Breast milk is the healthiest thing a baby can eat, since it provides him with nutrients while also helping him build antibodies and strengthen his immune system, according to WomensHealth.gov. If your breast milk slows down or stops, it is not necessarily a sign of a health problem for you, but your baby may be harmed if he doesn’t get adequate nutrition.
Decreased Milk Supply
No discernible reason may be evident for your breast milk supply stopping. Since your baby’s regular sucking helps signal your body to make milk, your milk may stop if your baby is not latching on correctly and therefore not getting any milk. A thyroid problem may also cause your milk production to end. Slowed milk production may also occur when you breastfeed less frequently and start giving your baby formula or other kinds of baby food. If your body isn’t asked for as much milk, it will stop producing it altogether. Some babies simply lose interest in breastfeeding and naturally start weaning themselves, decreasing your milk supply, according to HealthyChildren.org.
Dangers to Your Baby
If your milk stops, your baby won’t get the nutrition he needs and will stop gaining weight. You’ll be able to track his growth by measuring his weight each week. He should gain around 1 oz. a day during his first three months and 1/2 oz. per day in the next three months. If he’s not getting enough milk, he’ll also likely be fussy after feedings and will wet fewer than six diapers a day. While failure to gain weight may cause developmental problems in the long run, as long as you take steps to get your baby the nutrition he needs, he should recover and catch up to a normal weight.
Ways to Increase Supply
In some cases, more frequent stimulation may cause your body to produce more milk, suggests the La Leche League. Try to feed your baby every two hours or use a breast pump between regular feedings. Massaging your breasts may also stimulate milk production. If these methods don’t work, consult a lactation specialist who can help ensure your baby is latching on properly. If your thyroid is to blame, a visit to the doctor is in order. She may put you on medication. You may need to switch to bottle feeding anyway if you begin taking thyroid medicine.
When It's Time to Wean
If you can’t produce enough milk to keep your baby satisfied and healthy, switch him to formula. Feeding him with a bottle may make your life easier, since anyone can feed him, and he’ll get all the nutrients he needs from formula. If he’s younger than 1 year of age, feed him a bottle of formula at the same times as you fed him from the breast. Babies shouldn’t drink cow's milk until they’re 1 year old, so stick with formula until then. If he’s over 1 year of age, give him bottles or cups of milk and gradually reduce the number of daily bottles as you introduce other kinds of foods.
- MedlinePlus; Overcoming Breastfeeding Problems; Jennifer K. Mannheim, et al.; July 2010
- HealthyChildren.org: Breastfeeding
- WomensHealth.gov: Breastfeeding
- Medline Plus: Breastfeeding Tips
- HealthyChildren.org: Weaning Your Baby
- La Leche League: How Can I Increase My Milk Supply?
- HealthyChildren.org: Decreased Milk Supply