It often happens that your plans of breastfeeding your baby do not go according to what you imagined. Things might get off to a good start, but before you know it, your baby is refusing to breastfeed and wants more and more bottles. It might also be that the mother has a rocky start to breastfeeding and decided to wean the baby off the breast, only to have second thoughts and want to bring the baby back to breastfeeding again. Many women believe that it is not possible to get a baby back to breastfeeding again after a period of not bursting. However, the process of relactation is possible, though it involves a lot of work, diligence, and determination. Let’s look at how to get your baby back to breastfeeding.
How to Increase Success with Relactation?
As you begin your journey to attempt to get your baby back to breastfeeding, a process known as relactation, it is necessary to understand that everyone is different and different babies respond with varying degrees of success to the efforts of relactation.(1, 2, 3) Some women are able to bring back the entire milk supply within weeks of trying, while for others, it may take a bit longer, still some others might not be able to get back to a level of full milk supply while attempting to relactate.(4, 5) However, there’s no need to feel disappointed as every ounce of breast milk matters, and that is what you should focus on when you are trying to relactate.(6) That said, there are several factors that can help determine how successful you will be at relactation. Some of these include:
- The better established your milk supply was before weaning your baby, the easier it will be to re-establish it during relactation.
- The younger your baby, the easier it will be to relactate. Mothers who have babies in the age group of three to four months have the greatest success rates with relactation.
- The more time you have to try to breastfeed and pump milk, the better it will be as frequent and effective pumping and breastfeeding is the most important physiological factor that promotes the success of relactation.(7)
- The more educated you are about how relactation works, the better will be your rate of success.
- The more interested your baby is in breastfeeding, the easier it will be to get your baby to breastfeed again.
- The more support you have from your family, friends, and doctors, the more likely you are to persevere with relactation and not give up the process.(8)
How Long Does It Take To Begin The Relactation Process?
As mentioned above, everybody is different, and everybody reacts differently to the attempts of relactation. However, it is likely that you can see some initial results between two to three weeks of trying. Many experts believe that the amount of time it takes to start relactating is about the same as how long it has been since you weaned off your baby from breastfeeding.(9)
According to an expert Nancy Mohrbacher and her book Breastfeeding Answers Made Simple, based on the studies available, full relactation can take around one month for most people.(10)
How to Induce Relactation?
The natural supply of breast milk waxes and wanes even when you are actively breastfeeding your baby. You may have noticed that it takes some time for the full milk supply to start and for the entire milk supply to stop completely, even after weaning of your baby. You might still be able to express some amount of milk, even after weeks or months go by since you last nursed your baby or pumped milk.
Breastfeeding is a flexible and fluid process, and it is necessary to have faith. If you have previously breastfed, it is usually easier to kick things off while attempting relactation.
The basic premise of how milk production works is that the more you breastfeed, the more the body will make. This is why the single most effective tip to follow when you want to relactate is to pump or breastfeed as frequently as possible.
Any stimulation of the breast, regardless of whether milk starts coming out at first or not, will naturally tell the body to start producing more milk. To get back to inducing a full milk supply, you should typically aim to nurse or pump at least 8 to 12 times in a day, or every two to three hours, at least once in the night.
It is important to again keep in mind that when you first begin relactating, you are likely to only see some drops or not much milk at all. However, if you keep pumping or nursing, you will slowly begin to see an increase in the milk supply within a week or so. Just remember to keep your patience.
Another factor to bear in mind is that not all babies will breastfeed weeks or months after getting weaned off. However, you might be surprised to see how happily many babies will try if you offer to breastfeed before bedtime, after a nap, or after a bath. Attempting to breastfeed during the skin-to-skin time will also help.
If your baby starts to show interest in breastfeeding again, here are some tips:
- Let your baby come to the breast naturally as frequently as they want to.
- Ensure that your baby gets well latched and takes in a good portion of the nipple and areola to begin to suck effectively.
- Do not stop supplementary milk. This is necessary so that your baby will continue to grow and develop while you rebuild your milk supply. Do not stop giving your baby supplementary milk until your breast milk supply has increased and is sufficient to keep the baby fully fed.(11)
- You should allow comfort nursing as much as your baby wants to. At first, you can think of giving breastfeed as snacks and then build it up to count for actual meals as your milk supply increases.
- You can consider using an at-breast nursing supplementer. This is a flexible tube that is attached to the breast and delivers milk while your baby nurses and simultaneously stimulates your milk supply.(12)
- Spend a lot of time in making the skin to skin contact with your baby. This increased the levels of prolactin, which in turn increases your milk supply.(13, 14)
However, in case if your baby is not interested in breastfeeding or is not breastfeeding often, here are some ways in which you can begin relactating:
- Pump your milk more frequently to make sure that you are able to meet your goal of stimulating and emptying the breasts in every two to three hours, or depending on your milk supply.
- Make sure that you have a pump that works well. You should typically consider renting a hospital-grade pump to get maximum effectiveness and increase your chances for relactation.
- Consider adding massage techniques and hand expression also to your pumping routine. (15)
- You can also consider the technique of power pumping. In power pumping, you pump several times in an hour for at least an hour or two in an attempt to stimulate cluster feeding. This works to increase the milk supply naturally.(16)
- In addition to pumping and nursing, you can also think about adding a galactagogue to the mix. Now, what is a galactagogue, you may ask. A galactagogue is an herb, food, or prescription medication that is believed to increase the milk supply.(17) Some popular choices include lactation cookies and oatmeal, along with herbs like fenugreek, goat’s rue, and blessed thistle. You may also consider drinking teas that have been made with such herbs.(18, 19, 20)
However, before trying anything new, speak with your doctor about what herbs are safe for you to have and about any potential risks and side effects of any supplements you are considering taking to boost your milk supply. Your doctor may even prescribe certain medications that help increase milk supply.
