Truth or Myth: Are there women who can’t breastfeed at all?

A. The percentage of women who physically cannot make enough milk is very low.

Not being able to breastfeed is a common reason some women give for not breastfeeding.  We cause interruptions in breastmilk production when we start intervening with breastfeeding, often because of lifestyle decisions. For example, a well-meaning relative may urge a breastfeeding mom to sleep through the night so they can help feed the baby. To a sleep deprived mom, it sounds too good to pass up (and trust me I have been there!). But if her body is not getting signals to make milk as it does when baby is nursing, her body will reduce the amount of milk it makes. Many moms would think that means they are not able to produce milk, but rather, she was not giving her body the signals it needs to make the milk.

Another example is a mom who supplements with formula. Again, if her body is not putting out as much milk as it normally would because a feeding is replaced with a bottle of formula, her body will not make as much in response. So, while her body physically can produce the milk, she is interrupting her body’s natural functioning and in response, her system is responding by making less milk.

There are women who can’t breastfeed. There are certainly examples and situations in which a mom is taking medication that is counter-indicated with breastfeeding or needs to not breastfeed for another reason. Our bodies more often than not are programmed to make milk. It is when we interrupt the process that issues can occur.


Gina Ciagne is a Certified Lactation Consultant and director of professional relations for Lansinoh.

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