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Avoid Booby Traps! Milk supply sabotages

I often get lactation consult requests or just questions at support group about milk supply dips.

It can be very scary when your supply takes an unexpected plunge. Especially if things were going well or if you need to go on a trip or back to work soon.

There are a few milk supply sabotages that can be remedied. Your milk supply will more than likely come right back once you get to the culprit. Don't panic, stay calm, let's fix it!

Here's a list of things that can cause your milk supply to take a hit and halt or slow down production:

  • Decongestants - sudafed / pseudoephedrine

  • Hormonal birth control

  • Hormonal Imbalances

  • Missed feeds/pumps

  • Oral restrictions undiagnosed

  • Ineffective pump or incorrect flange size

  • Pregnancy

  • Period

  • Increased Solids

  • Extreme dieting

  • Alcohol

  • Medications - bromocriptine, ergotamine, cabergoline

Let's review the most common reasons and remedies:

Period - I get this one more than you know and it almost always coincides with a return back to work for a double whammy! Yes, you can have a period while breastfeeding and it can come anytime postpartum. Exclusive breastfeeding folks with a period might not see their period return for longer. If not using any artificial teats/bottles, pacifiers, etc. Only feeding at breast under 6 months old, it can stay away for a while, like a year. This is the LAM method we will talk about this more with birth control.

For some, the drop in milk supply and nipple tenderness associated with menstruation becomes more of a challenge. An effective treatment for these symptoms associated with the return of periods is to add a calcium/magnesium supplement to the diet upon ovulation and continue it through the second or third day of a period.

The remedy:

The supplement should be 1500 calcium/750 magnesium but can be as low as 500 calcium/250 magnesium (the higher the dosage the more effective and quicker the results). It should be a combination pill. This much calcium should never be taken alone.

If your cycles are not regular and you do not know when you ovulate, you can take the supplement the entire month until you begin to see a pattern to your flow.

This type of supplement seems to work as it prevents the drop in blood calcium levels which occurs mid-cycle and continues through the second to third day of a period. It is this drop which is associated with the nipple tenderness and drop in milk supply as well as the uterine cramping so often experienced with menstruation.

Hormonal Birth Control - This is the second most common reason I hear in my practice. After a little bit of chatting, we usually get to what type of birth control are you using if any? As soon as I hear some hormonal method not compatible with breastfeeding, I let them know to find a different method temporarily like condoms as they get off the current birth control to and talk to their doctor about switching to something non hormonal.

The remedy: Tell your doctor your are breastfeeding when you discuss birth control.

Use or to find a birth control comparison chart to make the best decision for you.