20 answers

Sudden Drop in Milk Supply?

I am wondering if anybody else has had this happen to them. First off, I pump milk out for my son. He is going on 3.5 months now. I do not actually nurse him at all. He just doesn't nurse well at all. I pump 6 times per day, 20 to 25 mins each. The first time I pump is 8:30 AM, then every 3 hours til 11:30 PM. The ounces I typically get are: 7, 7, 5, 4, 4, 3 oz. from first to last pump of the day. I have been soley pumping since my son was 4 weeks old, and I have been pumping this amount for at least 5 weeks now.

All of the sudden for the past few days, I have been pumping around 2 oz. less per each time I pump. I'm getting 10 oz or more less than normal. I am not taking any medications, not drinking less water, not eating any differently, not getting less sleep - nothing different except less milk.

I am getting ready to start the Fenugreek back, but this makes my son SO grumpy and constipated! This is quite frustrating. I am working full time and pumping as much as I can. This is such a huge sacrific to keeping pumping, but I really want to. I even pump during my commute to and from work to make sure I get enough pumping time in (yes I do it discretely!).

Did this happen to anyone else's milk supply? What did you do about it? THANKS!

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

Apparently, it was due to my menstral cycle starting back. Now that it has started back, my milk supply is back up. Thanks ladies!

To answer a few questions I have received:
1) I am using a new medela 2 phase expression pump.
2) I am taking large amounts of Fenugreek, Alfalfa, and drink mothers milk tea.
3) I am using techniques like breast message, etc. while pumping.
4) My milk has not been decreasing at all til now. Actually it has been steadily increasing as my son got older up until this point.
5) I have never pumped at night since my son was 6 weeks old.
6) My son has really bad latch issues that keeps me from nursing him - I have been seen by lactation consultants and spoken with the La Leche League.


More Answers

I started pumping after going back to work in February (my daughter was 3 months old). I had a top-of-the-line Medela pump, but week by week, my supply declined to the point of pumping 1/2oz. per breast per session (at 4 sessions a day). I took fenugreek and blessed thistle, and this helped in the beginning, but again, over time, my supply declined regardless. It didn't help that my daughter was too frustrated by my lack of supply to breastfeed - I was pumping 100% of the time and supplementing with organic formula. At six months, I finally stopped pumping because I was only getting 4oz for the entire day. I wanted SO badly to breastfeed, and my body simply would not cooperate. I've heard that pumps are not as efficient as babies in draining milk, and over time your supply may decrease because of this. You might want to check with your doctor about a drug called Reglan - it increases milk supply. Hope I've provided some useful info.!

I've also read that eating oatmeal (not instant) can help get your milk supply back up. I would also suggest consulting La Leche. Good luck!

I dont know if you are still having this issue. But there is a product at Milky Way esp for this and it is all natural!

The amount you are pumping is not low. It's actually much higher than normal. Has your AF returned? That may cause a temporary dip in supply.

check out this link on Kellymom.


I too pumped all my son's milk. Did you always go from 11:30 to 8:30 without pumping? In the beginning I would pump at 9:30pm and then one more time before getting up at 5am and pumping again. When I cut out the middle of the night pump, my supply did what yours did. What kind of pump are you using? Any chance it is losing power?

The same thing happened to me with my first child. She was not a good nurser at all. My milk supply started diminishing very quickley. I even started to pump every hour on the hour to try to make more. Nothing worked. I finally had to stop b/c it hurt to pump all the time. It was horrible. What I have learned since having now three children and nursed the other two perfectly is that you simply cannot only pump. I have even noticed that when I would pump milk with the other two, if I had to, that I just could not pump as much as they got when they nursed. My doctor and lactation consultant said that is true. The baby's suction is stronger than that of a pump plus it releases a hormone in you and you create more milk. For instance, my son would nurse for like an hour on each side sometimes and when he would finally stop b/c he passed out milk drunk he would still have a mouthful of milk. I could never pump that long and get that much milk. Hope this helps.

Go to a all natural/health food store and get some Blessed Thistle or Mother's Milk. Mother's milk comes in capsules or tea, blessed thistle I've only found in capsules. Take 3 pills 3X a day until your milk flow is back up where you want then you can wean down, I found I had to stay on 1-2pills 3 times a day to maintain the milk production I wanted. These are all natural herbs, I've only found that at Rebecca's natural foods or Whole Foods, but you can look at any all natural store. My lacatation consultant from the hospital I delivered in told me to take these and they worked great!! Good luck!!

I first want to send you a huge kudos for pumping and not giving up without a fight because of the bad latch. I had the very same issues with my son, now 2. It was so painful, the latch, but I wanted him to get milk from me no matter how he got it. I pumped every time that he was fed. I remember having a lot of trouble once and found out that my valve on my pump had a tiny little split in it. I replaced it and it worked like a charm and my breast were thanking me.

