Breast milk supply- Please Help!

Asked on May 03, 2018
Created March 15, 2017 at 2:37 PM

A little background-

I had my first in 2009 and gained a ton of weight and was extremely unhealthy. We had tons of issues with nursing including low milk supply, suspected tongue tie, using breast shields, nipple confusion, two serious cases of mastitis, etc. but we pushed through and made it to 13 months before I weaned her to go on antidepressant medication. I had such a hard time nursing and it took going to lengths that were exhausting and near impossible but I always had more than enough milk and through research, meetings, doctors, lactation consultations, and family I became and "expert" of sorts on the topic of milk supply and breastfeeding and prided myself on this knowledge.

I "went Paleo" a couple years later, lost all the weight, got off my antidepressants and felt amazing. Eventually I went through a divorce and the huge lifestyle change and stress pushed me back to a SAD. I met and married my current husband, and we had our first baby in August 2016. I knew I wanted to breastfeed but I was nervous because of my previous struggles. However this baby took to nursing like a fish in water. Unfortunately I went back to work at 6 weeks postpartum to the day and began pumping and noticed that my milk supply wasn't great, but I had sufficient to feed my baby and put a bit away in the freezer (with my first I managed to fill a deep freezer that enabled her to have my milk for months after I weaned her). I figured that going back to work so early, the stress and exhaustion and busy-ness of having older kids and a job and a household to run was partly to blame, but my baby never fussed at the breast or seemed dissatisfied or hungry. 

She's always been a small baby- about the 25th percentile, but recently at her 6 month appointment she had dropped off to the 5th percentile. She isn't too fond of solids yet, her tongue thrust reflex is still pretty pronounced but she loves the taste of food and enjoys feeding herself more than being spoon fed. I recently started a Whole 30 to jumpstart me getting back into being Paleo and by day 10 I noticed that my milk supply was quickly going down. She's starting the pull and twist and fuss when nursing, has started waking up at night to nurse again after sleeping through the night and my pumping output has greatly decreased. I used to pump 9-12 ounces over 2-3 pumpings and yesterday I got 9oz over 5 pumpings! 

It's important to note that I thought she was possibly going through a growth spurt because she had grown very long but hadn't plumped up to match her length yet, she just got her first tooth and we just got over a very bad stomach virus for which I took Phenargan twice over 12 hours, but that was 4 days ago and I had noticed a decrease prior to that point.

The only direct correlation that I notice is starting my Whole 30. Through some research and googling I've noticed that this seems to be a common thing. My mom couldn't understand why nourishing my body and being healthier would cause a decrease in milk supply, and for the life of me I can't find any reasoning to explain this to her either. I thought it was possibly my carb intake, but yesterday I ate potatoes like my life depended on it and drank a gallon of water and my output actually decreased again. I'm good at getting enough fat and protein, but I know I've struggled with getting enough carbs. I have been eating white potatoes, sweet potatoes, squash, carrots, and even a little white rice in hopes that it would help but it hasn't. I'm also eating bananas, apples and making smoothies but still nothing. 

Today I'm trying an experiment. My husband asked me to pause my Whole 30 and go all out SAD for the day and see what happens. Well, guess what? It's 10am and I've had two donuts, sugary coffee with creamer and a breakfast sandwich and I can fill myself filling up with milk for the first time in a long time. My first pumping of the day and I'm already at half of what I got over 5 pumpings yesterday.

First off, what is going on? And secondly, how can I replicate this with a Paleo diet? I'm starting to feel like I have to chose between my health and the health of my child and it's a heartbreaking decision to be faced with (Just a note- I don't agree that formula is just as good as breastmilk or that "fed is best." I won't judge others for their decisions but please don't spout that stuff at me as a consulation. I feel it is equivalent to medicine and I will use it if absolutely necessary for the health and well-being of my child, but it is a last resort).

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2 Answers


on April 01, 2017
at 10:05 AM

Hi. I spent a long train trip (cross border) discussing breastfeeding with a young mother. She was not quite paleo, but was trying to eat as healthily as possible. She explained to me that the milk composition changes as the child is growing up. As the child grows older and his nutritionsl requirement change and no longer match the current composition of his mothers milk, the child acts as if he were hungry, attaches himself to the nipple and sucks, sucks, sucks... The nipple stimulation sends a signal to the brain that it is time to move on to the next stage, i.e. produce milk version 2.0. It will look as if the milk is drying out, and the child will be angry and want to feed all the time, however this is only temporary , the 'milk producing units' in the 'milk factory' (lobules) are just reorganising to manufacture a different product.Once this is the case, everything will go back to normal... until your child reaches the next stage.  Her child was over 2 years old (eating solid food but still drinking a bit of her milk a couple of times a day, mostly for comfort) so she had gone through those episodes several times. She said they were exhausting, especially in the first months, and all she could do was eat and breastfeed, eat and breastfeed... however they only lasted a couple of days every time. Maybe this is what happened to you and the fact milk production picked up after reverting to SAD eating is only a coincidence, i.e. milk production would have picked up anyway?

We also discussed the fact that her child was smaller than average (he popped out 1 month early to begin with!): at the visits to the paedetrician, she used to bring charts showing weight gain of breastfed babies v. formula fed babies. Development wise, the child was on target: in fact he was downright precocious!

Also found that article: http://milkgenomics.org/article/breastmilk-composition-dynamic-infant-feeds-mother-responds/

Best wishes.




on May 03, 2018
at 10:59 PM

I'll start by saying I've only had one child and never suffered low supply per se,although there were periods and days of low milk production- I am no expert.

Have you tried supplements for milk production? I used to drink Mother's Milk tea when I wanted an increase in supply and after the first day I would always see results.Fennel,anise,but especially fenugreek are very good for increasing the amount.You have to consume more than culinary amounts.Some people have concerns about these herbs making babies gassy ,but they are generally used to soothe stomach problems.We never had any issue.My mother used this tea with my younger brother and it worked very well for her too.

There are also alcohol extracts of the same herbs not too mention various other brands of tea and vitamins.

I ate a Paleo diet probably 80% of the time breastfeeding but I definitely noticed an increase when I would  deviate and eat oats,corn,especially nixtamalized corn in tortillas,tamales etc.It would be a crazy increase in milk! Beer too,it's not a myth!So I can totally believe that cutting grains out would lower your supply.I never saw an increase by increasing carbs other than those grains mentioned above.

On the subject of beer increasing supply it's my understanding that it's both the malted grain and the hops.I never tried it myself ,but I'm willing to bet that taking a hop supplement or tea could help if you want to keep something like beer out of your diet, (understandably).Hops can have a strong influence on female hormones.

Why are you doing the whole 30 exactly?( Sorry if You said and I skipped over it very bad memory here)

Is it worth the potential dip in supply? Do you feel that grains are increasing your depression  or other health problems? You do need to stay healthy for you and baby ,but is now the right time for a major dietary change?( Not lecturing you,these are just questions to ponder)


And like another poster said,sometimes supply just dips,to go right back I again.Maybe it's just a stage? Whatever you do keep up the nipple stimulation by pumping and continued feeding.Dont get discouraged!Good luck mama!  :)

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