Are you facing a low breast milk supply? If yes, then you are not alone. Many young mothers deal with having a low breast milk supply or hypogalactia. It is usually recognised when babies do not put up weight as expected. If you are also dealing with it, don’t worry. The causes or the factors that lead to hypogalactia can be identified and fixed easily. Here are some of these factors.
Factors That Cause Hypogalactia
- When a baby does not latch on properly, it can result in low breast milk supply and other painful breast conditions like plugged milk ducts, breast engorgement, or mastitis.
- Hypogalactia can further lead to slow weight gain or even weight loss in babies.
- The signs that the baby isn’t latching on correctly are -painful, bleeding or cracked nipples, the baby’s lips are curled under, flattened nipples when the baby unlatches, clicking or smacking noises when the baby is feeding.
Less frequency of breastfeeding:
Because the breastmilk is produced as it is consumed, lesser times of feeding can cause hypogalactia.
- The first breastfeeding is usually done at 30 minutes after birth.
- Later, the baby must be breastfed 8 to 12 times in 24 hours, which means every one-and-a-half to two hours around the clock for the first few weeks.
Using formula milk:
- When the baby is fed using formula, she is less hungry and the number of times she breastfeeds reduces.
- This leads to decreased production of milk.
- It is important to Breastfeed the baby 8 to 12 times a day, and try to avoid formula feed as much as possible.
Previous breast surgery:
- Breast surgeries done for both medical and cosmetic reasons can affect the production of milk. Nipple piercings may also damage milk ducts in the nipple.
- Depending upon when the surgery was done and how it was done, the effect on breastfeeding varies.
However, not all women who undergo surgery will have difficulties in breastfeeding.
It is a condition in which a woman’s breast tissue-becomes inflamed, painful or develops a hard lump which leads to a plugged duct.
- This condition is often caused by improper latching of the baby during breastfeeding. It is often resolved on frequent breastfeeding.
- When mastitis recurs frequently, the milk supply is reduced as the ducts are blocked altogether.
Using oral contraceptives:
The milk production is significantly reduced in the mothers who take birth control pills that contain estrogen.
- The mothers who take these contraceptives before the baby is four months old are more likely to experience decreased production of milk than the mothers who take birth control pills after four months.
- So, it is recommended to opt for contraceptive pills that do not contain estrogen and delay the intake of contraceptives.
Oxytocin is a hormone that is responsible for the release of breastmilk from the inside of the breasts and out of the body into your baby’s mouth.
- Smoking can interfere with the secretion of this hormone, which can lead to low milk supply. Hence, avoid smoking when breastfeeding.
Taking certain medications:
- Some over-the-counter medications taken for cold or flu, which contain pseudoephedrine, bromocriptine, methergine, or large amounts of parsley, sage, or peppermint can affect the amount of breastmilk produced.
- Ask your doctor for alternative medicines for your cold or other conditions.
Less than five per cent of mothers have reduced or there is no milk production due to a medical condition.
- Hypothyroidism affects the production of oxytocin and prolactin, hormones that play a role in milk production.
- Postpartum thyroiditis (a condition where the thyroid gland becomes inflamed) affects about 4-9 % of the women.
- The milk production is also decreased if the mother has an infection or other underlying hormonal disorders, including polycystic ovarian syndrome, luteal phase defect, diabetes or gestational diabetes, gestational ovarian theca lutein cysts and pregnancy while breastfeeding.
- Other health conditions which may reduce milk supply are kidney failure, lupus, or hypopituitarism.
As you may have noticed, many of the causes of hypogalactia, such as improper latching, low frequency of breastfeeding, the use of formula milk, use of birth control pills, and smoking cigarettes can be easily rectified by making the necessary changes to your lifestyle and babycare routine. If modifying these controllable behaviours has no effect on lactation, hypogalactia could be linked to an underlying condition that requires a clinical diagnosis. Most importantly, if your baby is happy, healthy, and gaining weight, you have nothing to worry about!