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Even before her baby arrived, Lindsay Miller was planning to breastfeed. After her son was born, the first-time mom was thrilled when he latched on quickly and easily. But he cried so much in the first few days that she suspected something might be wrong.
“I realized after several phone calls to fellow moms and the hospital nurses that he wasn’t getting enough milk from me,” she says. “We gave him a bottle of formula and he sucked it down.”
Despite the early setback, the Chicago-based mom was determined to keep nursing, but “after a consultation with a lactation consultant, weeks of pumping or nursing every 30 minutes around the clock and every supplement and home remedy I could get my hands on, I was still only able to produce 3 to 5 ounces a day,” she says.
At 10 weeks, Miller’s milk supply had dwindled to less than 2 ounces and she made the very difficult decision to stop. “I had hoped to nurse my son for 12 months like all the books said I should,” she says. “When I wasn’t able to go 12 weeks, I felt like a failure.”
Miller’s story isn’t unique. Not only is low milk supply now recognized as a valid concern, it may even be on the rise, as more women choose to breastfeed. and women, like Miller, who expect nursing to come easily are blindsided when it doesn’t, leading to feelings of failure and inadequacy.
“Not being able to breastfeed, or breastfeed exclusively, when you really want to can feel devastating,” says pediatrician Marianne Neifert, M.D., co-founder of the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine and author of Great Expectations: The Essential Guide to Breastfeeding (Sterling). “Women often end up feeling it’s their fault."
A study that evaluated breastfeeding success at three weeks postpartum found that approximately 15 percent of women experience inadequate milk supply—even when given close follow-ups and support. So, it pays to be on the lookout. “It’s much easier to prevent low milk, when possible, than to try to remedy it,” Neifert says.