Breastfeeding Article Disclaimer: I’m a firm believer that fed is best; that each parent should do what needs to be done to properly care for herself/himself and for her or his child. I write about breastfeeding because it’s my personal experience; never to shame and never to divide. Please help keep this community positive by choosing not to participate in the shaming of another parent or another parent’s choices—here or anywhere. We are all in this together.
Breastfeeding and stress seem to go hand-and-hand. I’m not sure if that’s always been the case throughout human history, but nowadays it certainly seems to be true for most breastfeeding mamas.
When you’re a breastfeeding mom who has a milk supply that is naturally on the lower side, the already-existing stress can escalate really dang quickly, and for completely justifiable reasons.
Here’s the thing about stress and breastfeeding: they don’t mesh well together. Not even close. Not even a little bit. Not even at all. (Sorry, 10 Things I Hate About You viewing happened last night and now I’m super Kat-like about everything.)
But in seriousness, stress can make it harder to produce breastmilk, so when you’re supply is already low…letting something like stress interfere isn’t really an option.
These tips have helped me reduce breastfeeding stress and successfully breastfeed both of my daughters, even with a naturally low breastmilk supply.
How to Stress Less When You’re Breastfeeding With a Naturally Low Milk Supply
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1. Set Small Goals As You Go (and Celebrate Meeting Each One)
My big picture breastfeeding goal with both of my daughters was to nurse them for one year without supplementing with formula.
But let me be honest here, real quick. On night two of being home from the hospital with a newborn, sore nipples, and a low milk supply…nothing seems further away than that one year mark. It feels completely unattainable. Entirely hopeless.
So how do you combat that overwhelming feeling that you will be a breastfeeding mama for all eternity? Set a smaller goal and allow yourself some happiness (and maybe some kind of treat?) when you meet it.
Whether it be making it through another month, another week, another day, or another nursing session…set small goals as you need them.
2. Build a Freezer Stash (Even if It’s a Small One)
Building a freezer stash of extra breastmilk when you’re already struggling may seem like a completely impossible task.
I was barely able to build a freezer supply when nursing my first daughter, but with my second daughter I did it!
There are a few key steps and strategies that really worked for me and helped me build up a freezer supply before my maternity leave ended. You can read about how I built a freezer stash with a low breastmilk supply here.
3. Don’t Compare Yourself to Other Moms
If you’re the only mom you know who has a naturally low breastmilk supply, having conversations about breastfeeding can be really stressful and disheartening.
I can’t count how many times I’ve patiently listened to other breastfeeding moms talk about how they ” how they “can’t stop leaking milk everywhere because there is just so much”, or how they “have hundreds of ounces stored in the freezer” (and their baby is still a newborn), or how they are going to “donate extra milk to babies in need because they just won’t go through it fast enough”.
On one hand, I’m genuinely happy for moms who have breastfeeding experiences like those, and don’t resent them one bit. And I mean that from the very bottom of my heart. Breastfeeding isn’t easy for anyone, even those moms with naturally higher milk supplies, so those mamas are WORKING to feed those littles and build those supplies. I’m in now way trying to imply that they “have it easy”—because they don’t.
But here’s what happens when I, a mom with a naturally low milk supply, hear those stories: I start to wonder if I’m inadequate. If there’s something wrong with me. If I’m not trying hard enough. If I’m failing my baby. If I’m less of a woman than those other moms. If I’m not good enough.
It genuinely has nothing to do with the other moms and everything to do with how I view myself and my own insecurities (like almost everything in women-to-women competition is when you dig down to the root of it).
To combat this, remind yourself that not all breastmilk supplies are created equal. There’s no point in competing with other moms. Focus on your supply, on your baby, on your experience, and know that if you get up in the morning and feed your baby—however you choose to do it—that you are enough.
4. Know When to Walk Away From a Conversation
There are plenty of folks out there who won’t accept that having a naturally low breastmilk supply is a thing.
They will make you feel like you simply aren’t trying hard enough; that you aren’t doing enough to accomplish your breastfeeding goals. That you haven’t downed enough fenugreek, or aren’t using the right medical-grade breastpump, or aren’t nursing enough times during the day—because, in case you haven’t heard—breastfeeding is a supply-and-demand system! Is your mind completely blown right now? Probably not, because…of course you’ve heard that.
All breastfeeding moms have heard the same advice. Over and over. The breastfeeding info typically starts at your prenatal appointments and is slammed in your face at every possible opportunity pretty much until your child looks a little too old to be of breastfeeding age.