Tips To Bring Your Baby Back To Breastfeeding
Many women find that they need to increase their milk supply before they are able to get their baby back to breastfeeding again. If after your milk supply is back and you find that your baby is still reluctant to breastfeed, here are some tips that can help them get back to breastfeeding again:
- Spend more time in skin-to-skin contact with your baby while they nap. Many times babies will surprise you by latching on to the breast on their own.
- Try to breastfeed your baby when they are half asleep. This includes in the middle of the night or right after they wake up.
- Restrict the giving bottles and pacifies. Offer them the br3east for comfort at first, even if they are not able to get a tummy full of milk from you. Use supplementary milk to ensure they are fully fed.
- Try cup feeding or use slow-flow bottles so that your baby is able to get used to the slower flow of milk from the breasts while breastfeeding.
- Offer the breast while swaying, rocking, or walking.
- Squeeze a little bit of breast milk onto your nipple before giving them the breast.
Remember that it is important to be patient with your baby. Given enough time, most babies eventually come back to breastfeeding. However, if your baby is older, it may prove to be more challenging to get them back on the breast. However, if your baby never wants to fully breastfeed again, there is no harm in that. You can give them pumped milk from a bottle as well to give them the benefits of breastmilk.
- Victora, C.G., Bahl, R., Barros, A.J., França, G.V., Horton, S., Krasevec, J., Murch, S., Sankar, M.J., Walker, N., Rollins, N.C. and Group, T.L.B.S., 2016. Breastfeeding in the 21st century: epidemiology, mechanisms, and lifelong effect. The Lancet, 387(10017), pp.475-490.
- Rouw, E., von Gartzen, A. and Weißenborn, A., 2018. The importance of breastfeeding for the infant. Bundesgesundheitsblatt, Gesundheitsforschung, Gesundheitsschutz, 61(8), pp.945-951.
- Auerbach, K.G. and Avery, J.L., 1980. Relactation: A study of 366 cases. Pediatrics, 65(2), pp.236-242.
- Patwari, A.K. and Satyanarayana, L., 1997. Relactation: an effective intervention to promote exclusive breastfeeding. Journal of tropical pediatrics, 43(4), pp.213-216.
- Brown, R.E., 1977. Relactation: an overview. Pediatrics, 60(1), pp.116-120.
- Rogers, I.S., 1997. Relactation. Early human development, 49, pp.S75-S81.
- Lommen, A., Brown, B. and Hollist, D., 2015. Experiential perceptions of relactation: A phenomenological study. Journal of Human Lactation, 31(3), pp.498-503.
- Kayhan-Tetik, B., Baydar-Artantas, A., Bozcuk-Guzeldemirci, G., Üstü, Y. and Yilmaz, G., 2013. A case report of successful relactation. The Turkish journal of pediatrics, 55(6), p.641.
- Cho, S.J., Cho, H.K., Lee, H.S. and Lee, K., 2010. Factors related to success in relactation. J Korean Soc Neonatol, 17(2), pp.232-238.
- Mohrbacher, N. and Mohrbacher, N., 2021. My new book debuts: Breastfeeding Answers Made Simple — Nancy Mohrbacher. [online] Nancy Mohrbacher. Available at: <http://www.nancymohrbacher.com/articles/2010/7/10/my-new-book-debuts-breastfeeding-answers-made-simple.html> [Accessed 8 November 2021].
- Whitehead, R.G., PAUL, A.A. and Cole, T.J., 1982. How much breast milk do babies need?. Acta Pædiatrica, 71, pp.43-50.
- Norval, M.A., 1946. SUCKING RESPONSE OF NEWLY BORN BABIES AT BREAST: A Study of Fifty Cases. American Journal of Diseases of Children, 71(1), pp.41-44.
- Carfoot, S., Williamson, P.R. and Dickson, R., 2003. A systematic review of randomised controlled trials evaluating the effect of mother/baby skin-to-skin care on successful breast feeding. Database of Abstracts of Reviews of Effects (DARE): Quality-assessed Reviews [Internet].
- Karimi, F.Z., Sadeghi, R., Maleki-Saghooni, N. and Khadivzadeh, T., 2019. The effect of mother-infant skin to skin contact on success and duration of first breastfeeding: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Taiwanese Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 58(1), pp.1-9.
- Anderson, L., Kynoch, K., Kildea, S. and Lee, N., 2019. Effectiveness of breast massage for the treatment of women with breastfeeding problems: a systematic review. JBI Evidence Synthesis, 17(8), pp.1668-1694.
- Lansinoh. 2021. Power Pumping: How to Increase Your Milk Supply | Lansinoh. [online] Available at: <https://lansinoh.com/blogs/pumping/power-pumping-how-to-increase-your-milk-supply> [Accessed 8 November 2021].
- Breastfeeding Support. 2021. What is a Galactagogue?. [online] Available at: <https://breastfeeding.support/what-is-a-galactagogue/> [Accessed 8 November 2021].
- Khan, T.M., Wu, D.B.C. and Dolzhenko, A.V., 2018. Effectiveness of fenugreek as a galactagogue: A network meta‐analysis. Phytotherapy Research, 32(3), pp.402-412.
- Zapantis, A., Steinberg, J.G. and Schilit, L., 2012. Use of herbals as galactagogues. Journal of Pharmacy Practice, 25(2), pp.222-231.
- Rosalle, E., 2015. Milking the information: Resources on herbal lactation aids. Journal of Consumer Health on the Internet, 19(2), pp.93-99.
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