Not enough breast milk

This article is contributed by Dr. T.N. Danny Leung & Ms Ashley, Chung Shuk Ting

1. Does my breast size affect milk production?
Breast size does not affect how much milk can be produced. The size of breasts mostly depends on the amount of fatty tissue. Milk production capacity is influenced by the amount of glandular tissue in breasts, not the fatty tissue.

During breastfeeding, the baby first latches on the breast with his/her mouth covering the areola, but not just the nipple. As the baby’s sucking begins, a signal will be sent to the mother’s brain to release more prolactin and oxytocin. In return, more breast milk will then be made and released. This sucking-stimulating reflex is also known as “let-down reflex”. A good latching is an essential step for adequate milk production.

2. Any food I need to avoid to prevent milk suppression?
Although some food may have been suggested to have an impact in milk supply, a significant amount of intake is usually needed to achieve the effects. The impact of food may also be different for different women. Responsive breastfeeding is most important to maintain a stable and sufficient milk supply.

3. I can do exclusive breastfeeding, why does my baby suddenly look unsatisfied?
Growth spurt can be a reason. During a growth spurt, baby needs more milk than usual and wants to drink every hour. The more often you breastfeed, the more the baby stimulates milk production to keep up with the growing needs.

4. Why is my breastmilk amount so scanty in the first few days after childbirth?
The milk produced in the first few days after birth is called colostrum. Newborn baby only needs a small amount at each feed but wants to be fed quite often. The baby will begin to have less often but longer feeds once your breasts start to produce more milk after a few days.

5. best tips in helping establishing breastfeeding:

  • Breastfeed as soon as possible: perform skin-to-skin contact with your baby and start breastfeeding once after birth. Don’t delay breastfeeding and wait the milk comes in. Delay lactation may lead to low milk supply. 
  • Responsive breastfeeding (feeding on demand): notice the early hunger cues and breastfeed often. It is not necessary to restrict the length of feeds and set a schedule.
  • Proper latching and good positioning: Correct latch-on is a key to promote effective milk removal.
  • Effective removal of milk: Ineffective removal of breastmilk will suppress milk production. Mother can express the retained milk after feeding in order to increase milk supply.
  • Relax and don’t worry: Baby can feel your anxiety. Moreover, nervousness can inhibit expression of breastmilk. Enjoy the bonding with baby and relax! Ask for help from health professionals if you are in doubt.
Updated on 23.08.2023