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

Mom Moment 147

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 Breastmilk, a film by Dana Ben-Ari and the latest production by Ricki Lake, 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?


Image via Breastmilk



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nonmember avatar kelly

stressful job, no tIme to drInk or eat as a nurse led to a low supply. It happens

Mildred Adams Bellah

im all for breastfeeding i tried everything classes expensive pump herbs  more professional help after the birth  but i knew going in i would have trouble i have pcos or polycystic ovarian syndrome  i have very small breast for a women of my size 300lbs with an a cup  turned out i have almost no glandular tissue in either breast  and that's what makes the milk  and i felt like a failure  every time someone would ask me if i breastfeed ide have to say no and go into this long drawn out reason why it was physically impossible for me to i pumped everyday for 6  weeks and the most i ever got was 3.5 ounces for one day after 6 total hours of pumping i wish there was more attention brought to women like me 

Avarah Avarah

I out of pocket for a lactation consultant. I pumped 8-10 times daily for 30-60 minutes at a time for 30+ days. I drank gallons of Mother's Milk tea. I ate oatmeal 'til I wanted to barf it up. The TOTAL amount of extracted whatever over that month-month and a half was less then 5oz.

My formula fed kid is now 5, bright, healthy and active. At 5 nobody gives a crap how I fed him as a baby. They care that I teach him respect for others, to have a love of reading, to study hard and to be a good person.

Mom2J... Mom2Just1

People only think they have a supply problem.  Diaper count tells you everything you need to know.  1 diaper per day of life until at 7 days.  Then 6 diapers per day after that.  Weight should be 1lb a month on average.  

keelh... keelhaulrose

My baby was in the hospital, so I had to pump. And there were times I would pump for an hour and get a drop or two, not even enough to wet the bottom of the collection container. I gave her what I could, but she had to be supplamented after losing weight.

nonmember avatar Jane

When I first gave birth, my milk didn't come in. My 10lbs baby was very hungry. So, while in the hospital, I supplimented with formula. When I got home, I bought a huge can of formula, but by that time, my milk came in and that can of formula was used once. What a waste.

nonmember avatar Hollie

You just have to be patient and everybody's milk WILL come in.. I promise! It was 4 days with my first and I never once thought of giving up. (Or giving in to formula) Your baby will not starve and is getting what they need until the milk comes in. My second and third I can't remember how many days it took. But with my forth child I had milk day one. It is different with every child and they need need need to be nursed every hour in order to produce the milk.. yes every hour. It is a fulltime committment to breastfeed but if you read the ingredients in formula you would think twice about supplementing at all. Silica is SAND!

wamom223 wamom223

People don't just 'think' they have a supply problem.  The majority of the time they know its low.  And the attitude that you know more about what is happening in someone elses body is ignorant and down right rude when you decide to share your misguided opinion.  My milk did not come in sufficiently.  I did not produce enough milk to feed my son, period.  That isn't just my opinion but the opinion of every nurse in the NICU and all six doctors.  Not only did I work with a lactation consultant but I sat down with multiple woman for tips, and read everything I could get my hands on.  Maybe my milk didn't come in because I got to see my son in the NICU three times a day for a half an hour each.  Do any of you uppity know it all b&*^% think maybe that could be a real problem that would get in the way of your production?  While diapers are a great indicator of whether or not your child is getting enough, a baby screaming in huger is another great indicator.  I know mom's that had issues breastfeeding their fist child but were able to produce enough milk to breastfeed the rest of their children.  

wamom223 wamom223

For me not only did I not produce enough for my son to eat I also didn't produce enough for him to eat, throw all of it up and then want to eat again soon.  Personally its this judgy I know your body better than you do attitude that puts a lot of woman off breastfeeding.  They try and when they have problems you patronize them and tell them its all in their heads instead of giving them the support they so desperately need.  When I finally had to choose to quit breast feeding I was glad my supportive friends out numbers the crazy ass breastfeeding nazi's.  This is a major hot button for me because I am strong enough to tell people to shove it when need be but not all mom's are.  

Misha22 Misha22

Well said wamom223!!! I also had low supply- tried everything. Stuff like this used to make  me feel inadequate- like a failure. But my now 6 yr old is a happy, healthy, hardly ever gets sick, well-adjusted child. And thankfully I am past the breast feeding stage so I don't have to deal with the over zealous "BREAST IS BEST" people !!!

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