We know that you want the best for mother and baby. Thank you for taking the time to read this.

When a mother struggles with low milk production, it has an impact on the whole family.  Thank you for everything you do.  It is possible that you are feeling helpless, frustrated or excluded, or facing challenges with holding the rest of life together while she works on nursing issues.  We know that your love, practical and emotional support will be what carries her through this difficult time, and that she will breastfeed longer and feel more satisfied by her experience.

A mother with low supply might be feeling a range of emotions including fear, frustration, loss of her dreams, guilt, shame, failure and rejection by her baby.  She might have heard that breast is best for her baby, and then feel like anything that isn’t breastmilk is bad and that is her fault. She is also incredibly tired, and her body needs to heal.  The transition to motherhood is profound and takes a long time. Perfection is impossible.

As the supporting person, it can be tempting to try to fix to the problem. You might want to tell her to give up, that all this time and effort is not worth it when it is causing so much distress. You might have used formula before, recognise that it is not a bad thing, and want to be involved in feeding the baby to give her a break. This is tricky territory. The suggestion to quit trying to breastfeed is rarely welcome and can add to the mother’s pain and sense of isolation.  Open communication and support are so important. Please help her to celebrate what she can do.

If you are not sure how to help, here are some thoughts from women who have been through it:

  • Please tell me “I am proud of any breast milk you can give our baby.”
  • If your loved one was training for a marathon and had a bad day, you would not tell them it was OK to give up. You would reassure and encourage them and tell them that they are doing a great job. Please do the same for breastfeeding.
  • Please tell me over and over that I am doing a good job, that I am enough. Tell me you love me and that baby loves me.  Tell me I am not broken.
  • Every breastfeeding journey is different. It may have been easy for you, it does not mean that it is easy for me.  If you fed formula because of low supply, it doesn’t mean that I have to.  Please let me decide.
  • Allow me to spend the time I need on this. I am putting in such monumental effort, and it is disheartening to hear or feel that it is not appreciated.

There is so much you can do practically that will make a huge difference. If you can, please give her plenty of opportunity to rest.  Any help with the household or other chores would be hugely appreciated, and if you cannot do it, perhaps you could arrange for someone else to help.  Providing nutritious food is important too.

Self care is going to be key, particularly if you are finding things frustrating and overwhelming. Do you have chance to grab some time for yourself? To exercise or relax a little? Venting your feelings with a trusted person could be a great way to decompress.

It is so important to keep communicating. When everyone can talk honestly about their feelings, there is much more chance of finding a balance that meets everyone’s needs.

Thank you again. We hope that this experience brings you closer to your family and deepens your bond.

(With a big acknowledgement to the ideas of Marasco and West in their fabulous book “Making More Milk” 2nd Ed.)