Is Your Milk Supply Dropping??
Is your milk supply dropping?? If this thought has crossed you mind lately, we first want you to take a deep breath because facing a supply drop is tough. You are an amazing mother no matter how you choose to feed your baby. Your worth is not measured in ounces, alright? We know that you know that, but it still doesn’t take away the pain and struggle that comes with your milk supply dropping for no apparent reason.
(This post was originally a video. Check it out, here!)
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There’s a million reasons why your supply can drop. Let’s talk about a few:
- Where to start
- How to figure out what’s going on with your supply
- How to fix it
- Where to find help
The faster we can identify what’s happening and fix it, the more likely you are to recover from the problem. So if you are deep in this problem and you need help right away, please schedule a call with us as soon as you can so that we can get you going and try to figure out what’s happening. Again, the sooner we can fix this, the better you are going to be off in the long run.
Identifying the Root Cause
Really, where we need to start is identifying the root cause, what’s happening here. So it’s time to put on your Sherlock Holmes hat and dive into solving this mystery. Now, spoiler alert, in this plot, there’s no formidable enemy, just some common issues that we’re going to tackle ahead.
Check Your Pump Parts
The first thing that we usually do is check your pump parts. Just like your car needs a tune-up, your pump parts and your pump need regular check-ups, too. Check out this printable checklist freebie we made for you to check your pump parts! This will tell you how often you need to change your parts out and which parts need changing most often.
The most important pieces to check on and replace are:
- Tubing can also make a difference. How silly would it be if your output was dwindling because you had a little crack in your tube?
The first place to start in identifying the root cause is checking your pump parts. Make sure that all of your equipment is functioning properly. A good rule of thumb is to replace all of those parts every 90 days, although it’s important to know what to look for in case they might be worn out before that.
These parts come in different qualities too, depending on where you get them and what pumps you have. We deal with all this kind of stuff inside our Pumping for Working Moms program. Click here for a sneak peek of what printables in our program are like. Checking your pump parts is one of the easiest fixes and the best place to start.
Consider Hormonal Changes
So, first things first, check your equipment, check your pump, make sure it’s working. The next place to start is to consider hormonal changes.
Anytime the hormones are disrupted, which can be by medical conditions, your period, pregnancy, stress, your body sends hormones that don’t play nicely with lactation hormones. So, hormones are something that we need to check first and make sure that we’re not dealing with a bigger issue beyond simply getting the milk out. We gotta make sure that something else isn’t going on.
Your Period Might Affect Your Supply
If you’re coming up on your cycle or you’re on your cycle, it’s pretty common to see a small dip, especially if you’re pumping a lot. You may not notice this if you’re more on the exclusive feeding at the breast end of the spectrum because your baby can act in real-time and fix problems that come up without you even knowing.
A pump can’t do that, so you might see a dip and be like, “What is happening? The world is ending,” but it might just be a temporary dip. There is evidence to suggest that taking a calcium and magnesium supplement can help lessen that supply dip from your period and also help make cramps and things better too, so that’s something that you can do. Obviously, always talk with your doctor before you start a new supplement or medication.
Pregnancy Can Affect Your Supply
A pregnancy may not be something that you’re looking for or hoping for. But most lactating parents, for the first while anyway, aren’t having regular cycles. That doesn’t mean that you can’t still be ovulating. So breastfeeding doesn’t prevent pregnancy. Just keep that in the back of your mind as an option if your milk supply is doing crazy things and you’re also feeling some other weird symptoms. Maybe just pee on a stick real quick and make sure that it’s not that. More than once we’ve talked to moms where a surprise pregnancy has been the culprit of low milk supply.
Stress Can Affect Your Supply
And, stress can affect your supply. This one is so frustrating because what new mother is not stressed out, especially if you’re a working mother? But cortisol and adrenaline are two hormones that do not play well with prolactin and oxytocin.
We have to look at the bigger picture, what your hormones are doing. If you have thyroid disease, or you have diabetes, you know, some of those things that really affect hormones, and then we got to be extra careful.
But sometimes just high stress, lack of sleep, which, again, we know you guys are not sleeping through the night. This is a hard place to be!
Why We Do What We Do
Pumping is an art, and it’s more complicated than just putting on a pump, pushing play, and hitting all your right settings, bam, there’s the milk. Pumping is a complex thing which is why we’re doing what we’re doing and trying to help moms.
That’s why there are so many videos on our YouTube channel, why we have a whole program supporting moms, while we have a whole program training other professionals on how to support pumping moms. It’s not always simple, so if you’re feeling overwhelmed, find help from someone who specializes in what you do, okay?
Internal vs External Changes
Okay, so that’s internal. Now, let’s cover external changes.
First, let’s evaluate your pumping routine. Do you remember what you had for breakfast three days ago? Probably not. It’s hard to remember, and your memory can play tricks on you. This happens with your pumping routine, too.
Track Your Pumping Sessions
So, one of our favorite things to do is to take a minute and track your pumping sessions. To do this if you’re also feeding at the breast, make sure that the app is tracking both feeding at the breast and pumping because are you really pumping as much as you think?
