A true low milk supply is rare and affects 0.5%-4% of women. Usually a low milk supply is caused by events that occur during and after the birth and can be improved with good lactation support. BUT for a small minority of women, it may be difficult or impossible for them to produce enough milk to exclusively breastfeed their baby.
What are the risk factors?
•Insufficient glandular tissue in the breast: Breasts may look tubular, widely spaced and small. Usually the woman’s breasts will not enlarge during pregnancy. The majority of women with this condition are still able to partially breastfeed.
•Breast surgery: The most common type of breast surgery is augmentation. Whether breast surgery will affect milk production will depend on the surgical techniques and how much breast tissue was interfered with. Many women who have had surgery can still breastfeed.
•Certain hormonal disorders: Hormones are key to producing milk so hormonal imbalances such as with diabetes or hypothyroidism could cause a mother to produce less milk. However, if the condition is under control, milk production will often not be affected.
•Environmental toxins: Exposure to certain chemicals such as pesticides can possibly interfere with milk making hormones.
Just because you have one of these risk factors does NOT mean you will definitely produce less milk.
What can those at risk do?
•Early and good breast/chestfeeding support from a lactation consultant.
•Supplementary systems: For parents who need to give their baby additional milk the breastfeeding experience can be preserved. A small tube can deliver the extra milk through the baby’s mouth while they are at the breast. This also allows the parent to maximise their milk supply.
•Don’t let past experiences guide your next pregnancy. Some evidence suggests that women who didn’t produce enough milk in their first pregnancy often produce more in subsequent pregnancies. Breast tissue can grow during pregnancy and the lactation period!