16 Signs Mom-To-Be Won't Be Able To Produce Milk

Everywhere mom turns, she's told that breastfeeding is best. If you watch a television show, a commercial about the benefits of breastmilk comes on, and in the doctor’s office there are posters about all the reasons you should breastfeed. They even offer classes on how to breastfeed at the hospital you will be delivering at. But what if you are unable to produce breast milk? You shouldn’t be looked down upon or made to feel like you aren’t giving your child the best start you possibly can.

Breast milk is one of the most complete forms of nutrients for babies. There are some reasons, however, when a mom cannot or should not produce milk for her child. It’s normal for feeling disappointment when you are unable to make milk for your newborn. It does not mean you are a failure and you should not beat yourself up over it. Take the time to mourn the loss of being able to breastfeed, and open up to others that may be able to help you through this difficult time.

There are many other ways to provide your baby the essential nutrients she needs to grow healthy and strong. Today, formulas are made with everything your baby needs added in. Never forget that you are doing the best thing possible for you baby, no matter what the circumstances are. Everyone’s journey in motherhood is different.

There are multiple reasons why a mom may not be able to make milk for her baby. We found 15 to share with you.

16 Hypoplastic Bosoms

Women who have breast spaced more than one and a half inches apart may suffer from breast hypoplasia. Some other signs are having one breast significantly larger than the other, breasts that don’t grow either during puberty or pregnancy, or a breast that resembles an empty sac, called a tubular breast shape. In addition to these signs, women may notice that their areolae are disproportionately large.

Mammary hypoplasia, also known as insufficient glandular tissue (IGT), it happens when women did not develop proper mammary tissue during puberty. Some believe it happens if a teen has very irregular periods. When a girl has only 3-4 menstrual cycles per year, her glandular tissues do not develop all the way and she may struggle with milk production as a result.

If you suspect you may have IGT, you should schedule an appointment with a lactation consultant who is familiar with IGT and who knows how to test for it.

15 Breast Reduction

Women who have undergone a breast reduction surgery may not be able to produce milk. The surgery could damage the nerves and the ducts and glands that make mil, making breastfeeding very difficult for new moms.

If your nipple was removed during surgery, and then placed on a reconstructed breast, it may limit your milk flow. It may also diminish the sensation in your nipples since there has been damage to the nerves, breast tissue, and milk ducts. If the surgery was recent, meaning she had it within the last five years, lactations problems are more likely.

There are signs during pregnancy after a breast reduction, that can tell if a woman will lactate or not. Ask the mother is she experienced any breast enlargement or a feeling of heavy breasts during her pregnancy. Did she have tenderness? Experiencing changes like this will indicate that the breast tissue is responding appropriately, but it will not indicate if the mammary system is functioning properly.

14 Hypothyroidism

The thyroid plays an important role in producing milk. During lactation, the thyroid hormones will regulate oxytocin and prolactin.

Hypothyroidism is basically an under-active thyroid. Some symptoms you might experience if you have hypothyroidism include a heavy and longer menstrual flow, or having no period at all. You might also be experiencing fatigue, hair loss, weight gain, constipation, or dry and scaly skin.

If you have hypothydroism and are breastfeeding, you might struggle to have any kind of milk supply because the thyroid hormones ae not there to help the breast make milk.

Hypothyroidism is usually treated with a medication called thyroxine. This helps to get the women’s thyroid hormone levels back to normal. However, some women report that having those levels within the normal range was not enough to support milk production. They may need to take get their hormone level near the upper part of the normal range to see any change in location.

13 Breast Cancer

The breasts of a woman who has gone through breast cancer are much different than those who haven’t had to. Cancer survivor’s breasts have been poked, radiated, and cut open. It’s no wonder many women are unable to breastfeeding after going through cancer treatments.

There are many things that happen during breast cancer treatment that may prevent a woman from being able to breastfeed her baby. If she had a double mastectomy, the reason is obvious. Her breast was removed, along with the milk ducts, making it impossible to produce milk. Other factors come into play too, such as how much tissue was removed during a lumpectomy, or what the extent of damage was during radiation therapy. If you are still undergoing treatment, it is advised that you don’t breastfeed. The medication in chemotherapy and hormone therapy can travel through your milk into the baby, and they are not safe for the baby to receive.

12 Certain Medications

Certain medications can drastically reduce your milk supply or may stop milk production all together. Surprisingly some allergy and cold medications may affect your supply. A common ingredient found in many over the counter cold and allergy medications, called pseudoephedrine, is known to decrease milk production.

Hormonal birth control contains estrogen and could also affect your ability to make milk.

