Short Nursing Patterns Decreasing Milk Supply

by Kimberlee (Mountain Home, ID)

First, let me say thank you in advance. You are wonderful :)

My 6 month old has always been a VERY quick nurser. She is done nursing in 3 minutes. She nurses quite frequently though. She’s always nursed every two hours, but when she turned 6 months she began needing to nurse every hour. Again, she doesn’t nurse long.

My milk supply is affected by her nursing patterns I believe. I have virtually none anymore and she is absolutely starving! When she is done nursing she cries and leans in toward me… she is still hungry so I nurse on the other side too. I notice, however, that I can still express milk on the side that she just nursed from. Could it not be coming out fast enough for her and she is frustrated? Nonetheless, she is still starving. She cries for food.

I just started her on solids last week and she isn’t very used to them yet. She will barely open her mouth for them. I think her short nursings are sending my body mixed signals and I am not producing because she is done so quickly.

I talked to a lactation consultant and she advised me toward Fenugreek. I have been taking it for about 36 hours now. I am nervous that my body will stop producing and I won’t be able to breastfeed and I want desperately to only do what is natural for her.

Even if the Fenugreek does increase my supply, how long before her short nursings start decreasing my supply again? And will the Fenugreek be bad for her? I believe it acts like estrogen in my body so how will it affect her?

Answer:

Hi Kimberlee,

It can be so stressful when you have low milk supply, but there are ways you can address the issue.

Fenugreek is a traditional remedy for low milk supply and is recognized to be both effective and generally safe. Like with any supplement, though, you need to monitor your baby and yourself. Sometimes babies demonstrate digestive upsets after mom takes fenugreek, but other than that I didn’t see too many side effects. I can’t find any information on it being estrogenic, though it can stimulate uterine activity (avoid if pregnant!)

This page on Kellymom has good info: Fenugreek for Increasing Milk Supply. There are a lot of references on the page so you can really delve deep.

I do think it sounds like your little one’s nursing patterns are what is causing your low supply.

The first question that came to my mind was – is she nursing at night? Many times babies who nurse only in short spurts during the day will nurse frequently and for long periods throughout the night if they’re in bed with you.

If she’s not in bed with you already, and you’re comfortable with the thought, I would recommend you bring her to bed with you.

I would also try and encourage her to stay at the breast longer during the day. Do you think she’s getting frustrated with getting your milk to let down? Have you tried expressed (either hand expressing or with a pump) just before she nurses so your milk has already let down?

You can also try breast compression while she’s nursing if she seems to be slowing down. This is a gentle manual expression you do while she’s on the breast. It encourages more of the fatty hindmilk to come down and will often convince babies to stay on the breast longer.

It’s completely normal for her to want to nurse both sides during a feed, however, you want to encourage her to fully drain one breast before she switches to the other.

Do you have the opportunity to just take a few days with her and you at home? If you can arrange that, I would highly suggest you take a few days for a “nursing vacation.” Put your feet up, or even stay in the bed and watch movies – and just nurse her on demand whenever she wants and for as long as she wants. This can really bring your supply up in a hurry. Encourage her to nurse as long as possible on each side so she’s really draining the breast. This will tell your body to step up the milk production!

Another possibility is to pump some between her nursings to bring up supply, but spending time with her nursing will always work a little more effectively.

I don’t want to overwhelm you, but another thing to look at is your nutrition. Are you eating well? Getting plenty of meals and plenty of fat in? I have found that my milk supply is noticeably fuller and richer when I’m eating well and getting good fats in. I talk more about this in this article: How to Improve Milk Supply Through Nutrition

Solids at this age are more of an experiment than a solid nutritional source. You can keep offering, but I would really focus on boosting your milk supply and encouraging her to nurse longer.

I would say give the fenugreek a try for a couple of weeks as long as you feel comfortable, and work on encouraging her to spend longer at the breast to get your milk supply back up again.

Best of luck to you Kimberlee!