A low or insufficient milk supply is when a breastfeeding mother is not producing enough breastmilk for her baby. However, because actual milk supply is not typically measured (what you pump is not an accurate measure of how much you produce), low milk supply is often referred to as perceived insufficient milk (PIM). PIM is when a mother has or perceives that she has an inadequate supply of breast milk to meet her infant's needs.
A low milk supply is often reported as the biggest challenge with breastfeeding and is a common reason why breastfeeding is ended earlier than desired. However, most mothers can make plenty of milk for their babies, even if they think their supply is low.
There are multiple possible causes of a low supply, which can be determined and often addressed with help from a doctor or IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant).
Growth spurts can cause an increase in demand (your baby needs more milk), which may cause a temporary supply/demand mismatch. However, usually your baby wants to nurse more frequently, which then increases your supply to meet the demand within a few days.
Similarly, if the demand for your milk is low, your supply will decrease to match it. This might happen if your baby is not feeding often enough or if you’re supplementing with formula.
Another potential cause for low milk production is not emptying the breast fully. This might happen if your baby’s latch is too shallow or if you’re using a breast pump, which doesn’t remove the milk as well as a baby, for example. An IBCLC can help with adjusting the latch or developing a pumping schedule.
Other possible causes include:
If you think you’re not producing enough milk, the first thing to do is get help from your pediatric, obstetric, or family health provider. The provider can help assess your baby’s weight and growth and your milk supply. If it’s low, they may refer you to an IBCLC, who can help provide specific recommendations for increasing supply. These may include: