Can a mother really have INSUFFICIENT or NO MILK

Infants who are not exclusively breastfed are 14 times more likely to die due to diarrhea, 3 times more likely to die of respiratory infection, and twice as likely to die of other infections than an exclusively breast-fed child. Hence, a mother’s concern of insufficient or no milk needs to be addressed with utmost care and empathy.

Did you know that only ONE in a thousand mothers may not be able to breastfeed. The so-called lactation failure is very very rare among mothers. So practically there is no such thing as insufficient milk or no milk, but unfortunately all the important people in a mother’s life including husband, mother, mother-in-law, pediatrician or even the newborn are ignorant of or refuse to accept this fact.

The complaint of “insufficient milk” is just a wrong perception of the mother, fostered by  :

  • Mother’s uncertainty about her capacity to feed her baby properly. New-age mothers do not have first-hand experience of seeing successful breastfeeding and cannot have enough conviction in the process. Even the slightest doubt or difficulty can be discouraging.
  • No knowledge about the normal behavior of a baby (who usually nurses frequently)
  • Negative opinions of significant persons -often in Indian households, mother or mother-in-law who has not breastfed her own children does not particularly encourage breastfeeding. Sometimes they induce doubts in the mother’s mind every time the baby cries or is uneasy.

The reasons why a mother feels that she has insufficient milk are because the baby cries often, wakes up frequently, demands frequent feeds, or is irritable.

It is important to discuss with the mother signs that enough milk is being supplied :

  • Weight gain of 500–1000 gm/month
  • passing urine at least 6–8 times/day is definitely getting enough milk

The following signs indicate that an infant is not receiving enough milk in the first weeks of life:

  • Weight loss greater than 10% of the birth weight, not regaining birth weight up to 2 weeks of life,
  • No urinary output for 24 hours,
  • Absence of yellow stools in the first week and
  • clinical signs of dehydration

Crying among babies is a natural response to express all kinds of feelings of discomfort. Colic pains, extreme heat or cold, blocked nose, new caregiver, unclean caregiver, time of the day, etc are some of the trivial triggers for crying in a baby.

Lactation insufficiency is a public health concern, as the use of breast milk substitutes increases the risk of morbidity and mortality among infants in developing countries, and these supplements are the most common cause of malnutrition.


Sultana A, Rahman KU, manjula SM  2013 CLINICAL UPDATE AND TREATMENT OF LACTATION INSUFFICIENCY. Medical Journal of Islamic World Academy of Sciences 21:1, 19-28,

Author: drpoojachhawcharia

Dr Pooja Chhawcharia is the Senior Nutritionist at eKincare with over 7 years of experience in Nutrition education, diet counseling and research. She is a Registered Dietician with the Indian Dietetic Association and Certified Diabetes Educator recognized by the International Diabetes federation . She is also interested in ancillary sciences such as Yoga and Naturopathy.

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