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Do you think low milk supply is not as big a problem as everyone makes it out to be?

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Low Breast Milk Supply Isn't Even a Real Thing (Usually)

by Adriana Velez

breastmilk movieMaybe it's just because I live in a city with a lot of stressed-out women, but it seems like I've known a lot of women who felt like they couldn't produce enough breast milk. Most of us -- oh yeah, I'm including me -- went through the bother of pumping with hospital-grade pumps and using other remedies and torture devices to try an up our supply. But did we really need to? What if, all along, we were making enough? What if we just needed help getting our babies to access the milk we were making?

In Ricki Lake's new documentary, Breastmilk two Australian moms question what seems to them an American obsession with pumping and milk supply. One of the moms says something I think cuts deeply into the issue. 

To be honest, I see it as an assumption that woment's bodies can't possibly be good enough by themselves, that you need to supplement it, that you need to control it, that it's unmeasurable and you don't really know. And so therefore there's this ignorance and this fear associated with it.

Wow, I'd never really thought about it that way. I think she may be right. Low milk supply -- is it a myth?  We actually don't know the exact number of women with low milk supply. "You cannot find a number for this," says Marianne Neifert, a clinical professor of pediatrics at the University of Colorado Denver School of Medicine. She says it's probably around 1 to 5 percent of Western women.

More from The Stir: 5 More Breastfeeding Myths You Probably Believe Are True

But that idea that our bodies are not enough -- that definitely rings true. I think we feel that way about our bodies for so many other reasons. Why wouldn't it also apply to how we feel about breastfeeding? I think back now to when I first doubted myself. It was when my pediatrician said my baby wasn't gaining enough weight fast enough. She told me to supplement with formula -- and you know what? That turned out fine. My son caught on to breastfeeding and I did dump the supplements.

But what if I'd known that low milk supply isn't really all that common? What if my first pediatrician (yeah, I switched) had recommended a lactation consultant instead of formula? And what if my health insurance had covered lactation consultants at that time, like they all effing should? Imagine the difference this would make.


Do you think low milk supply is not as big a problem as everyone makes it out to be?

by on Nov. 20, 2013 at 10:20 AM
Replies (11-20):
by Anonymous 2 on Nov. 20, 2013 at 10:29 AM

And the immediate need by some OB's to get you on birth control as soon as you have the baby.  I only did once and that was the time I had supply issues.  They told me that birth control would not effect my supply and that it would be a good thing.  I had NO supply issues before the birth control and my supply came back after I stopped staking it.  That was all the evidence I needed.  But there I was at my 6 weeks checkup with a script for birth control... I am glad I figured it out. 

But I think a lot of moms have a baby having a growth spurt and nursing more and think there is not enough milk... or maybe the baby wants more milk to grow?  Over and over I hear "I hit 2 weeks (or two months) and the baby wanted to nurse all the time and I just knew there was not enough milk."  You need to nurse more to make more, so nurse more... not add formula.

The first thing I was told when I stopped making milk was not "nurse more" it was 'add formula'

by Anonymous 3 on Nov. 20, 2013 at 10:30 AM

I am one of them......I have never produced more then 6 ounces every 4hrs but I average only 4 ounces.......My kid is off the growth charts so it REALLY bothered me that he was getting what seemed like so little. My FF kid was eating 8 ounces every 4hrs so it just didn't seem right. Tomorrow will be one year of pumping and nursing and I gotta say obviously I am way wrong about my supply issues he is happy healthy, and giant lol.

by Ruby Member on Nov. 20, 2013 at 10:30 AM
I think it's an issue, but no where near as common as people claim. I've known 2 separate women who claim low supply...but once they openly talk about, it'smore likely that they werent aware that a newborn nurses a lot. They have a 2 week old who wants the boob constantly and they just assume they aren't making enough.
by Mrs. Annie Proffitt on Nov. 20, 2013 at 10:31 AM
2 moms liked this

I think there is a huge lack of support for breastfeeding, but low milk supply is a problem for some.

by Silver Member on Nov. 20, 2013 at 10:32 AM

I think most of the time its fear and many are told that they have it and no not really. At the beginning it can be hard and many women can get discouraged. Having someone tell a new mother that they need to supplement  because they will not be able to produce enough milk can cause them to panic and think that its right. So they supplemnt and soon are no longer producing milk so the think that who ever told them that was right. I am not saying that its not a problem but this is what I have seen and think.

by on Nov. 20, 2013 at 10:36 AM

This. The biggest problem with making women believe they have a low supply is doctors. Doctors want to measure how much baby is getting and only get about an hour (if that) of breastfeeding training. The second biggest problem is misinformation and the third is lack of support.