When you are deciding if you should take a certain medication or not, you should weight the risks and benefits. Only take it if you really need it. You may want to consider some natural non-drug therapies instead. If it’s possible to do so, consider waiting to take the drug until your baby is older. Newborns may have more problems with certain medications than older babies. Always watch for reactions in your baby. If you notice anything different, either stop taking the medication or stop breastfeeding. Contact your doctor to make him aware of any changes you are seeing.

11 Hemoglobins Out Of Whack

Anemia can have a negative effect on breastfeeding success. Anemia is a condition that happens when you don’t have enough healthy red blood cells. The cells are lacking hemoglobin, causing the cells in your body to not receive enough oxygen. If you are anemic, you might experience increased fatigue, decreased energy, and it puts you at a greater risk of suffering from post-partum depression.

Anemia can cause issues with breastfeeding such as clogged milk ducts, mastitis, and thrush. Also, if the mother develops nipple sores, anemia can make them slow to heal. All of these things will negatively impact the amount of breast milk a mom can make as well as the quality of it.

Her baby may become fussier and seem like she is hungry all the time. In rare cases, a baby can develop anemia because of her mom’s anemia.

10 Placenta Left Behind

Some women experience a retained placenta, which is when the placenta is not expelled within one hour of delivery, or when a piece of the placenta was not expelled.

The detachment of the placenta is what signals the mother’s milk to come in. If any of the placenta is left behind in the uterus, that signal never gets sent. Even a tiny piece left behind can be enough to cause the mother’s body to think it is still pregnant. This causes the progesterone levels to stay too high to allow milk production.

When a piece of the placenta is left behind, a woman often has to undergo a procedure called a D&C to scrape the uterus. Once this is done, the body will begin to produce milk, and mothers can begin to breastfeed their babies. She may need to continue to supplement with formula until her supply is high enough to be the sole source of food for her baby.

9 Advanced Age

Some mothers, who have children at an older age, may have problems producing milk. It’s not known for sure that milk supply is impacted by age, but many lactation professionals believe it is happening.

Colostrum, the substance you produce before actual breast milk is low in hat and high in carbohydrates, protein, and antibodies, usually comes in right after giving birth. Within in 72 hours, your full milk should come in, but if it doesn’t, you should let your doctor know. This is called delayed lactogenesis, and it can cause some infants to become dehydrated and lose weight. It may also cause mothers to give up on breastfeeding since they are frustrated that they are not producing anything.

Lactation specialists encourage older moms who experience problems in producing milk to not give up. They recommend women to have skin-to-skin contact immediately with their newborn after birth, and to frequently offer the baby her breast, even if she is supplementing with formula.

8 Extreme Stress

The amount of stress a mother is under can have a huge effect on her milk supply and ability to breastfeed. Extreme stress can cause frustration, inhibit letdown, and diminish the milk supply.

Stress levels don’t really affect the amount of milk a mom makes, but it affects the letdown of it. If the baby is sucking at the breast, and the mom is not relaxed, letdown might not happen. This causes both mom and baby to become frustrated and creates more stress. As this continues to happen, milk supply can become reduced.

Relaxation is the key to getting your milk to flow. Make sure you are drinking enough water, and keep some beside you whenever you nurse. Feed your baby in a quiet, warm room and try playing soothing music in the background. Breathe deeply before letting your baby latch on, and continue to practice slow breathing as she begins to suck.

7 Malnourished

When breastfeeding, a new baby needs the nutrients, protein, and energy that they will receive through their mother’s milk. Mom’s pass these on to her child through her diet choices, or from her own reserves. However, women who do not get enough nutrients in their diets, go through a process called maternal depletion. This can also be caused by repeated, closely spaced pregnancies.

During pregnancy, it’s important for a woman to eat more than usual to build up her supply of energy and nutrients to produce enough milk to pass them on to her newborn. If a new mom is not getting an adequate supply of food, she isn’t able to produce these essential nutrients, and her milk supply may suffer as well. Other risks associated with malnourished mothers are low birth weight, premature birth, and other complications.

A variety of things can cause malnourishment during pregnancy. Women in low-income families may not have access to nutritious foods, and some women lack the knowledge to follow a healthy diet. Certain health conditions, such as chronic depression can cause malnourishment. Also there are certain medications that could interfere with how the body absorbs nutrients.


Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is one disorder that can affect a woman’s ability to produce enough milk when breastfeeding. PCOS is common among women, and is an endocrine system disorder where women might have enlarged ovaries that contain follicles, which are small collections of fluid. They may experience prolonged menstrual periods, or periods that happen infrequently, extra hair growth, acne, and weight gain.

