Re-Lactation and Induced Lactation: Breastfeeding After a Break or When You Never Have
Breastfeeding after a period of not making milk is possible! If you changed your mind and want to breastfeed your baby longer, or if you couldn’t breastfeed for a period of time because of illness or a needed medication - no matter the reason, you can breastfeed your baby again. Did you know that’s it is also possible to induce lactation if you have never given birth or been pregnant? Relactation is bringing your milk back after a period of not lactating. Induced lactation is making milk when you have not previously.
Keep in mind that the most important goal is that your baby is thriving and nourished. Even if you can’t provide your baby with 100% of what they need through your breast milk, any amount of breastmilk your baby gets is wonderful for them. As you are working on relactation or induced lactation, keep an eye on your baby’s output in terms of wet and poopy diapers. Regular weight checks are also a good idea. It is recommended that you work with a breastfeeding expert (such as La Leche League or an IBCLC) who has experience with relactation and induced lactation. They have the tools needed to help you to be successful. Sometimes, nothing is better than having someone sit with you and provide direct help while you are working at nursing your baby.
Make sure that you are eating and drinking enough to support lactation. Nursing mothers need more calories a day than you may realize. Make sure that you are drinking close to a gallon a day of clear liquids. Include pregnancy tea for the dense nutrient boost it will give you.
Adding supplements specifically designed to support lactation can be extremely helpful. Our Let there Be Milk! tincture combined with Nursing Nectar tea will give your body a big boost. These two products support digestion (helping you to absorb more nutrients), help you to relax, and directly aid in boosting your milk supply.
In an ideal situation, you could have your baby begin to nurse as often as possible throughout the day to directly stimulate your breasts to produce milk. If your baby is currently bottle-feeding, you could put baby to your breast toward the end of a bottle when the baby is fuller and more relaxed. Pumping is a good way to stimulate your breasts to begin to make milk. Even if you are only getting a tiny bit (or none at all!) of milk when you pump - keep at it! It is the repeated and continuous stimulation of a baby or a pump that tells your body to begin making milk. You can also use a supplemental nursing system to provide your baby with breastmilk or formula while you are working on building back your milk supply. Make sure that you are nursing or pumping at least every 2-3 hours throughout the day and every 3-4 hours at night. Spend at least 10-15 minutes on each breast during each session.
If your baby has been bottle-fed, sometimes they will not begin to breastfeed without some work. It is often much easier for a baby to bottle-feed than it is for them to breastfeed. With a bottle, the milk comes out a lot faster, and they don’t have to use their mouth and jaw muscles in the same way. Switching to a nipple that best replicates breastfeeding can be a good start. Make sure you are getting a good latch and that your baby is suckling for a good 10-15 minutes per breast (they may not nurse for this long at first, and that’s okay too). Breastfeeding has so many benefits, even if your baby isn’t getting very much breast milk directly from you, it is worth the effort! In the case of a baby who is having a very hard time latching, or a mama with inverted or flat nipples, a nipple shield can be a good tool as a transition between bottle feeding and breastfeeding.
If you have never lactated before and are inducing lactation, rent or purchase a hospital-grade pump if you can that allows you to pump both breasts at the same time. These pumps are designed to help you to establish a milk supply. Pump at regular intervals (at least every 2-3 hours during the day and every 3-4 hours at night) and for 10-15 minutes on each breast. You will most likely not see milk at first and that is okay! Keep at it. Once you have your baby with you, you can begin to use the above recommendations to transition your baby from bottle feeding to breastfeeding.
Spending as much time skin-to-skin with your baby is also a great way to tell your body to begin to make milk. Put your naked (but with a diaper!) baby on your bare chest, nestled between your breasts, as often as possible. You can use a carrier if you need to be able to be up and about in your home. If you are lying in bed, put a blanket over both of you to stay nice and cozy.
Re-lactation and induced lactation both take a lot of work. But you can do it! The rewards that breastfeeding bring to both you and your baby are worth all the effort. Even if you can’t provide 100% of your baby’s nourishment through breastfeeding, you are still providing them with the benefits of breastmilk and the closeness and comfort that they get from you.