The early weeks of pregnancy are fragile—and confusing. Here, the answers to your questions.
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Other causes of low milk supply:
Environmental toxin A woman’s surroundings may affect her milk supply. A small study conducted in 2006 found that daughters of women who grew up in a pesticide-contaminated agricultural valley of Mexico had a much higher incidence of insufficient mammary tissue than those living on a hilltop in the same area.“We’re seeing a dramatic increase in the number of women who have primary problems, possibly because of environmental contaminants,” says Diana West, I.B.C.L.C., a co-author of The Breastfeeding Mother’s Guide to Making More Milk (McGraw-hill). “Lactation consultants around the world are reporting increases in the numbers of women who can’t produce full milk supplies.”
Underlying fertility problems “Interventions are allowing people to get pregnant when they wouldn’t otherwise, causing babies to be born to women who might not have fully functional reproductive systems,” West says. “For example, many women with PCoS [polycystic ovary syndrome, a condition that can cause ovulation problems] have less functional milk-making tissue.”
If you suspect you have low milk supply, see a lactation consultant as soon as possible. (To find one, visit the International Lactation Consultant association at ilca.org.) She can identify risk factors, evaluate how much your infant drinks during a breastfeeding session and start you on a pumping regimen to improve milk drainage. there’s no blanket fix; treatment must be individualized.
That said, many lactation consultants follow a typical course of action. The first step is to increase milk removal, which often involves a combination of nursing and pumping.
Next, a lactation consultant might recommend herbs, such as fenugreek, malunggay, goat’s rue or shatavari, to help boost your supply. Some might also recommend prescription medications, such as domperidone. Says West, “Domperidone has been shown to be highly safe for long- term use at the levels we recommend for nursing mothers and is used throughout the world to effectively and safely increase milk production.”
Experts say that with the right approach, you should be able to boost your milk supply—especially if you catch the problem early. “Almost everyone can make more milk,” West says. “It may not be enough to sustain your baby, so you might still need to supplement, but that’s OK. You need to celebrate what you can do and see your breasts as being half full.”