Low milk supply is a common concern my clients have and is listed as a main reason why mothers quit breastfeeding. The experts tell us the percentage of women who actually can't produce enough milk for their baby is less than 5%.
So why are so many moms struggling to make enough milk? When we look at countries like Bangladesh where formula isn't affordable or readily available for most families, 98% of babies are breastfed on average until the age of 3 (WHO). In Norway, a country that has created a positive culture of breastfeeding, approximately 80% of babies are still being breastfed at the age of 6 months (Suzanne Barston, Bottled Up). Canada's initiation of breastfeeding sits at 87% but only 17% of that number continue on to exclusively breastfeed until 6 months (Infact Canada).
Let's take a look at why we're seeing such dramatic differences in various regions of the world. I believe that part of it is choice. Although formula feeding is frowned upon in both Norway and Canada, women still have the option not to breastfeed. Formula is easily accessible and most have the financial means to afford it. We have the freedom to make that choice whereas a mom in Bangledesh would have to tough it out and push on.
We also need to consider medical conditions that are more prominent in Western developed countries. Specifically, medical conditions that create fertility challenges for women can also cause low milk supply. Unfortunately, health care providers are not preparing mothers who struggle with infertility for the fact that they may struggle to breastfeed their baby.
There are many common and well know causes of low milk supply that primarily have to do with breastfeeding management. These factors require a good understanding of the law of supply and demand and best practices around breastfeeding.
These are a many number of other possible causes of low supply including retained placenta, poor latch, nipple confusion, stress and some medications. Visit Breastfeeding Your Newborn on Kelly Mom to learn more about establishing breastfeeding.
Aside from the usual culprits, there are a number of lesser know causes of low supply that often catch new moms by surprise.
If you are an expectant or new mom with one of the conditions listed above or if you're just plain concerned about milk production, please refer to the following suggestions to prepare yourself for your best chance at breastfeeding success.