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Clinical features of insufficient milk supply

Last reviewed dd mmm yyyy. Last edited dd mmm yyyy

Authoring team

Suspect insufficient milk supply with the following symptoms:

  • in infants
    • wants to feed very often - more often than 2 hourly with no long intervals between feeds (1)
    • consistently feeds for less than 5 minutes or more than 40 minutes (unless low birth weight or newborn) (1,2)
    • is unsettled - baby cries a lot and seems to unsatisfied with the feeds (1)

  • in the mother
    • the breasts feel soft
    • unable to express her milk

The most common signs of insufficient milk supply are:

  • poor weight gain
    • there can be some weight loss for the first few days after birth but babies regain their birthweight by 2 week of age
  • low urine output
    • urine less than 6 times per 24 hours
    • especially the urine is dark yellow and strong smelling
  • in addition, passing sticky black stools (meconium) 4 days after birth is also an indication of low milk intake by the baby (1)


  • 1. World Health Organization (WHO) 2009. Infant and young child feeding. Model chapter for textbooks for medical students and allied health professionals
  • 2. Oxford Radcliffe NHS Trust 2008. Breastfeeding assessment form. UNICEF UK Baby Friendly Initiative

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