Breastfeeding Struggle: Did I get it from my momma?

Breastfeeding Struggle: Did I get it from my momma?

Being able to produce a sufficient amount of breast milk for your child can be a challenging task for some mothers. While many can maintain an adequate supply, others struggle due to various factors such as diet, lack of sleep, and not feeding on demand. This raises the question: could your ability to produce enough milk be influenced by your family history?


Table of Contents

  1. Is Milk Supply Genetic?
  2. Genetically-Linked Factors Affecting Milk Supply
  3. Practical Steps for Managing Milk Supply

Is Milk Supply Genetic?

You might wonder if your ability to produce a sufficient amount of breast milk is influenced by genetics. While there isn't conclusive research to prove that genetics play a significant role, many issues related to low supply are often due to breastfeeding management problems or a "perceived" low supply. Studies have shown that perceived low supply is one of the most common reasons mothers give for discontinuing breastfeeding, even though actual low supply is rare.1

Genetically-Linked Factors Affecting Milk Supply


Diabetes can have a significant impact on lactation. Insulin, a hormone regulated by the pancreas, plays a role in lactogenesis, the initiation of milk supply. Mothers with diabetes may experience delayed onset of lactogenesis and are more likely to supplement with formula due to perceived insufficient milk supply.2

Insufficient Glandular Tissue

The amount of glandular tissue in the breast can influence milk production. Some women may have insufficient glandular tissue due to genetic factors, which can result in low milk supply. Characteristics of insufficient glandular tissue include tubular-shaped breasts, wide-spaced breasts, or asymmetrical breasts.3

Flat or Inverted Nipples

Flat or inverted nipples can make breastfeeding more challenging but not impossible. The shape of the nipple can affect the baby's ability to latch properly, which in turn affects milk transfer. While this is not directly related to milk supply, poor latch and ineffective milk transfer can lead to a decreased supply over time.4

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

PCOS is a hormonal disorder that can affect various body systems. It can interfere with lactation by affecting the glandular tissue in the breast. Women with PCOS are more likely to experience insufficient milk supply and may require interventions to improve milk production.5

Thyroid Issues

Thyroid hormones are crucial for lactation. Both hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism can affect milk supply. For example, hypothyroidism can result in low milk supply, and treatment with thyroid hormone replacement can often resolve the issue.6

Practical Steps for Managing Milk Supply

Consult a Lactation Consultant

A qualified lactation consultant can provide a comprehensive assessment of both the mother and the baby to identify any issues affecting breastfeeding. They can offer tailored advice and interventions to improve milk supply.7

Increase Frequency of Feedings or Pumping

More frequent stimulation of the breast, either through feeding or pumping, can often increase milk supply. This is based on the principle of supply and demand: the more milk is removed from the breast, the more the breast will produce.8

Maintain a Positive Mindset

Psychological factors can also influence milk supply. Stress and anxiety can inhibit the let-down reflex, making it difficult for milk to flow. Relaxation techniques and a supportive environment can help improve this reflex and, by extension, milk supply.9

Dietary and Lifestyle Changes

Certain foods and herbs, known as galactagogues, are believed to help increase milk supply. However, their effectiveness is not universally supported by scientific evidence. It's always best to consult with healthcare providers before making significant dietary changes.10


  1. Breastfeeding Management Problems
  2. Diabetes and Breastfeeding
  3. Insufficient Glandular Tissue and Breastfeeding
  4. Flat or Inverted Nipples and Breastfeeding
  5. PCOS and Breastfeeding
  6. Thyroid Problems and Breastfeeding
  7. Consulting a Lactation Consultant
  8. Increasing Breast Milk Supply
  9. Maintaining a Breastfeeding Relationship
  10. Galactagogues and Breastfeeding
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