As a first time mum, I had planned to breastfeed my baby and was looking forward to the experience. Breastfeeding is a natural process right and should happen easily so I thought.
This may be the case for some but a few mothers actually struggle to breastfeed or continue breastfeeding due to low milk supply
I struggled with low milk supply, a concept I didn’t even know exist. I was frustrated and supplemented almost all Baby T’s feed with formula. (Please not this was a personal choice for me as I am aware a lot of babies thrive well on just formula)
I hope to share some tips on what helped me achieve my goals in a later post.
Some reasons for low milk supply:
1. Poor latch and/or separation from baby after birth.
I had a very brief skin to skin contact with baby after birth. It was literally a few seconds. This was as a result of some post natal complications at the time.
Skin to skin contact is important and crucial for babies. It helps babies latch properly to the breast and stimulates milk production. It also helps with bonding with your baby and much more.
I had underestimated the impact this had in encouraging breastfeeding and was unable to do a lot of these at home due to being unwell myself. I recall my midwife kept prompting me to do this in the early days.
It took several weeks of trying to get baby to latch on breast before it got better. It was frustrating to see baby fussy and struggle with latch which only made me less confident to breastfeed.
We later discovered he had a tongue tie which was snipped and then latch improved after 2 weeks but at this point my milk supply was low.
2. Poor sleep (for whatever reason)
I had sustained tear at birth which got more uncomfortable as the days went by and affected sleep enormously.
Poor sleep equates poor milk production
Sleep was further disturbed when I developed an intense itchy rash all over body just after being treated with antibiotics for infection from the wound site.
Baby T also suffered with trapped wind and was very unsettled. This also had an impact on my sleep, we had several night and early waking.
I hadn’t planned on formula feeding baby so spent first few days shopping for bottles, trying to work out which formula would be gentler on his tummy, searching for solutions to ease his discomfort with feeds.
Looking after myself when feeling poorly and a newborn was also stressful.
(My family were very helpful and supportive especially my mum – sigh of relief)
Fortunately stress cannot dry up milk supply if it did a lot of mothers will be unable to continue breastfeeding their babies. However, it can affect the flow of milk.
Other causes of stress such as anxiety, financial difficulties, marriage or relationship problems can also affect milk supply.
I found it interesting to note that feeling self conscious or embarrassed while breastfeeding in public interferes with let-down.
4. Anaemia or ill health
Excessive blood loss during delivery and anaemia can impact milk production. Including illness like an infection or diabetes. I had post partum haemorrhage and as a result was anaemic despite the blood transfusion and an iron infusion I was given prior to discharge.
I expected my milk didn’t to come within 3-5 days but took a lot longer I celebrated the day I got engorged after a prolonged period of rest and as I gradually got better.
Other possible causes include under active thyroid gland etc
5. Retained placenta or fragments
If a fragment of placenta is left in the uterus it can affect full milk production until it is removed or passed.
I had cramps on and off for days after delivery. Seven days after delivery I felt a severe urge to go to the toilet in the early hours of the morning then I passed a very long and thick thread like fragment coated with blood which was followed by some more bleeding.
I was grateful to God because my story could have been different. I will share more at a later post
It is important as a breastfeeding mother to be aware of what you take in especially medication as they often can pass on to some extent to baby through breast milk.
I had to take anti-histamine for a presumed allergic reaction -intense itchy rash which didn’t help my milk supply.
Some other medications like sedatives, decongestants, diuretics, contraceptive pills with oestrogen also affect milk supply.
7. Supplementing with formula.
The law of supply and demand. Supplementing with formula at the early weeks while breast milk is yet to be established can affect your milk supply.
If less milk is removed the breast assumes that less is needed. When you also supplement night feeds during the early weeks you miss out on the chance to stimulate milk production. This is because the hormone that tells the body to produce more milk (Prolactin) is usually high at night.
I supplemented with formula in the early days before breastfeeding was well established. I also noted that Baby T breast feed more at night especially during growth spurt and when we were weaning of formula supplementation to get him on only breastmilk. This was one of the ways my milk supply improved. I also cherish the memories as helped with bonding.
To find out what I did to improve my milk supply and exclusively breastfeed Baby T look out for my other posts.