Insufficient or Delayed Milk Production When Breastfeeding

For the first 3 to 5 days after your baby is born, you will make a small amount of colostrum. Colostrum is a thick, rich milk that is high in nutrients. Around day 3 through 5, your milk will "come in". Here are some causes that may result in a delay of milk coming in:

  • Severe stress

  • Cesarean (surgical) delivery

  • Bleeding after birth

  • Maternal obesity

  • Infection or illness with fever

  • Diabetes

  • Thyroid conditions

  • Strict or prolonged bed rest during pregnancy

Infrequent or insufficient breastfeeding is the most common reason for a delay in milk coming in. This is also a common reason that women may experience a drop in milk production. If you are having difficulties with delayed milk production or a decrease in the amount of milk, a review of the number and length of feedings should be the first thing to evaluate. And make sure that the baby is able to put his or her mouth around the nipple and begin to nurse (" latching on") and is able to transfer milk from the breast. 

If you have a delay in your milk coming in, do not feel discouraged. Continue to express milk , that is removing milk from your breasts with a breast pump or by hand. And continue to breastfeed frequently, even if you are supplementing with formula for a few days.

Occasionally, a mother has a health condition that may temporarily delay the large increase in milk production usually seen between 3 to 5 days following birth. These mothers may not begin to produce large amounts of milk until 7 to 14 days after giving birth. If this happens to you, do not feel discouraged. Continue to breastfeed frequently even if you also must give your baby infant formula for a few days. 

Do not wait to get help if milk supply is ever a concern. The sooner you intervene, the better. Many communities have breastfeeding support groups that can be a good resource. Contact your health care provider if you are having problems breastfeeding. He or she may recommend a lactation consultant, a specialist in breastfeeding.