This is hard! Sometimes you think about doing a task and picture it like, “Oh, I need to do that.” Then at the end of the day, you might think, “I thought I did that so I must have done it,” No, you just thought about doing it. This happens with pumping, trust us. So, tracking your pumping sessions can be a really nice way to just take a snapshot of what’s actually happening.
We always like to take a step back and look at the schedule, you know, not the ideal schedule, but the what’s actually happening schedule and see if we can find holes in there. Let’s see if we can find areas where you thought you were pumping for 30 minutes every session, but really, you were only pumping for 11 minutes. 11 minutes may feel like an eternity when you’re actually pumping! So, you will be surprised what you can learn from that kind of data.
Again, if you don’t want to look at all that data, just send it to us, right? This is what we do. Invest in our Pumping for Working Moms Program and we will hold your hand in this process and help you know everything you need to know.
Pump in Short, Frequent Bursts
One of our favorite tips is pumping for a shorter time frame but also more frequently. Pumping for short and frequent bursts is always better than waiting and potentially skipping sessions. So, if you have a meeting coming up, you’re like, “Oh, that’s right, and I’m supposed to pump, I’ll just pump after it.” That’s a bad idea. Even if it can only be a short session right before the meeting that’s a better idea because you won’t risk forgetting to pump after the meeting.
So, it’s kind of like a power nap. It may not be as restful as a full sleep cycle, but it’s better than no sleep at all. Don’t get yourself into that trap where you’re just putting off your pumping sessions for 20 minutes, 40 minutes, an hour because you can make it up later, just sneak in a short one earlier, right? Just don’t play that game because you will probably lose.
Take Advantage of Prolactin Spike at Night
When you’re looking at your routine and your schedule also try and evaluate how you can take advantage of that huge prolactin spike that you get at night, okay? This might mean pumping at night, and that stinks, but sometimes that’s what we have to do. It can also mean pumping right before bed or first thing in the morning. Again, it depends on your schedule, but biohack your hormones to work for you. They’re already happening in your 24-hour cycle, so if you can maximize how you’re pumping when you’re pumping, it will really do you a lot of good in the long run.
Why Milk Supply Can Drop after Returning to Work
In the first month postpartum, when the milk is just, like, everywhere and flowing you may feel like you will never have to worry about milk supply. But, that won’t always be the case, and this is why we often see a dip when parents go back to work. Again, because work is hard and it brings a whole new set of challenges, and now we’re relying a lot on a pump to regulate your supply.
Also, your hormones are kind of leveling out at this point, and your breasts may not be getting engorged and not waking you up. You have to really keep on top of that supply and demand cycle because the hormone-driven supply that you had in the beginning kind of starts to wane.
Your body’s not going to make more than you tell it to. It’s like you’re not going to run farther than you have to in your marathon training. You’re not going to cook more meals in the day for your family than you have to. Why would you? Your breasts are the same way. They’re not going to just make more milk just because, especially after that beginning where they figure out how much they need to make. How much you’ve asked for is how much they’re going to continue to make.
Is Your Milk Supply Dropping because of your Breastfeeding to Pumping Transition?
Another thing to consider is your breastfeeding to pumping transition. If you were latching exclusively for a long time and your supply was fine, and now you’ve started adding in more pumping and your supply seems to drop, that’s pretty clear that this is a pumping problem, right? We’re not getting the milk out that’s already there. And if you let that continue on you will slowly stop making that milk because your body’s just doing what you tell it to do.
If you’re not taking the milk out, it thinks you don’t need it. There is a difference between low milk SUPPLY and low milk OUTPUT. Watch this video for more on that subject! Just because you’re not pumping the amounts that you’re expecting or that you need doesn’t necessarily mean that you have low milk supply.
So, we need to look at things like your flange fit, the type of accessories and the shields that you’re using, the settings that you’re using, the actual pump that you’re using. This can all feel really overwhelming, especially when there’s so many pumps on the market, and it can be hard to find someone who knows about the specific pump and situation that you’re using.
Let our Pumping Experts Help with your Low Milk Supply!
We’ve already said this twice in this post but this is exactly why we built the program that we did. We’re just waiting to walk you through this and help you figure it out. There is not enough information for those who are struggling with milk supply!
You’re struggling to know what is normal, what’s expected, and when you’re combining feeding at the breast and pumping, it gets really complicated. All parts of motherhood are complicated, to be honest, but you’re kind of combining two worlds together, and so how much milk can we expect to pump out when we’re also feeding baby at the breast? When does low supply start being a concern for the long term? These are all questions that you might have and that we answer in our Pumping for Working Moms Program.
Almost everyone that fills out an application to join our program mentions milk supply in some way. They’re concerned about it, they think it’s low, or they don’t know what to expect. “How much should my baby even be eating because they’ve been sitting on the breast for so long?” It’s a lot to handle!
We want you to know that we see you, and we know this is hard, and you are likely doing a really good job! Our hearts goes out to you, and we love the mothers that we serve!