ring true for everyone. It’s easy to miss a few meals when busy with a new baby and running a household.
Try to keep low-sugar, protein-packed snacks on hand, such as:
- Protein Bars
- Peanut Butter
- Trail Mix
Lack of Water
If you have a sudden drop in milk production, it might be because you are dehydrated. Staying hydrated is necessary for all breastfeeding mothers. The less water you drink, the less milk you produce. Try getting more water bottles daily to see if your supply bounces back.
Stress and Anxiety
It’s crazy how stress and anxiety affect your body. Stress causes all kinds of problems, and it’s a leading cause of a low milk supply. Then, you stress more about why your supply drops, hurting your supply even more.
Not Feeding on Demand
Putting your baby on a breastfeeding schedule is tempting, but that does more harm than good for your milk supply. The more your baby nurses, the more your body realizes it needs to produce more milk.
Breastfeeding is a supply and demand system. The more you demand, the more it produces. Nurse when your baby is hungry, not when a schedule tells you that your baby should be hungry. It helps your body produce more milk effectively. Here’s how long it takes for the breasts to refill.
Missing Nursing Sessions
Another reason that you might experience a dwindling supply is because you missed nursing sessions. Missing one or even two will rarely cause a severe drop in milk supply, but repeatedly missing sessions will drop your milk supply.
This happens most often when your baby starts to sleep for more extended periods at night. This might be a reason for a sudden decrease in milk supply at four months, when babies often start to sleep longer.
If you’re pumping and have a sudden drop in milk supply while exclusively pumping, it’s likely because you missed a few pumping sessions. Your body received the wrong memo.
Having a Period
A menstrual cycle causes changes in your hormone levels, which affect your milk supply. Women do not often notice a drop in their supply when their periods arrive.
If this is you, don’t panic. Most women notice that their supply returns once their period is done. Some mothers report that taking calcium supplements helps to stop the periodic decrease during their menstrual cycle.
Introducing Solid Foods
If you notice a sudden decrease in milk supply at six months, it might be due to your baby eating solid foods. When babies start to eat solid foods, they will nurse less frequently and take fewer bottles as they gradually transition to eating multiple meals daily.
While babies still need breast milk or formula as their primary source of nutrients throughout the first year (and younger), solid foods play a larger role in their diet as they age.
Return to Work
Around 8 to 12 weeks, many mothers return to work in the United States. Learning how to handle a new baby and pump is a big transition, so if you notice a sudden decrease in milk supply at two months, this might be the problem.
Breastfeeding is a supply and demand system, so if your body believes you need less milk, it adjusts accordingly. Add in extra stress from returning to work, which becomes a recipe for milk supply issues.
Are you sick? Unfortunately, breastfeeding mothers are limited in cold medication that is safe for breastfeeding. Many decongestants available on the market will drastically decrease milk production because the medication dries up mucus. In turn, it also dries up a milk supply.
So, if your breast milk stops suddenly while taking medication, you know the problem. Stop taking it and work on increasing your supply.
Certain Foods and Herbs Decrease Milk Production
Some foods and herbs decrease milk supply rather than increase it. Here are a few examples.
Many believe that mint, such as peppermint or spearmint, can decrease milk production. Try avoiding peppermint teas, candies, and essential oils while breastfeeding.
Some LCs say that too much parsley can also cause a small dip in supply. So, don’t put large amounts in your dishes.
Fenugreek is often recommended as an herbal supplement to increase milk production, but it has the opposite effect for some. This is especially true for those with thyroid issues because fenugreek increases thyroid activity. Those suffering from hypothyroidism can suffer from a decrease in milk production.
Another herb that could cause production problems is oregano. Don’t go too crazy with your next Italian meal.
On the contrary, here is a list of foods that increases the milk supply.
Signs Your Milk Supply is Decreasing
So, how do you know if your breast milk stopped suddenly? Feeling your breasts for fullness isn’t an accurate way to determine a milk supply. At some point, most mothers stop becoming engorged.
If you suspect your baby isn’t receiving enough breast milk, look for key signs of a low milk supply. Always keep in mind that newborn babies often feed, so they have a desire to nurse frequently, no matter if it’s for a long or short time. Don’t let that convince you that you have a supply issue.
Here are some real indicators of a low milk supply.
