breastfeeding Parenting

Is Low Milk Supply A State Of Mind?

Even though breastfeeding is one of the most natural activities, it is not without it’s challenges. From inverted nipples or a bad latch to a tongue-tied baby or cracked nipples, new moms face many hurtles that can prevent them from continuing. And even after overcoming some of these difficulties, thinking that she may not have enough milk can cause a mom to lose her confidence.

In the US, many women begin motherhood planning to breastfeed. As the months go on, however, the number of women actually doing so drops dramatically. For many of these women, low milk supply is considered the cause of weaning or supplementing with infant formula. According to Paediatrician, Dr David Bratt there may be more going on than a medical issue.

“It is almost impossible for a woman who has carried a baby to term to not be able to produce milk. There are no medical reasons, neither are there biological reasons why women won’t produce milk. Women need to understand that once they can carry a child for nine months, the same hormones that keep the baby healthy in the womb are the same hormones that produce the milk.”

He believes that fear can cause a woman to sabotage her own breastfeeding relationship, making the concerns over low supply a self-fulfilling prophecy.

“A lot of women get disappointed and think they do not have milk because they don’t see it pouring out. When they see only a trickle, immediately they start thinking about supplementing the baby with formula. Once you start with the formula it cuts down on the production of the milk.

A newborn infant’s stomach is very small, requiring only 2-3 teaspoons to become full. The image of a full bottle of formula worries many mothers that they are not producing enough for their infants, when in fact they are. Because breastmilk is more easily digested than formula, breastfed babies tend to eat more often as well, adding to the fear that not enough milk is being produced.

Dr. Bratt warns that outside factors can also inhibit a woman from being able to breastfeed well. Breastfeeding is a very emotional experience, and can be thrown off-kilter by emotional hang-ups in the mother’s situation.

“There are a lot of psychological issues that can cause problems with breastfeeding. In order for the mother to have a good experience breastfeeding she must feel good about herself, she must feel happy and contented.

“If she is in pain, or if she is worried over something, if the father of the baby is absent, or anything that makes her anxious, it will inhibit the production of the two hormones that cause milk to be produced by the breast.”

New mothers need guidance and support during their early breastfeeding days. Concerns that they are breastfeeding incorrectly can cause a new mother to turn to infant formula unnecessarily. Other struggles, such as emotional distress or physical pain, can prematurely end a breastfeeding relationship. According to Dr. Bratt, new mothers need time, patience and guidance to help them overcome the early barriers of breastfeeding. – Summer, staff writer

*If you are experiencing issues and need some support there are many online resources that we recommend:

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About the author


Summer is a mom of three, living life in the slow lane along historic Route 66. She writes, homeschools, gardens, and is still trying to learn how to knit.

1 Comment

  • I totally disagree with this. I gave birth to my son in February and two months after delivery my milk supply dropped dramatically! This is frustrating for me and for my baby. I do continue to breastfeed however they only way I’ve been able to provide my son enough milk is by taking medication to keep up my supply. For me it’s had nothing to do with formula feeding or my state of mind.

  • I am a lactation consultant and everyday I see mothers who have done everything they can to produce and they dont make what they need. Sometimes it is abnormal anatomy of the breast sometimes an innefective latch or traumatic birth and excessive blood loss but low supply is not just in the mom’s head. I to pre and post feed weights and show my mom’s what baby ingested (or close to it) during feeding. This helps the moms whose low supply is in the imagination they see how much baby really gets but does nothing for the mom with actual low supply.

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