Can I use donor milk if I have low supply?

Yes, certainly. It is, however, important to know that ‘low milk supply’ is a misnomer of sorts. There are various reasons why a woman might have supply issues. These reasons may need to be looked at more closely in order to best support a breastfeeding relationship. Most of these issues can be resolved with the help of a lactation consultant and the support of loved ones. How a baby is behaving, how the breasts feel, how strong the sensation of let-down is, or how much can be pumped are not valid ways to determine whether there is adequate supply or not.

Some women have a condition called Insufficient Glandular Tissue (IGT) and it can interfere with lactation and/or lead to lactation failure. For women with IGT, donor milk is a good alternative to supplementing a baby. However, it is important to not jeopardize the possible existing supply because a mother’s own milk is so very valuable to her baby, and should be a priority even if there is only a small amount. A few measures can be taken to ensure the success of a future breastfeeding relationship. One of these is the use of an at-the-breast system as explained in ‘How do I feed the milk to my baby?’

Low supply can also be the result of a difficult or compromised start of the breastfeeding relationship and/or of the baby’s life (for instance after a cesarean section, a premature baby, postpartum depression). Support with (transitioning to) breastfeeding in these situations need special attention as there may be many emotions involved that could make this difficult. When possible, donor milk with the use of an at-the-breast system while working on stimulating supply at the same time, is a good alternative to supplementing a baby, especially when hoping to exclusively breastfeed in the future. Other feeding options can also be explored before taking recourse to a bottle.

Other causes of supply issues can include but are not restricted to: latching issues, tongue-tie,1 feeding on a schedule, bottle feeding/supplementing, medications, pregnancy, maternal illness, infant illness, nipple shields, pacifiers, sleepy baby, etcetera.2

Most causes of low milk supply can be corrected with assessment and timely help from a lactation consultant. Please see ‘Resources for support’ for support and referrals if needed.

_______________

  1. For information on tongue-tie see here. []
  2. Please also see this article ‘Protocol to Manage Breastmilk Intake’ for more information. []

Leave a Reply