- Insufficient wet and dirty diapers
- Reluctance to nurse
- Inadequate long-term weight gain
- Dehydration – dark-colored urine, jaundice, and lethargy
If your baby has one or more of these symptoms, it doesn’t always mean that it’s a decreased milk supply problem. These problems happen when your baby has a cold or illness and a temporary nursing strike occurs.
What Can I Do If My Milk Supply is Decreasing?
The most important thing to remember is that milk production is a demand and supply process. Understanding how milk is made will help you do the right things to increase production. The key to success is to remove more milk from your breasts frequently, causing less milk to accumulate between feedings and forcing your body to make more.
Here are a few things you can do to increase your milk supply.
- Drain Your Breasts
Removing more milk from your breasts is essential. If milk isn’t removed effectively, then supply will decrease. Use whatever method you can to drain your breast as much as possible each time while nursing. That might mean you need to pump after nursing.
- Nurse Frequently
Nurse as often as your baby will eat. You want to remove more milk from the breasts and do it frequently. For babies struggling to gain weight, aim to nurse at least every hour and a half to two hours during the day and every three hours at night.
- Switch Sides Often While Nursing
Try switching sides three or more times each day. If your baby appears to be sleepy, switch to the next side. Use each side at least twice per feeding. Another trick is to use breast compressions to keep your baby feeding longer.
- Avoid Pacifiers and Bottles
Avoid using pacifiers and bottles as much as possible because they meet your baby’s sucking needs. The breast must meet all sucking needs. If supplementing is medically required, use a spoon, cup, or syringe.
- Give Only Breast Milk
Avoid giving solid foods, water, or formula to babies younger than six months. For babies older, decrease the number of solid foods offered and increase breastfeeding sessions.
- Consider a Pumping Session or Two
Adding a pumping session or two between nursing sessions is helpful, especially if your baby is not nursing efficiently or frequently enough.
How Long Does It Take to Increase Milk Supply?
In rare cases, you won’t be able to increase your milk supply, but for most moms, a few tweaks are all that’s needed to boost it back to where it once was. It takes three to five days to increase your milk supply.
Common Questions Moms Have About Drops in Milk Supply
Here are some common questions that moms might have about decreasing milk supply.
Is It Normal for My Milk Supply to Decrease?
It’s not unusual to have a sudden drop in milk supply at two weeks, four weeks, or even eight months. Decreasing milk production happens for various reasons; some of these reasons are out of our control or a simple accident. Since it is a supply and demand system, a change in demand alters the supply.
The good thing is that changing the demand will change the supply since it is a system. Most decreases won’t stay that away forever, so try not to panic because stress is a major influencer on your milk production.
What Causes a Sudden Drop in Milk Supply in One Breast?
Did you notice a sudden drop in milk supply in one breast? It happens for a few reasons.
Baby Has a Preference
Babies often develop a favorite boob without you realizing it. They might nurse more efficiently on one side than the other, causing one side to dry up more than the other side.
You Favor One Boob
You may favor one breast over the other. Sometimes, it’s more convenient or more comfortable to nurse on one side, so you start to offer that breast before the others. Before you know it, the supply in one breast is considerably more than in the other.
A Clogged Duct or Mastitis
A clogged duct or mastitis could cause a sudden drop in milk supply in one breast. This could be your problem if you notice a tender spot or pain in your breast accompanied by a dip in supply. Mastitis often comes with flu-like symptoms and requires antibiotics to fix.
Can Milk Supply Dry Up Overnight?
If you worry that your breast milk will dry overnight, try not to fear. While your supply can decrease overnight, the chances of entirely drying up overnight are slim. It takes time for a milk supply to dry up altogether.
It feels stressful and upsetting when you suddenly drop in breast milk supply, but the drop doesn’t have to last forever. Once you find out what caused the fall, fix the problem and actively increase your milk supply. Before you know it, everything will be back to normal.
Hey, this is Linda. My biggest accomplishment in life is being a mother of four children. Their current ages range from almost ten years old down to 20 months old.
I’m passionate about writing parenting articles because I understand so well all of the problems and trials you face as a parent. From breastfeeding woes to budgeting problems and behavior problems, along with everything in between, chances are I’ve faced it over the last ten years. Read more about Linda here.