Insufficient milk supply: Is it likely to recur?

When I was trying to feed my first baby, the hospital encouraged me to use a breastpump. After 20 to 30 minutes, there was barely 30 ml. of milk. Surely not enough to feed a new baby. We tried this three times with the same result, and then it was recommended we use formula. My next baby is due shortly and I have expressed some milk from both breasts. Do you feel think this was simply a case of poor milk supply that would be likely to recur with baby number two?


Debbi Donovan

Debbi Donovan is a Board Certified Lactation Consultant, as well as a retired La Leche League Leader. For more than a decade, Debbi... Read more

It is not unusual, immediately following your baby's birth, to only be able to express 30 ml.(a bit over one ounce) of your milk. Some mothers who end up with very abundant milk supplies might not even be able to express this amount.

If your baby is not nursing in the early days following his birth, and you need to express your colostrum, you may be surprised to find that you can only express a small amount -- from a few drops to a couple of teaspoons (although some moms are able to express several ounces).

Your baby does not require large quantities of your milk in his first days of life. Newborns do need to be nursed at least 10 to 12 times each day. Many babies breastfeed even more often in the early days. It is normal, with frequent feeds, to see your milk supply beginning to increase over the next three to five days following your baby's birth.

It is very rare to physically not be able to produce enough milk to feed your baby. Most of the time, true milk insufficiency is the result of poorly managed breastfeeding.

I would recommend putting your baby-to-be to your breast early and often following his birth, while avoiding bottles and pacifiers, especially in the early weeks of breastfeeding. If supplementation would become necessary, due to insufficient output, and an initial weight loss of more than 10 percent of his birth weight, begin expressing your milk. Use a hospital-grade electric breastpump with a double-pump kit. Working with the hospital Board Certified Lactation Consultant (and later, if needed, an IBCLC in private practice to help you at home), supplement with your milk, using a syringe, cup or the method that will work best in your particular situation.

Also work with your IBCLC on positioning and attachment.

You will know if your baby is getting enough milk by watching his output. By day three he should be wetting three to four diapers each day and having at least two to three bowel movements. By day six he should be wetting six to eight diapers each day with at least two to three bowel movements. If his output is not within this range, promptly schedule an appointment (or weight check) with your baby's Health Care Provider to make sure he's gaining weight normally. (Remember that some babies lose up to 10 percent of their birth weight and regain by their two week checkup.) Best wishes with your baby-to-be!

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