Many people believe that once breastfeeding has stopped, it is impossible to get back to breastfeeding again, especially if your baby is now receiving formula.
The truth is, however, that it is possible to relactate, whereby your body starts to make milk again.
If you have already established your milk supply in the past, then your chances of relactating are strong.
Generally, the younger your baby is, the easier it is to relactate – but even for those babies who are a few months old, relactation is still possible.
Often, a lot can depend on the determination, time and commitment that you have, as well as your unique interplay of hormones.
However, any amount of milk that you make is fantastic for your baby.
In practice, some women who relactate make a small amount of milk, but every drop of milk will offer some protection to your baby.
So how do you relactate?
If your baby can come to the breast and is happy to attach again and to suckle, then bring him to the breast as often as you can, preferably every two to three hours.
Bring him to the breast for comfort, for warmth, to chill out, and also to get your supply established.
All of this will help to boost your supply.
Your baby is hardwired to feed at your breast, in the same way that you are hardwired to breastfeed your baby.
It was once thought that if babies were given too many bottles, then they would forget how to feed at the breast.
However, the truth is that your baby is hardwired to breastfeed. I
t can increase your confidence to know that with the right circumstances, your baby can start to feed again.
If your baby has been previously fed milk via a feeding bottle, which offers easy access to milk, he may become frustrated at the breast as soon as milk flow starts to slow.
If this is the case, you can use breast compressions, which is an excellent technique to push the milk out to your baby, causing your body to make more milk, as well as helping your baby receive more.
It’s also essential to do as much skin to skin as you can.
Strip your baby down to his nappy, lie him against your bare chest, while you recline back a little, and spend at least a couple of hours every day doing this.
Doing this will boost the hormones that make milk, particularly the prolactin hormone.
All of this will help to keep you both calm and connected so that your baby will have lots of practice latching and suckling at the breast again.
It will also encourage his natural pre-feeding behaviors and innate reflexes for latching.
If however, you find that despite the laid back positioning, skin to skin, and offering the breasts as often as you can, your baby is still not latching, you may need to consider using a nipple shield.
A nipple shield is a thin silicon shield that fits over the nipple and the areola area.
The nipple bit of the shield can act as a ‘super stimulus’ to aid the actual latch, and often babies who are not latching at all will latch with the aid of a nipple shield.
If, however, you find that even with these measures, your baby is still not latching right now, it is possible to hire a hospital grade double pump, which is an excellent device to encourage your body to make more milk.
If you find that even with the hospital grade pump, your body doesn’t appear to be making as much milk you would have expected, then consider other possible causes of low milk supply, and work on those things too.
As you start to see your breast milk volume increasing, you may wish to consider some alternative ways to feed your baby, particularly the use of a nursing supplementer.
This can be a really useful tool to keep all of the sucking at the breast, while your body starts to make more milk.
Using the supplementer ensures that your baby can be given a supplement at the same time as feeding at the breast.
Many women also consider the use of galactagogues which are any substances that can help to increase your milk supply – these can be foods, herbal supplements, or prescribed galactagogues.
However, only take them if you are doing ALL of the other things to boost supply.
Finally, seek out support while you are endeavoring to relactate.
This support could be from a skilled health professional, breastfeeding counselor, or IBCLC who can support you in your journey with this, but also from specific and positive family or friends who understand your reasons for relactating.
Be encouraged that every drop of milk you make will be of benefit to your baby.
Review dates, references & further resources
Version 1.1 published in March 2019. Next review date: Jan 2022
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