Milk Supply Decreasing At 3 Months
Something I’ve noticed as a Certified Lactation Counselor with many moms is that they start worrying about their milk supply decreasing at 3 months. I’ll get questions from a worried mom, usually around 3 months but sometimes closer to 4 or 5 months.
There have been SO MANY moms worried about their milk supply that I decided to write about it. It seems incredibly common. So here’s some information about why milk supply seems to drop when your baby is around 3 months old.
Sudden Drop In Milk Supply
In most cases, a sudden drop in milk supply is just a mom’s body regulating to changes. It takes at least 6 weeks to establish your milk supply, and breastfeeding is frequent until that point.
But it seems that even after milk supply has been well established, moms feel that their breasts hold more milk. It lasts until around 3 or 4 months after birth and then their body regulates and feels different.
Many moms will notice the following things:
- Their breasts don’t feel as full.
- Milk supply is much larger in the morning than the afternoon and evening.
- Baby starts to sleep for longer stretches at night and goes longer between feedings.
- Feedings start to get much faster.
- Fussiness can be common in their baby.
- Cluster feeding is common in the evenings.
These things are SO common!
And they don’t necessarily mean there’s anything wrong with milk supply. The perceived drop in milk supply is actually the body and breasts regulating to what their baby is eating.
What Causes Changes In Mom’s Breasts Around 3 Months?
There are many things that contribute to a mom feeling like her supply has dropped.
1. Her breasts don’t feel as full.
Starting around 6 weeks and lasting to around 4 months, a mom’s milk supply starts to regulate. Her body gets signals from her baby about how much milk she needs to produce.
It’s amazing how we listen to our babies intuitively!
When her baby breastfeeds more, her body responds by producing more breast milk. If her baby feeds less, then her supply will decrease accordingly.
As long as your breast milk supply was well established the first 6 weeks, there generally isn’t a problem.
While her breasts previously felt more full, now they start to feel softer. They feel especially soft after a feeding.
It can make a mom worry!
But usually, the feeling is a normal change. It isn’t normal for your breasts to be overfull and engorged like they were when your milk first came in. With time, our bodies regulate.
And remember that breast milk is constantly being made. It’s an ongoing process so you will always have some milk in your breasts.
2. Milk supply is much larger in the morning than the afternoon and evening.
This is extremely common around the 3 month mark. Part of the reason is because babies tend to consolidate sleep a little better around that time. They may start to sleep 6 or more hours in a row at night.
When a baby goes a long time sleeping, it means that your breasts aren’t being emptied. That can leave them feeling more full in the morning before the first feeding. Sometimes babies don’t fully empty their moms breasts with the first feeding, so it takes the second or third feeding before a mom starts to feel like her milk supply is depleted.
It isn’t really depleted, but it actually contains more fat in it towards the end of the day. So even though you feel less volume of milk in your breasts, your baby is getting more calories per feeding later in the day.
We need to talk about hormones.
In the morning, a breastfeeding mom’s prolactin levels rise. Prolactin is the milk making hormone.
So not only does our baby go longer in the night without feeding, our milk-making hormones are in overdrive in the morning.
That means there’s more milk in our breasts. The milk is also higher in water content.
As the day goes on, prolactin levels fall slightly, but milk is still being made.
The milk made later in the day has a higher fat content and is more satisfying and filling for our babies.
Your breasts might feel less full later in the day, but it’s NORMAL and expected! And your baby is still getting all they need.
3. Baby starts to sleep for longer stretches at night and go longer between feedings.
Around 3 months, babies start to sleep better at night. Some go 6 hours and some sleep longer. Additionally, babies’ stomachs start to grow and they can take in more milk for each feeding.
All of these things contribute to a mom worrying about her milk supply.
The first months of breastfeeding, the feedings are frequent. They are every 2-3 hours, and some babies eat more frequently than that!
But as a baby grows, so do their eating habits.
They start to recognize the world around them and do more than just eat and sleep.
It doesn’t mean your baby isn’t getting enough milk. They are just becoming more efficient at nursing! As long as your baby is meeting their developmental milestones and looking good for their pediatric appointments, there’s nothing to worry about.
Going longer stretches between feedings is natural and will continue as your baby grows.
4. Feedings start to get much faster.
In the newborn phase, feedings can take a long time. Average feeding time for each breast is about 20 minutes.
Babies need to learn how to breastfeed. It takes time and effort to manage the suck-swallow-breathe pattern.
After 3 months of practice though, babies start to become experts. They no longer need to take breaks and rest while suckling.
Feeding times can decrease significantly.
Some babies finish a full feeding in as little as 5 minutes!
When babies’ patterns change drastically… moms worry (we’re good at worrying)! But again these things are to be expected!
Babies’ mouth muscles become stronger; they are able to express milk more efficiently. The decreased feeding time means that your baby is getting more efficient. Again, there’s no need to worry as long as your baby is meeting their developmental milestones.
5. Fussiness can be common in their baby.
At around 3 months of life, babies sometimes start to get fussy.
They have more control over their little bodies and can recognize things in the world around them. A lot of babies don’t want to breastfeed because they would rather look at the amazing world around them.
