Does Progesterone Really Increase Breast Milk Supply? The Truth

does progesterone increase breast milk

Many new moms struggle with low milk supply and want to know if progesterone can help increase breast milk production. We’ll explore the conflicting research on progesterone and lactation and provide tips to safely boost milk supply.

Progesterone and breastfeeding – it’s a controversial subject full of conflicting claims. While some studies suggest progesterone supplements can increase breast milk supply, others show no benefits. Before trying progesterone for low milk supply, learn the facts to make an informed decision. We’ll go over the research, explain how progesterone affects lactation, and offer safer tips to boost your milk production.

The Struggle is Real: Low Milk Supply in New Moms

The shrill cry of a hungry newborn pierces the midnight silence. Bleary-eyed, you scoop up your little bundle and bring them to breast, praying this time their tiny tummy will finally fill. But the familiar frustration sets in as your baby fusses and pulls away, unsatisfied. Defeated, you reach for the formula to quell those cries once again.

It’s a scene played out in bedrooms around the world countless times over. Up to 60% of new moms don’t make enough breast milk to fully nourish their infants. Yet every feeding guide and health agency strongly encourages breastfeeding – exclusively for 6 months, continuing for 1-2 years. No pressure, right?

For mothers facing low supply, the constant worry if your body can sustain this tiny human eats away at confidence. The mall teems with happy breastfeeding mothers while you hide formula purchases under baby blankets. You’d give anything to provide that liquid gold from your own breasts.

But solutions prove frustratingly elusive. You dutifully power pump every 2-3 hours. Oats become a diet staple. You down lactation cookies and tea, yet never fill more than a few ounces per session. Your baby’s failure to thrive weighs heavily on a heart already cracked open by new motherhood.

In desperation, any promise of increased milk offers a glimmer of hope. Perhaps this remedy will finally be the one that works. But in the confusing maze of contradictory claims surrounding breastfeeding and herbs, medications, and folk remedies, how do you know what’s safe, effective, and worth trying?

Progesterone is one such supplement said to augment breast milk supply. But does the science actually back this up? In this guide, we’ll dig into that question, scrutinizing the evidence on both sides. We’ll hear from mothers who struggled to nurse their babies, learn what impacts milk production, and equip you to make the most informed choices if facing low supply yourself.

While breastfeeding doesn’t always work out despite one’s best efforts, knowledge is power. Understanding all the factors surrounding milk production allows you to problem-solve issues and advocate for your own needs and goals – not those dictated by others.

The path of motherhood contains enough worry and self-doubt without adding unnecessary guilt over infant feeding. Whether your baby thrives on breast milk, formula or both, your worth and bonding capacity remain unchanged. But every woman deserves to make that choice armed with facts, support, and compassion.

Who’s Our Target and Why Breastfeed?

When a baby’s cries for nourishment go unanswered by their mother’s breasts, it signals perhaps nature’s greatest maternal failure. Or so popular messaging would have struggling new moms believe. In reality, low milk supply afflicts millions of women worldwide – across all cultures and socioeconomic lines. The ability to breastfeed stems from a complex interplay of hormonal, physiological, nutritional and emotional factors. When any part of this delicate dance falls out of sync, even the most steadfast maternal devotion cannot spur production.

While some women report abundant milk with ease, up to 15% of mothers experience primary lactation failure. Secondary low supply hitting after an initially smooth course strikes up to 30%.

This guide primarily targets mothers wanting to breastfeed who’ve run into biological roadblocks with milk production. However, any woman seeking to make informed feeding choices will find value in these pages. We’ll dig into how key hormones like progesterone influence lactation and examine ways to potentially remedy low milk supply.

But first, let’s recap why breastfeeding matters in the first place. “Breast is best” has become an oft-repeated mantra, but the science solidly backs up this advice. Mother’s milk provides immune support, nutrients, digestive enzymes and hormones essential to a baby’s growth and development. Nursing mothers experience benefits too like reduced postpartum blood loss, faster return to pre-pregnancy weight and decreased risks of breast and ovarian cancers.

The earthy intimacy of cradling your suckling babe, their trusting gaze meeting yours, cements the mother-child bond on a primal level. Perhaps these aspects explain why breastfeeding rates keep rising, with 84% of babies receiving some maternal milk at 6 months per recent CDC data.

