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Complaints about adequacy and volume of breast milk aren’t alien to post-partum clinics. Many mothers find themselves choosing to feed their children supplementary meals or even wean them off breast milk due to perceived inadequate milk supply. Studies have shown it to be the commonest reason for noncompliance with the WHO recommended 6 months of exclusive breastfeeding and at least 1 year of breastfeeding.

In many cases, the subjective reports of mothers are taken by physicians and so there is no objective data about the prevalence of inadequate milk production in otherwise healthy women. Despite these, the complaint is so popular that there is a booming market of lactating snacks and several cultures have certain foods that are recommended to new mothers to increase milk supply.

How do you know if your baby is getting enough milk?

Indicators that are used by mothers to judge if they’re giving their babies enough milk include duration at the breast, swallow sound while feeding, lightness of breast after feeding, infant falling asleep after feeding, and calmness after feeding.

Among physicians, the indicators we use to determine if a child is adequately feeding include:

  • Adequate weight gain
  • Normal poop for age
  • Wet diapers
  • Direct assessment of infant feeding for proper feeding technique and some of the above that the mother may report.

The presence of dark urine, sunken fontanelle, dry mouth, and sunken eyes suggest dehydration and are reasons to see your healthcare provider immediately.

Why am I not making enough milk?

There are many reasons for insufficient milk supply. Some of them have to do with the technique of feeding like:

  • When the infant isn’t latching on to the breast properly. Infants that are not latching properly will not get sufficient breast milk. Improper latching may also cause discomfort for the mother, if you think you aren’t latching well, you should inform your healthcare provider.
  • Infrequent feedings. New-borns need to be feed approximately ever 2hours and the more they are fed, the more the body is stimulated to produce milk.
  • Feeding for short periods of time, ideally the infant should feed for 10minutes on each side to allow the infant drain the breasts of milk.
  •  Supplementing with formula, this will also reduce frequency of feeding.

Other reasons include:

  • Tongue tie in the infant.
  • Premature birth
  • Maternal high blood pressure, diabetes  or polycystic ovarian syndrome
  • Excessive bleeding after delivery
  • Retained placenta after delivery
  • Use of oral contraception
  • Use of certain drugs while breastfeeding like antihistamines
  • Maternal separation from infant and maternal stress may also reduce milk production.

What to do if you think you are not producing enough milk:

  • Most importantly do not panic
  • Avoid the causes listed above especially with technique of breastfeeding.
  • Put away pacifiers.
  • Be cautious with use of medications and discuss your choice of contraception with your healthcare provider
  • Avoid drinking alcohol and cigarettes smoking.
  • There is also anecdotal evidence that food like poultry, oat milk, fenugreek and garlic encourage breast milk production.
  • If all the above fail or you are still concerned please discuss with your healthcare provider.

Perceived insufficient breast milk supply is very common among new mothers and is a very important source of worry for them. In many cases with gentle encouragement and assessment of breastfeeding techniques, the problem can be solved.

Adejumobi Sekinat is a doctor, content writer, and volunteer manager of the Safer hands health initiative. You may contact her at