If it's not your equipment then keep pumping and see if it is just a phase. Hormones definately can affect your supply. Estrogen works against you when you're nursing so just remember that. Also, as you've heard many times, it's a little harder to maintain milk supply if you're only pumping. Even when your milk runs out while pumping, keep the pump going to stimulate more production. And squeeze them as much as you can to get whatever you can out.

If it helps, my milk really fluctuated by a few ounces from time to time. I just kept on pumping and didn't worry as long as I had enough to meet the needs of my son. I was able to freeze a months supply and it came in handy when he was 10 months old. I got a stomach virus that left me so dehydrated and it reduced my milk supply to almost nothing. It was then that I used my frozen stash to get me to his 1 year b-day. I had to mix in formula at the very end to stretch it but we made it and I can say that it was worth it.

When I have another child I will definately try to nurse but if I encounter the same issues, I will turn to pumping fulltime.

Hi there. My daughter was born on April 19th and I have had a similar occurance. My daughter didn't nurse easily and this just made her mad and made her throw up so I started pumping the 2nd week she was born. I noticed too that my milk production went way down over time to where I completely dried up on my own by her second month. A lactation consultant once told me that even by pumping as frequently as I did that you do not produce as much milk by pumping as you do by baby to breast nursing. The kicker is though that as you dry up there is less and less food for your little one so the pediatrician then recommends that you supplement with formula. I supplemented with Similac with Iron and DHA which is suppose to be as close as you can get to mother's milk. It stinks like all forty but baby's seem to love it. The pediatrician told me to supplement 2 oz at a time at first because your baby will start losing weight if you don't. So anywho jump ahead to now, 3.5 months old, my daughter, Ariana, is now completely a formula baby and she seems to be progressing and growing wonderfully. I did however switch from the $23 a can Similac to the $13 Walgreens Iron and DHA which my pediatrician said was fine b/c the two formulas are virtually the same.
So long story short, I guess it just depends on the woman and if the child nurses well. I know some moms that had no milk at all so I guess we are blessed that atleast our children got some breast milk in the vital beginning days.

J. G

Hey, I don't have any great advice, but just wanted to encourage you and commend you on the sacrifice of pumping while working full time. I am facing the same dilemma, I'm going back to work soon and my son is about 3 months too. The only thing that I'd say is maybe it has something to do with the emotional connection. I have a breastpump and pump once a day (now because I'm home, I'll pump more when I go back to work probably). Anyway, I don't know how you feel about it, I don't hate the pump but it's definatly cold and cow-like to me. Would you consider trying to breastfeed Caleb maybe once at night? my son gets much more milk than I can pump. I know because sometimes I pump when he's asleep in the AM, then he wakes up after I am done pumping and nothing more is coming out. He wants to eat, so I feed him and to my surprise, there's milk dripping from his mouth. Maybe you could do that at night. Also, just in case you didn't hear this before, oatmeal is supposed to increase milk supply. Oh, and have you tried to massage your breasts mid-pump? That's helped me before. One more thing..I've started at the first level (with breast pump) until the milk starts flowing, then change the setting to a faster pace, like 3 or 4. Hope some of that was helpful.

I didn't pump with my babies just nursed. Anyway, try pumping with your baby in your arms or close by and relax a little more (I know it's harder if you're driving, but try nature cd's or something). Your baby crying usually releases more milk also. See if this helps.

Dear C.,

This really isn't advice, just something I learned when my daughter was 1 1/2 years old, one year after we gave up trying to breast feed. And I discovered this while watching Mr. Rogers one morning.

I had a terrible time breastfeeding, and I was getting so much conflicting information that ist was very upsetting. I pumped a lot, though I stayed home with my daughter. She was terribly frustrated with nursing. I got yelled at a lot by my husband and my know-it-all sister-in-law and mother-in-law because I was using the pump instead of nursing. But the day I came home with her from the hospital she refused to nurse for over twelve hours.. .

So we spent the next five months very frustrated. I pumped, nursed and supplemented. Lactation specialists didn't help, I was just told I had plenty of milk. I tried fenugreek, too, yuck!

Then I watched Mr. Roger's Neighborhood one day and he was discussing mammals and nursing. He showed lots of animals nursing their young, and ended with a human mother nursing her baby. She unlatched her baby and the milk kept squirting in the baby's mouth. The light bulb went on--I have no let-down reflex because that never, never happened for me. I never leaked, either. My daughter could be screaming with hunger and my breasts never reacted. My daughter had to work too hard to get the milk because it never squirted into her mouth. When I pumped, I turned the suction up has high as possible to get anything out. There are prescription drugs you can ask about to increase your milk supply, but nothing is available to initiate a let-down reflex.