However,nutrient delivery and immunity activation continue whether milk flows directly from the tap or originates in a can. Formula provides complete nutrition these days, and no evidence suggests it impedes bonding. Yet failure to lactate adequate volumes often leaves women riddled with shame and self-blame. This psychological anguish merits just as much attention as the physical impediments.

No mother should shoulder misplaced feelings of failure over a biologically normal situation. But every woman wanting to nurse their young deserves access to accurate information and practical tips to help them achieve this milestone.

Unlocking the Science of Milk Production

A bustling marketplace of pills, potions, and powders promises exhausted new mothers the elusive prize of ample milk supply. But before exploring any remedies, we need to understand the intricate hormonal dance governing lactation.

Becoming pregnant kickstarts a cascade of changes in progesterone and estrogen, the chief pregnancy hormones. Progesterone levels steadily rise, peaking in the third trimester at 10-20 times normal. Estrogen also increases but remains lower than progesterone throughout gestation.

This dominant progesterone presence inhibits milk synthesis during pregnancy. The high estrogen near delivery triggers the initial phases of milk production. But progesterone must suddenly plummet post-birth to trigger stage two lactogenesis and copious milk secretion.

When this handoff doesn’t happen seamlessly, problems arise. Preterm birth or retained placenta fragments can leave progesterone too high, delaying milk. Some mothers’ progesterone drops rapidly, but volume remains low. Why? Enter prolactin, the master milk regulator.

This pituitary hormone surges 10-20 fold in pregnancy’s latter half, priming mammary glands. Levels stay elevated after childbirth as prolactin’s main role kicks in – spurring milk synthesis. It rises sharply during nursing sessions in response to infant suckling. The more milk removed, the more prolactin increases to replace it.

But prolactin cannot perform alone. It needs cooperative receptors on breast tissue to transmit signals. Like a key slipping ineffectively in a lock, impaired receptor function blunts prolactin’s galactonergic effects. Stress also impedes prolactin flow. Yet pills to directly boost prolactin don’t exist.

Back to our potentially helpful progesterone. Remember, extremely low progesterone unshackles prolactin to maximize milk production. Some posit that bringing postpartum progesterone levels up closer to normal range may optimize receptor activity. Think of it as progesterone nudging the lock to help prolactin turn the latch.

Human studies investigating this are few, and results conflict. But an imbalance in the prolactin/progesterone ratio does seem to negatively affect milk synthesis. One study showed bringing progesterone back to fertile cycle levels enhanced prolactin signaling. But additional research is needed.

No concrete data yet proves direct cause and effect between modulating progesterone and increasing breast milk. But a hormonal assist may benefit some women struggling with supply. Working with a doctor to analyze your hormone profile provides insight on whether your ratios align optimally or stand out of balance. Seeking holistic ways to reduce stress also aids prolactin function.

Examining the Evidence on Progesterone and Lactation

The theory on how progesterone could potentially enhance breast milk production makes scientific sense. But does clinical evidence support using progesterone supplements to resolve low supply? Numerous studies have attempted to answer this question, but with conflicting results.

One of the earliest double-blind trials studied 34 mothers with persistent lactation failure after 7-10 days. Half received oral progesterone replacement for 10 days. The progesterone group saw milk volumes increase 169% on average compared to just 27% improvement in the placebo group.

However, a trial of similar design using nasal progesterone spray found no difference in milk production between the supplementation and control groups. The authors suggested oral dosing may be necessary for progesterone to effectively raise levels.

A 2006 study followed 46 women with secondary lactation failure starting progesterone after at least a week of low output. 85% of the supplement group regained milk supply, some abundantly. But the lack of placebo control raises questions.

More recently, researchers in Turkey had 50 mothers with inadequate breastfeeding starting progesterone or placebo within one day postpartum. The progesterone group showed higher prolactin levels and increased milk volumes at most measurement points in the 2-week trial.

Yet the most rigorous meta-analysis to date compiled data from 5 randomized controlled studies on progesterone for lactation support. The compiled data failed to show significant impacts on milk production or composition versus placebo.

Why the discrepancy? Variations in dosage, route and timing of administration as well as study size seem to influence outcomes. Larger trials tend to show less efficacy, hinting previous positive results stemmed from smaller sample bias. Milk ejection issues may also limit progesterone’s supply benefits for some women.

