Thyroid function: Does it influence milk production?

I have a question concerning breastfeeding and postpartum thyroiditis (PPT). PPT affects about around 5 to 15 percent of women after they give birth. They go through a hyperthyroid phase that lasts about three months, and then the disease either resolves itself (resulting in normal thyroid function) or goes into a hypothyroid phase, resulting in weight gain, slowed heart rate, etc. I noticed that during the hyperthyroid phase I produced lots of milk. Now I'm feeling better, but my milk supply seems to be decreasing and I'm concerned that I won't make enough milk if I become hypothyroid. Does the thyroid gland influence milk production?

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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

Your body's metabolism is controlled by the thyroid gland. Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) is a deficiency of the thyroid hormone. Symptoms can include swelling of the thyroid, dry skin, fatigue, depression and intolerance to cold. In nursing mothers, hypothyroidism can result in a poor milk supply, with resultant slow weight gain in the baby.

You don't have a reason at this point to believe that you will go into a hypothyroid state. Your milk supply may simply be decreasing to a more normal level, which would cause no problem for your baby.

It is important though, that you be reevaluated by your Health Care Provider. If it is determined by blood tests that you have gone into a hypothyroid state, there are medications that can be used during lactation. (Thyroid is naturally present in breastmilk.) If you do need medication to correct this problem, you might want to have your baby checked periodically (while you are breastfeeding) for thyroid function. It should be remembered however, that thyroxine levels are significantly higher in breastfed babies than in formula fed babies, so testing should include measurement of both T4 and TSH concentrations (Riordan, Auerbach, 1993) Best wishes for good health!

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