What are the factors that affect lactation?

Updated on: Jan 12, 2016

Childbirth complications as well as stress or certain medication can cause a delayed lactation. Other factors that may affect lactation have also been identified.

Lactation is a normal physiological response and occurs 2-5 days after birth. The breasts become very hard, warm and sensitive. This occurs when the placenta is delivered and with hormonal changes: there is then a rapid increase in milk production which passes from colostrum to a clearer bluish or yellowish white milk.

Several physiological or other factors may cause a delay lactation:

  • Childbirth complications (hemorrhage, cesarean, long delivery);
  • Part of the placenta remaining in the uterus;
  • Hormonal imbalance (thyroid gland, polycystic ovary syndrome, type 1 or type 2 diabetes);
  • Obesity;
  • Drugs (pitocin, fentanyl);
  • Stress / Anxiety;
  • Separation of mother and child (eg baby in intensive care).

A frequent breast stimulation seems to favor the earlier arrival of lactation. Moreover, good frequent breast stimulation reduces the discomfort associated with lactation and can prevent clogging.

While lactation may be delayed, some factors also affect milk production. For more information, see the following edition. If you have any difficulty with breastfeeding, consult a health care professional such as a lactation consultant, doctor or a nutritionist. They will help identify the factors that undermine breastfeeding and can offer solutions. See also “How do I know if I should consult a lactation specialist? “.


Riordan, J. (2004). Breastfeeding and human lactation (3e éd.). Sudbury, Massachusetts: Jones and Bartlett publishers.


Doré, N., Le Henaff, D. (2014). Mieux vivre avec notre enfant de la grossesse à deux ans.

Newman, J. (2011). Fiches d’information français.

Hôpital général juif de Montréal, Clinique d’allaitement Goldfarb. (2013). Production de lait réduite : Document à l’intention des parents.


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