They might fuss more during feeding time around 3 or 4 months. To combat this, I often recommend feeding your baby in a quiet room with no distractions. Turning the lights down low might help too, that way your baby can focus on the task at hand… eating!
Another good time to feed your baby is right after their nap. They tend to be awake, but drowsy enough that they aren’t too distracted.
This is a normal part of growth and common for 3-4 month old babies. Feeding are starting to look different and moms might worry.
Just know that your breastfeeding journey is full of changes, from day to day and month to month. Embrace the change and try not to worry!
6. Cluster feeding is common in the evenings.
Cluster feeding is what happens when a baby seems to want to breastfeed for hours. They might want to feed almost nonstop. Or you might breastfeed them and then 20 minutes later they want to eat again.
It can be exhausting.
And it usually happens right around dinner time, which is when you need to feed the rest of the family! It can last until late into the evening.
When cluster feeds happen, moms often worry it’s because their baby is hungry ot not eating enough throughout the day.
They are a way for your baby to get more breast milk before a long stretch of sleep. But cluster feeds are not abnormal. They are actually extremely common!
Not only do they give your baby a good full tummy before bed, cluster feeds also help keep your milk supply up.
The more your baby sickles, the more your body gets the signal to continue to produce milk. It’s a win-win!
So while cluster feeds might seem like a nuisance, try welcoming them! They are good for your baby and for your milk supply.
Cluster feeds are normal for many – if not most – babies. They aren’t a cause for concern.
Signs Your Milk Supply Is Decreasing
Now that I’ve covered the 3 month perception of milk supply loss, let’s talk about signs that your milk supply IS decreasing.
Generally, if the first 6 weeks of breastfeeding went well your supply is established and you needn’t worry. However, there are some signs that your milk supply is decreasing.
Signs that you might have a low milk supply:
- Baby isn’t gaining weight as expected.
- Baby doesn’t have regular wet and dirty diapers.
- You supplement with formula or use a pacifier frequently.
- You use a nipple shield.
- You cut your baby off early from a feeding or don’t feed them on demand when they’re hungry.
- You recently had a change in hormones (started a period, birth control, medication or have underlying health conditions).
Low breast milk supply can be caused by a number of factors, like hormones (a period starting) or not feeding your baby enough throughout the day.
If your baby has wet and dirty diapers regularly and is gaining weight as expected between pediatric appointments, there’s no need to worry.
However, if you are worried it doesn’t hurt to contact a lactation consultant.
How To Tell If Milk Supply Is Drying Up
Moms often worry about their milk supply when things start to regulate. Generally it isn’t a concern, but moms want to know how to tell if their milk supply is drying up.
I’ll explain the best way to tell with a short example.
Around the holidays, moms tend to notice a drop in their breast milk supply more than any other time.
Why would that be?
Well, here’s a great example.
A mom is sitting with her 3 month old baby next to her, wrapping Christmas presents. She’s almost done taping a present when her baby rouses and acts hungry. Mom thinks to herself that she just needs 5 minutes to finish wrapping this present and then she’ll breastfeed.
She finishes wrapping the present, and her baby falls asleep.
So she thinks that she’ll just wrap a few more presents until her baby wakes up again. When her baby does wake, she’s almost done wrapping a present and waits to finish before feeding.
As you can see, the baby was probably hungry (and should have been fed) the first time.
Since breast milk supply is dependent on demand, it’s important to feed your baby when you notice their hunger cues.
Not feeding your baby enough will result in your milk supply dropping.
The way to fix this is… to feed your baby!
If you are concerned about a low milk supply, ask yourself if you’ve spent time in the last few days where you didn’t feed your baby on demand. If so, that might be the problem. Feeding your baby more is an easy fix!
How To Fix A Sudden Drop In Milk Supply
The first step to fixing a drop in your milk supply is to determine if you actually have a problem or not. If it’s just your body regulating to your baby, then there’s nothing to fix!
But if you suspect there is a problem with your milk supply the first thing to do is feed your baby!
Breastfeeding your baby frequently and allowing them to feed as long as possible will help increase your milk supply.
Some people swear by eating certain foods or drinking more water. Those things don’t hurt, but the most important thing is supply and demand.
The more your baby eats, the more milk your body will produce! So when in doubt, feed your baby.
Rest assured that it’s common for moms to worry about their breast milk supply when their babies are 3, 4 or 5 months old. That’s when a lot of things change in your baby’s life and your body starts to regulate. Try not to worry, and know that a lot of these changes are normal.
Pay attention to your baby and their diapers. If they are healthy and meeting developmental milestones, your milk supply is likely fine.
But if you are worried it doesn’t hurt to reach out to a lactation counselor. They can help you determine if you have a problem and the best way to fix it.
Kealy Hawk, BSN, RN, CLC
Kealy is a Registered Nurse, Lactation Counselor, and most importantly a mommy! Her own baby feeding struggles gave her a passion to help moms throughout their feeding journey. She specializes in breastfeeding support and evidence-based formula recommendations. To talk with Kealy or take one of her breastfeeding or formula classes, visit https://littlebearcare.com.