PCOS negatively impacts breast development, causing breast development to be incomplete. It also causes the body to be resistant to insulin, which the breast needs to help make milk. There are many women diagnosed with PCOS that have issues producing breast milk.

Women can manage PCOS during pregnancy with diet, exercise and supplementation. All of these will help the body to get ready for breastfeeding. Another way to build up a supply is by using herbs such as fenugreek, fennel, and blessed thistle. These herbs can often be found in dietary supplements and teas.

5 Sheehan’s Syndrome

Sheehan’s syndrome is a condition that happens when a mom loses an extreme amount of blood during childbirth – enough to cause a life threatening situation. It can also occur with women who have severe low blood pressure during the birth of their child or afterwards. The low blood pressure can deprive her body of oxygen, which can damage her pituitary gland causing Sheehan’s syndrome.

The pituitary gland is affected in Sheehan’s syndrome. This gland releases certain hormones into the system including Prolactin which stimulates milk production. Since that pituitary gland is affected, it does not release the hormones, leaving prolactin deficient in patients with the syndrome.

Other symptoms of Sheehan’s syndrome besides not being able to produce milk are infrequent or no periods after childbirth, exhaustion, weight loss, and hair loss from pubic or underarm areas. Women diagnoses with this syndrome can expect to take replacement hormones of the ones they are lacking for the remainder of their lives.

4 HIV And Other Conditions

There are some cases where it’s just better for both women and babies if the mom does not nurse her baby. For instance, women who have been infected with HIV are highly discouraged from breastfeeding as it can transmit the disease to their babies through the breastmilk. Also, women who are dependent on an illicit drug, or cannot control their alcohol intake should not breastfeed. Drugs and alcohol can travel through the milk into the baby, causing complications in the baby’s growth and development.

If a mom is going through cancer treatments such as chemotherapy or radiation, those drugs can severely damage the growth of the baby. The baby can ingest the drugs through his mom’s breast milk.

If you have any questions on whether or not it’s better to give your baby breastmilk, be sure to talk to your provider. It’s always best to be safe instead of sorry.

3 Galactosemia

About one in every 70,0020 babies are born with a disorder called galactosemia. Babies with galactosemia are lacking a specific enzyme in the liver that breaks galactose down into glucose. If they eat anything that contains galactose, it weakens their liver. Both mom and dad must have the galactosemia trait in order for their child to be able to develop the disease. The parents may not show any symptoms, or even know they carry the trait.

Babies who have galactosemia cannot have any type of galactose in their diet, and that includes breast milk. Most babies who are diagnosed with the disease are switched to a soy based formula.

Symptoms of galastosemia usually show up about three days after the baby’s birth. They include vomiting, poor weight gain, jaundice, feeding issues, enlarged liver or spleen, cataracts, convulsions, liver failure, and even mental retardation. If you have any concerns, you should contact your doctor.

2 Breastfeeding Jaundice

It is common for babies to develop jaundice during the first days of their lives. It’s a yellowing of the skin and whites of their eyes caused by elevated bilirubin levels in their blood. It develops when a baby’s liver cannot yet remove the bilirubin from the bloodstream. Once the baby gets older, the amount of red blood cells they have diminishes, and jaundice usually goes away. Sometimes light therapy is prescribed if they need extra help bringing levels down.

Breast milk jaundice is jaundice that continues after the physiologic jaundice is gone. Babies are otherwise healthy. Doctors do not know what causes it, but they believe it’s lined to a substance in the mom’s breast milk that stops the bilirubin from breaking down. If a baby’s bilirubin levels get up to 20 milligrams or higher, many doctors recommend mother’s stop breastfeeding. They typically supplement with formula at that time.

1 Tuberculosis

If you have been newly diagnosed with active tuberculosis, and are expecting a baby, you should be separated from your baby after he is born until you’ve had treatment for two weeks. You should also not breastfeed during that time. Tuberculosis is a very contagious bacterial disease that affects the lungs. Without proper treatment, there is a very high chance of death. People who have active TB include coughing – sometimes with blood, chills, fever, fatigue, weight loss, and night sweats.

The concern is not about TB being transferred by breast milk, but by respiratory dro0plets that travel when you couch. It may be awful to be separated from your baby, but it would be far worse to have your baby get tuberculosis.

Once the two-week period is up, you may begin to breastfeed your child. TB is not spread through breast milk, so there is no worry about the disease being spread to your newborn by breastfeeding. You should, however, discuss the medications you are taking for TB with your doctor before beginning breastfeeding.

Sources: American Pregnancy, Center for Disease Control, Baby Center, Breastfeeding Basics, Kelly Mom

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