Quoting TSNDDY:

Of course there are women who do have this issue. It seems like nearly every mother I have known to try and nurse has claimed they weren't making enough though. So many women are simply misinformed about the first few weeks of breastfeeding.

by on Nov. 20, 2013 at 10:37 AM
1 mom liked this
I dont know. i just know i didnt produce nearly enough milk. i barely made any at all. i worked with 2 lactation consultants and did every thing i could. but it just didnt work. my daughter wasnt gaining weight at all. by 3 months she hadnt even gained a pound. i started giving her formula and even with that at 6 months she only weighed 9 lbs 6 oz, and she weighed 6 lbs 13 oz at birth. while i know it does exist, i dont know how common it is.
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by Anonymous 4 on Nov. 20, 2013 at 10:39 AM
1 mom liked this

I know it affects some women.  But studies show that is less than 1% of them!  Women who have had trauma or surgery done to the breast tissue are more likely to suffer low supply than the average woman.  I mean, starving women in third world countries can make enough milk to keep a baby plump and healthy, so why can't so many women in developed countries manage?

Because they have other options being actively marketed towards them to make them doubt themselves.

The sad fact is doctors and pediatricians go to 12 years of medical school and training, and of those 12 years they have historically spent less than 24 hours on nursing topics!  Then they get out in the real world and use FF charts to try and measure a BF baby's growth.  With formula, there is steady growth.  With nursing, there are growth spurts followed by times when baby stays the same for a while.  Both are normal for the method used.  But an inexperienced, under-educated doctor using a FF chart on a BFing baby is going to have the best of intentions but all the wrong ideas!

What happens with a FF baby is you get them on a bottle schedule.  The formula is harder to digest so it keeps them satisfied longer.  They tend not to have spurts of growth, but a steady climb.  They may take an extra bottle or two from time to time, but overall Moms get confident in measuring and knowing.

With a nursing baby, before and during a growth spurt they'll want to nurse CONSTANTLY.  When the milk first comes in, your breasts are hard and leak, so you know beyond a doubt there is a lot of milk there.  During a growth spurt, they drain you dry and are still hungry.  A nursing baby still being hungry is a GOOD THING.  Because their hunger and suckling will stimulate your body to increase your milk.  But to a Mom paired with a doctor who doesnt' know much about it, they'll assume it means baby isn't getting enough.  Their breasts feel empty, baby is begging for food every 20 minutes, what do I DO?  A good doctor will pat Mom on the shoulder and say "Nurse more."  Other doctors will say "Introduce solids, supplement, you're not making enough."

Then after a few months, a nursing Mom's body gets used to things.  Her breasts have enough milk for baby and all is well, but they aren't hard as rocks and squirting like sprinklers whenever a baby cries.  So she might doubt if there is milk at all.  There is, but you can't feel it because your body has figured out how to make the perfect amounts.

So when a scared Mom gives up and switches, suddenly her breasts are swollen and sore and full of milk!  Where was all this milk days ago?!  It was there, they just didn't realize it.

Now, I'm not saying FF or BF is "better" than the other.  We all know the health benefits information by now.  But for most the deciding factors have more to do with lifestyle.  Can I pump as a waitress?  Legally yes.  Realistically, no because you couldn't wait tables properly.  Kwim?  But I do think doctors and women need more proper education on the subject, because it should be less than 1% being told they have "low supply" and can't nurse. 

If the low supply and inability to nurse was as high as women are being told, our race wouldn't have survived!

by on Nov. 20, 2013 at 10:40 AM
1 mom liked this
My best friend is going through this right now. It is a REAL issue. She's seeing a lactation consultant, in a support group, and had been trying EVERYTHING possible to continue breast feeding her baby. Her OB thinks she might have a glandular issue. She is trying a new of supplements to help her supply. It may not be the case for every person, but my friend is clearly experiencing it.
by on Nov. 20, 2013 at 10:41 AM

 Yes it does really affect some. I personally went through it, however it was from my bc-which was made to take while breastfeeding. I supplemented with fenegreek until I was back to normal and stopped. I know with my first two I couldn't pump more than a bottle a day for them when I wasn't home so they supplemented with formula but I made enough when I was home with them. So I do know some women who think they have low milk because when they pump they only get two oz, any time I see a mother asking about her supply because of her pumping I tell her watch the baby not the pump. If baby is growing and gaining supply is fine, if not then it is not.

Anyway, wrote more than I meant to but yes and no is my answer. It is a case by case situation.

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