Overall, the pooled data cannot definitively confirm that progesterone bolsters milk quantity or quality. But analyzed individually, a subset of trials do suggest possible lactation benefits for some mothers. More research is still needed to clarify who might respond best.

Talking through these equivocal results with your provider gives perspective on your individual hormonal profile and lactation obstacles. If pursuing progesterone, closely monitoring for supply changes and side effects is wise. But safer methods with more certain outcomes should take precedence when addressing low milk supply.

Navigating Progesterone for Milk Supply

When sleepless nights and crying babies have you grasping at solutions for low milk supply, the temptation looms strong to believe progesterone is a miraculous fix. But while possible benefits exist, significant knowledge gaps remain. Relying on anecdotal accounts of success can cloud objective analysis of the evidence.

Progesterone likely plays a role in facilitating prolactin’s milk synthesis actions. But studies attempting to prove supplementing progesterone bolsters breast milk show inconsistent results. Some trials demonstrate meaningful gains in supply, while others show no difference versus placebo.

Oral dosing and earlier administration in the postpartum period may improve outcomes. But data cannot yet definitively confirm which mothers could benefit, optimal dosage, or duration of treatment. Well-designed large trials are still needed to address these lingering questions.

Seeking progesterone without medical guidance also raises concerns. Progesterone may interact with contraceptives or have side effects like fluid retention, nausea, drowsiness. Over-the-counter creams promise “natural” solutions but lack regulation. levels absorbed vary greatly with use.

The wisest course involves first exhausting safer lactation remedies under a doctor or lactation consultant’s care. Maximizing prolactin’s own mechanisms offers more assured ways to nurture production without medications.

Correcting anatomical issues like tongue-ties, allocating more time for efficient feeding and pumping sessions, skin-to-skin contact, massage, relaxation techniques, hydration, and optimal nutrition all support prolactin function. Exploring reasons for stress and seeking support aids milk ejection.

But if pursuing progesterone after a full lactation assessment, work closely with your provider to determine optimal dosage and duration tailored to your needs. Monitor for improvements after 3-7 days, adjusting the regimen per their guidance. Discontinue use if substantial increases don’t manifest within 2 weeks.

No mother should ever endure condemnation over breastfeeding struggles. Providing nutrition via formula or supplementation also fulfills your baby’s needs. But arm yourself with information to determine the best path for YOU – not to meet the ideals of others. Then walk it with your head held high knowing you made informed choices rooted in your child’s best interests.

Takeaways for the Breastfeeding Mother

As we reach the close of this guide, you hopefully feel empowered by greater insight into the science of milk synthesis and evidence surrounding progesterone. While research continues, key conclusions emerge:

– Low breast milk supply afflicts many women due to complex biological and emotional factors. Difficulty nursing does NOT make you a failure as a mother.

– Progesterone likely plays a role in facilitating prolactin’s milk production effects. But proof that supplementing it improves supply remains inconclusive.

– Safer remedies to optimize prolactin function like efficient nursing, skin contact, hydration and stress relief should come first in addressing low milk supply.

– If pursuing progesterone after a thorough lactation assessment, work closely with your provider to tailor dosage and carefully monitor results and side effects.

– Formula or supplementing also provides complete nutrition. Prioritize your child’s health and your own mental well-being over rigid feeding ideals.

While we still lack definitive answers on progesterone, you now have a compass to chart your course forward armed with insight. As you embrace the precious gift of nourishing a new life, remember that a mother’s love, not milk volume, sustains a child. Your worth stems from who you are, not what you can produce.

Here are some key resources to provide further support:

– Visit an IBCLC lactation consultant to identify underlying issues

– Seek counseling or join support groups to address emotional barriers

– Connect with other moms facing similar struggles (list specific groups)

– Talk to your OB, midwife, or PCP about your options

– Enlist partner support to optimize feeding sessions and relief

Final Thoughts

To all the mothers who obsessively counted ounces, fought frustration through each feeding, or secretly sobbed over every bottle – you are not alone. To the mothers who smoothly nursed round the clock – your grace gave hope on the hard days. To the mothers who chose a different path – you made the right choice for your family.

Our only hope as parents is to take the next step forward in faith, trusting we have everything needed for the journey. May you look back knowing you mothered well and loved completely. This is enough. More than enough.

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