And if you are one of the lucky few who hasn’t had to endure this cycle in person…my guess would be that if you’re a breastfeeding mama with a naturally low milk supply…you found all of the same advise through your own research immediately after realizing you had a naturally low milk supply.
Because that same advice is everywhere. And the truth? Most breastfeeding advice-givers don’t help the situation at all.
Yes, it’s true that breastfeeding is a supply and demand system. Yes, there are some things that can help. But it’s also true that some women start off with less milk than others, and that there are only 24 hours in a day, and you can’t nurse and/or pump during every single one of them and do the million other things that being a parent requires of you and stay sane.
If you’re having a conversation with someone who just doesn’t quite understand the low-supply struggle, don’t be afraid to politely shift or end the conversation. You have enough on your plate, mama. And, to be honest, you don’t owe anyone an explanation. Never allow yourself to be overwhelmed because you feel like you do.
5. Don’t Spend Tons of Money on Breastmilk-Boosting Products
When you start your breastfeeding journey and realize your milk supply is low, it can be tempting to throw money at every product that may be rumored to boost breastmilk supplies in hopes of upping your milk production. Don’t do this.
If you buy everything at once, and use everything at once, you’ll have absolutely no idea what is actually helping and what isn’t. This means you could end up spending a ton of cash on products that aren’t actually doing anything.
When you’re trying a breastmilk booster (always clear it with a medical professional before you do), it’s best to try one at a time. Give each product at least a week and see if you notice any change in production. If you do—great! You’ve found a booster that works for your body. If not—no worries! On to the next booster to try.
I went through a whole list of boosters before I found the magic two that worked best for my body—Brewer’s Yeast and Oatmeal. I’ve included the whole list of products that I tried below so you can give a few a shot:
6. Meditate Every Single Day
This sounds like complete hippy nonsense. I know. I get it. But meditation can actually boost breastmilk production because it helps reduce stress.
Stress is no friend to anyone, but breastfeeding moms have more reasons to try to keep stress at bay than most people do, because high levels of stress can actually decrease milk production.
Yep. That’s a real thing. (As if us mamas with a naturally low milk supply didn’t have enough to worry about already. *sigh*)
Meditating can be as simple as closing your eyes for 60 seconds and breathing in and out, slowly and calmly. It’s so hard for moms to find time for yourself, but out of the 1440 minutes that happen every day, you deserve to set aside at least 1 for a little meditation.
7. Don’t Obsess Over Your Baby’s Weight
When you’re breastfeeding, especially in those early months when your babe hasn’t started solid foods and is only drinking breastmilk, it can feel like the entire health and well-being of your baby is dependent on your ability to produce breastmilk. The weight of that responsibility is huge.
Now factor in a naturally low milk supply and the stress factor is upped by about a thousand.
It can become so easy to start obsessing over whether or not your baby is doing okay food-wise, and the easiest way for us mamas to gauge success on? How much your baby weighs and how rapidly weight gain is occurring.
If you have genuine concerns, always address them with your doctor. If your doctor has concerns and gives you advice to keep your baby healthy, always follow the advice, or seek advise from a different medical professional. (I’m not a medical professional.)
But, if your doctor has no concerns and everything seems on track—stop overly-obsessing about your baby’s weight.
Yes, if you have a naturally low milk supply, there’s a chance that your baby may not be in the 98th percentile for weight out of all the babies. That’s actually very likely to be the case. But guys? Not all babies can be in the 98th percentile because then it wouldn’t technically be a 98th percentile. It would just be “the weight that all babies weigh”, which is silly and also not a thing.
Babies come in all shapes and sizes and grow at all different rates, and that’s perfectly okay.
8. Choose Nursing Over Pumping When You Can
This one is obviously for mamas who aren’t exclusively pumping or exclusively nursing, so if that’s you, feel free to skip on over this one.
But for anyone who does a little bit of Column A and a little bit of Column B, this is one of the best de-stressers there is for all breastfeeding mamas: nurse that baby.
Being close to that little love bug that you are working so hard to feed is a great way to remind yourself of exactly why you’re going through all of this madness in the first place.
That skin-to-skin contact combined with the fantastic baby smell can work wonders for your stress levels. Plus, you’re not watching milk being slowly pumped out drop-by-drop and obsessing over how few drops there are. (Which is seriously, seriously stressful.)
How do you keep your stress down while breastfeeding with a naturally low milk supply?