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Things That Can Decrease Your Breast Milk Supply

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Updated May 30, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Things That Can Decrease Your Breast Milk Supply

You may not realize it, but there are many choices that you make each day that can interfere with milk production. If you are breastfeeding and concerned about how much milk you are making, take a look at some of the circumstances that can be negatively affecting your milk supply. By addressing some of these issues and making a few changes to your daily routine, you may be able to increase your supply of breast milk.

Fatigue: Motherhood can be exhausting. Lack of rest is a common cause of a low milk supply. It is very important that you get enough rest.

Your Health: Illness or infection can decrease your supply. See your doctor to examine your health. If you have an infection, your doctor may need to prescribe an antibiotic. Other illnesses such as low thyroid function and anemia can also cause a decline in the production of milk. There are treatments that your doctor can prescribe that are safe while nursing. Make sure your doctor knows that you are breastfeeding.

Caffeine: Soda, coffee, tea and chocolate are OK in moderation, but large amounts of caffeine can dehydrate your body. This may decrease the amount of milk you can produce. Too much caffeine can also affect your baby. Some of the caffeine is passed to the baby through your breast milk. It can build up in your baby’s body causing irritability, and sleep disturbances.

Smoking: Smoking can interfere with the release of oxytocin in your body. Oxytocin is the hormone that stimulates the let-down reflex . This reflex releases the milk from inside of your breasts and allows it to flow out of your body and into your baby. If the milk is not released, it will not drain out of your breasts and stimulate your body to produce more. It is best if you do not smoke, but if you do you should never smoke near the baby. To help with let-down, try not to smoke within 2 hours of breastfeeding.

Alcohol: Alcohol is another substance that can inhibit the let-down reflex. It can also change the flavor of your milk, causing the baby to nurse less often. If the baby breastfeeds less often, you will not produce as much milk. An occasional drink is considered OK, but regular alcohol consumption is not advised. Not only can it decrease your milk supply, but alcohol passes into breast milk which can put your baby at risk for a developmental delay.

Medications: Certain prescription medications and over-the-counter medications can interfere with the let-down reflex and milk production. Antihistamines, decongestants and diuretics can all influence your milk supply. Tell your doctor that you are breastfeeding before he or she prescribes any medication.

Stress: Psychological stress can inhibit milk production. If you are concerned about privacy while breastfeeding, you might feel self-conscious or embarrassed which can interfere with let-down. Other causes of stress such as anxiety, pain, financial difficulty, and marital trouble can also contribute to a diminished milk supply.

Herbs & Spices: Some herbs such as sage, parsley, oregano, peppermint, jasmine and yarrow may have a negative affect on your milk supply if taken in large quantities.

Birth Control Pills: If you have started taking the birth control pill to prevent another pregnancy, it could be affecting your milk supply. Some birth control pills contain estrogen , a hormone that can cause a decline in your milk production. Talk to your doctor about using a progesterone-only birth control pill.

Pregnancy: If you become pregnant while you are still breastfeeding, the hormones of pregnancy can cause a decrease in your milk supply.

Diet: Diet and hydration have not been shown to cause a significant decrease in milk supply. Mothers all over the world can produce enough milk for their babies even when their diet is limited. However, a healthy diet and adequate hydration are important for your overall health. If you are experiencing a decrease in your milk supply, it certainly wouldn’t hurt to eat healthy and drink plenty of fluids during the day.

Sources:

Lawrence, Ruth A., MD, Lawrence, Robert M., MD. Breastfeeding A Guide For The Medical Profession. Mosby. Philadelphia. 1999.

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