Too Little Milk and Too Much
April 2, 2015
Many new mothers become concerned about the amount of milk they are producing. They fear that the baby isn’t getting enough. The two best ways to determine if there’s enough are if the child acts satisfied after feeding and is gaining weight appropriately. You shouldn’t use the frequency of feedings as this changes with time and frequency of growth spurts. You can keep track of the used diapers. Around six, a day is about right.
You also shouldn’t use fussiness, guzzling milk, soft breasts or no letdown sensation. Babies almost always have a time of day when they are fussier than usual. Some children naturally drink fast, and the breast will remain soft unless there is more milk than is needed. The key is to speed up production if you feel that the baby needs more than you are producing. An empty breast will try to produce more milk. You can increase the frequency of feedings to every six hours even at night. A pump can be used to empty the breast. What causes a slow down in milk production?
- The breast isn’t getting enough stimulation through sucking.
- A schedule has changed such as no night feedings.
- Mother returns to work and doesn’t express her milk often
- The mother becomes ill or is stressed.
- A history of previous breast surgery including breast implants.
- She has had a Cesarean Section causing a slow down of milk production early on; it usually will return to normal.
- Mom is using a “combination” birth control.
It’s best to try other methods such as increasing feedings or using a pump first. Sometimes though your doctor may want to try drugs. The most common ones used are:
These drugs work by inhibiting certain chemicals in the body such as Dopamine. In order to produce milk, the body must have a certain level of the hormone prolactin. Dopamine and other chemicals can reduce the amount of prolactin in the body. These drugs will not work if the woman has an average level of prolactin.
The side effects can be unpleasant. These drugs can sometimes cause depression and anxiety even in women who have never had these disorders. A careful watch of emotional well-being is required as if the symptoms become severe the medication will have to be stopped. Other side effects may include sedation, nausea, seizures and twitching movements. There are other side effects, but these are the most common.
What If I Have Too Much Milk?
Some mothers may produce too much milk causing a sensation of fullness, engorgement, and pain. The signs of too much milk include the following:
- Baby pulls from the breast.
- A gassy or colicky baby.
- Spitting up frequently or hiccups.
What Can I Do To Reduce My Milk Production?
First you can decrease the number of feedings or use a pump less, so your body understands that it needs to produce less. In this method, it can take 1-3 weeks to notice a decrease in production. Also, when using a pump don’t empty the breast. If the problem becomes severe or uncomfortable, you can ask your doctor about bromocriptine that reduces the amount of prolactin. Bromocriptine has not been approved by the FDA for use in reducing milk.
Bromocriptine is the drug that’s given in the hospital to women who choose not to breastfeed or who have lost their child. For many women a cup of sage tea in the evenings. It’s been found to contain a natural estrogen that decrease milk production. Lastly, if you continue to produce too much milk, you could look into donating it to a milk bank. These banks provide milk for children in need of breast milk due to premature or illness whose mothers are unable to breastfeed. These banks only accept donations, and it may even cost you to ship the milk. Yet can you think of a better way to help the world than to feed an infant who otherwise may not get the type of nutrition it needs? The most important advice that anyone can give to you is to relax, try not to worry and enjoy the closeness you feel with your baby.