Breastfeeding is a beautiful and natural process that mothers have been using to feed their babies since the beginning of time. It’s an incredibly intimate and special way to bond with your baby and provide them with all the necessary nutrients they need to grow and thrive. However, it can be incredibly challenging at times. Many moms often experience a decrease in their breast milk supply around the 4-month mark. This can be a huge stressor and cause for concern. In this article, we will go over several reasons for a sudden drop in milk supply at 4 months.
Does milk supply decrease at 4 months?
Yes, it’s common for breast milk supply to drop around the time an infant turns 4-months old. This can be due to a variety of reasons. The first three months of a baby’s life are often referred to as the “fourth trimester” as they adjust to living outside of the womb. Once they fully wake up and hit a growth spurt around 4-months, many things begin to change. These changes, which we’ll cover below, can lead to a drop in milk supply at 4 months.
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Hormonal Changes – Main Reason for a Drop in Milk Supply at 4 Months
Breast milk production is regulated by the hormone prolactin, which stimulates milk production in the mammary glands. As your baby grows and their needs change, the hormone levels in your body change as well. At around 4 months, the level of prolactin in a mom’s body starts to decrease, which leads to a decrease in milk production.
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If your baby has begun sleeping for longer stretches at night around the 4 month mark, you may notice a drop in breast milk supply. This is due to the supply and demand production of breast milk. If your baby is not demanding as much breast milk due to sleeping longer, then your supply will decrease to accommodate the drop in demand. Decreasing the frequency of breastfeeding can also lead to lower prolactin levels. See our article Do I Need to Pump at Night When Baby Sleeps Through The Night? for more insight.
Introduction of Solids
If you introduce solid foods around 4 months, this can reduce a baby’s demand for breast milk. Solid foods can make them feel fuller, leading to a lower desire for breast milk. They may also spend less time at the breast during feeding time which can lead to a drop in breast milk at 4 months.
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As mentioned previously, breastfeeding is a supply and demand process. This means that the more often a baby feeds, the more milk you will produce. At around 4 months, many babies start to develop more interest in the world around them. This can lead to a distracted baby at breastfeeding time and, thus, a decrease in milk production. Some babies will even refuse the breast, leading to a “nursing strike” when their baby turns 4-months old.
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Stress is known to have a negative impact on breast milk production. Moms who experience stress at around the 4-month mark from returning to work, lack of sleep, or dealing with a sick child may experience a decrease in their milk supply. When you experience stress, your body releases the hormone cortisol, which can interfere with the hormones responsible for milk production. Cortisol inhibits the release of oxytocin, the hormone that stimulates the let-down reflex and milk ejection during breastfeeding. This can result in decreased milk flow and a decrease in milk supply over time if the stress is ongoing. Additionally, the stress hormone adrenaline can cause the blood vessels in the breast to constrict, which can further decrease milk production.
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How can I increase breast milk supply at 4 months?
If you are experiencing a decrease in your breast milk supply when your baby is around 4 months old, there are several things you can do. In all likelihood, your breast milk supply is not drying up this early in your breastfeeding journey.
1. Breastfeed, breastfeed, breastfeed or Pump, pump, pump! – Main Fix for a Drop in Milk Supply at 4 Months
Increasing breastfeeding frequency can help increase milk production. Try to offer the breast to your baby as often as possible, even if they seem to be nursing for a short time. If you exclusively pump, try adding a pump session if you can or try pumping for longer each session. You can also try power pumping. See our article Pros and Cons of Power Pumping – Everything You Need to Know for more information on how to power pump.
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2. Offer Both Breasts
Offering both breasts during a feeding session can help stimulate milk production and ensure that your baby is getting enough milk. This works by emptying both of your breasts of milk and encouraging longer feeding sessions. These things taken together can lead to an increase in total milk volume. If your baby is on a nursing strike, it’s important to try this method. You can even flip back and forth between breasts multiple times if your baby gets distracted when nursing on one side.
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3. Address Underlying Medical Issues
If you have an underlying medical issue that is causing a decrease in milk supply, work with your healthcare provider to address the issue. Medical issues that can lead to a drop in milk supply at 4 months include hormone imbalances such as thyroid issues or polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), previous breast surgeries, anemia, insufficient glandular tissue (IGT), or acute infections.
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4. Drink Water & Eat Enough Calories
Drinking plenty of fluids and maintaining a healthy diet can help ensure that you have an adequate milk supply. Your body needs water to produce breast milk. Make sure your are drinking at least 80 ounces of water a day. Dehydration can lead to a drop in milk supply at 4 months.
Breastfeeding moms also need more calories than non-breastfeeding women since producing breast milk requires additional calories. Eating enough calories can help to ensure that your body has the energy it needs to produce milk. We have several lactation recipes available here on Work Breastfeed Mom if you need help finding nutrient dense foods to keep you full and healthy:
- Lactation Oatmeal: The 4 Staple Recipes You Need to Know!
- Oatmeal Banana Bread: Lactation Oatmeal With A Twist
- Baked Oatmeal: The Lactation Version
- The Perfect Lactation Recipe: Lactation Fudge
- Peanut Butter Lactation Balls: 3 Easy Ingredients, No Bake, No Brewer’s Yeast
To wrap up, a decrease in breast milk supply at around 4 months is a common occurrence for many moms. Do your best not to panic or stress (stress is bad for milk supply!). There are several steps you can take to increase milk production and ensure that your baby is getting enough milk. If you’ve tried the above and are still concerned about your milk supply, speak with a lactation consultant or your healthcare provider to determine the underlying cause and appropriate course of action.