I share this with you just in case you have a problem with let-down and that is why your son has trouble nursing. I commend you for all of your efforts, and you've given him a really good start with the breast milk. Kids turn out fine everyday who are on formula. My four year-old daughter is very bright and considerate; a very pleasant person and all of that comes from her upbringing, not from breastmilk versus formula. Please don't buy into any guilt trips should you decide to give up nursing. It's better for both you and your son that you be happy and relaxed and not frustrated. And women who found breastfeeding easy don't understand women who struggle with it (like my know-it-all sister-in-law).

Hope this helps.

HI, yep this happened to me too. You actually pumped more then me. I even listened to soothing music so I would be more relaxed at work. Maybe at bedtime your too tired and won't let you pump more, I don't know, Check with your DR. about some medication called Reglan, I read it somewhere, that this helps with the Fenegreek. I thought there were a few more natural remedies,but its been awhile since I breast fed and had problems. I would keep trying to breast feed, as thats the best way to get milk out. Machines only do a little bit. Good luck--hope it goes well for you.

Hi Chasity, I also ran out of milk around that time with my twins, who are now 20 months old. I also took the fenugreek, but really didn't have much luck with it. I pumped also for them the whole time and it was alot to pump and then feed, that is all you feel like you are doing. Anyways, my visiting nurse came one day to check the twins and I talked to her about it and she told me that you have given them the best amount of breast milk you can give them. She told me not to feel discouraged and it was my decision to stop or continue. I decided to mix the breast milk with formula and then eventually went formula all the way. To tell you the truth it was a huge relief to stop pumping. It got to be frustrating for me, but once I stopped it was like a load was lifted off my shoulders. Cause there is so much emphasis on breast feeding. I am happy with the time I was able to do it and they took to the formula very well. They are now 20 months old and are never sick, no ear infections, nothing wrong, totally healthy. So, do what you feel is best, it is totally your decision. You have done a wonderful job so far and very determined to do it commuting in your car :)) Good luck to you and baby Caleb :))

It could be a sign that your period is coming back. Also check your pump to make sure that everything is working properly.

I'd suggest talk to your local La Leche League. They can not only help you determine the cause of the supply dip, but they can also help you try to get him back to the breast when you are at home. They tend to be a wonderful group of women and are very knowledgeable on all things related to lactation. And it's all a free service to you.

Wow, It is nice to hear of someone else who soley pumped for their baby! I did for my little girl for 13 months....kudos to you b/c I know how time consuming it can be! Here are some tricks that helped me. First, make sure you relax while pumping....have someone else watch the baby or do it while he is sleeping. Make sure you are well hydrated, it is even harder to do in these hot summer months. Pump for like 5 minutes longer than you usually do...that will clue your body that you need more milk. Also cuddle your baby skin to skin. If all else fails, contact your local la leche legue. Hope this helps!

First of all, kudos to you for pumping. My son was born 17 weeks premature so I exclusively pumped for 7 months. From the beginning, the doctors and nurses warned me that around 2-3 months of pumping the milk supply naturally declines and that is when most women give up on it. Pumping is just so unnatural. They always told me increasing the frequency of pumping, not the time spent each session, could increase my supply. Remember, stressing about it probably isn't helping the supply either. If all else...contact a lactation consultant either at your ob/gyn office, nearby la leche league, or online. Good luck and way to go for hanging in there so long!

Changes in milk supply normal, and since you are solely pumping, it's going to happen--pumping is definitely not the same as actual nursing. Try nursing him for a few days (maybe over the weekend) to boost your supply. Good luck!

This is a normal response to the pump. The baby is the most efficient means of expressing milk from the breast. Every woman responds differently to any pump, and that response can change over time. You may ask your doctor for a prescription for a drug called Domperidone. A friend of mine used it in connection with Blessed Thistle and Fenugreek to stimulate lactation in order to breastfeed her adopted baby. Also, if you don't have a medical grade pump that could be part of the problem. Daily use consumer grade pumps like the Pump-In-Style tend to wear out and be less effective with heavy use like that. I'd recommend a Lactina or Symphony by Medela. If you are having letdown problems, I recommend a 2 stage pump like the Symphony. You can rent them through your local hospital usually starting at $35 a month. If you have WIC, they may also be able to lend you one since you are exclusively pumping.

I breast feed my son, but I too work full time so I have to pump during the day, so I understand where you are coming from! I will take the Fenugreek capsuls if my milk supply is getting real low (usually just 1) and after I take that I will drink some tea specifically for nursing mothers in the afternoon(I usually only drink the tea once per day even though it suggests more often). It contains Fenugreek, but not as concentrated as the supplements. The one I use is Yogi Tea - Nursing Mom. I believe there is also one called Mother's Milk. This seems to help me when I start running a little dry. Hope this helps, and good luck with the pumping!

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