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I recently had a reader submit a question to my upcoming Breastfeeding Q&A Video sessions (you can submit your breastfeeding questions here!). This mother experienced challenges that caused her to stop breastfeeding. She has decided she wants to give breastfeeding another shot and asked about relactation.
There are many women who find themselves in a similar situation. For one reason or another they end up deciding to stop then restart breastfeeding. I have to say, there are many varieties of factors and various situations. Underlying causes of the original challenges need to be addressed with your lactation support provider. However, in many of these cases, relactation is possible and can be realistic.
I’m not going to go into the ten thousand possible scenarios. I will, however, share with you the basic strategies you can use to begin your relactation journey.
Please remember this post is for informational purposes only. Please discuss your specific case with your healthcare providers.
1. Put baby to breast frequently
If your baby will latch, putting her to the breast frequently will signal your body to begin producing milk again. The shorter the time between stopping and restarting, the better, but it never hurts to try!
Some mothers will start out by using the breast to comfort baby, instead of a pacifier. Others will offer the breast after a bottle feed. Others may utilize an SNS system, which we will talk about later in this post. The point is, finding ways to increase time at the breast is going to be the first step.
Skin to skin is so important in coaxing baby back to the breast. Snuggling skin to skin and even bathing together can create relaxed environments that encourage baby to latch. Try to keep nursing a happy experience for both you and baby, instead of a stressful one.
2. Breast Pumping
Utilizing a breast pump will be an important part of your relactation plan. To build a milk supply, it is imperative to increase demand on the breasts. There are various approaches to this plan. You could choose to pump each time baby feeds. You could choose to pump after each time baby latches. Or you could choose to pump on a specific schedule.
Check out my post on breast pumping tips and tricks here.
The cool thing with breast pumping is it is not only a method to increase your milk supply, but you can also start feeding whatever output you collect to your baby!
3. SNS System
An SNS is a Supplemental Nursing System. There are different products on the market and some can be improvised in your home or with your lactation consultant. The premise behind this device is that baby will latch to the breast and suckle while receiving nutrition through a tube taped to mom’s breast, and inserted in the corner of baby’s mouth.
The purpose of this device is to decrease bottle feeds, increase at breast feeds (therefore increasing stimulation to signal milk production), and ensure babe is receiving adequate nutrition at the same time.
4. Work with an IBCLC
Working with a lactation consultant will be a very important part of achieving relactation. As I said earlier, it’s important to assure any underlying causes of the initial challenges are addressed. Then, your IBCLC will be able to help you develop and modify your individual care plan as needed. She may help you decide whether or not there are any appropriate galactagogues to help you with milk production. (Note: galactagogues are foods, herbs, or supplements you ingest to increase milk supply. There is very little research in this field, and some popular “supply increasers” can affect milk supply negatively in some women. If you have supply issues, please consult a lactation professional, herbalist, and/or healthcare provider before introducing supplements to your routine.)
Your IBCLC will also be able to monitor baby’s weight to ensure he is still thriving during this transitional time.
It is important to note that relactation, while possible, is not necessarily easy. It does come with a strong emotional, physical, and time commitments. If you do choose to embark on this path, there is hope! It is realistic to resume breastfeeding! You might need to combo feed, or you could return your supply to a full supply and wean back to exclusive breastfeeding. The only way to know is to try.
Remember that breastfeeding is not one size fits all, and nursing is so much more than milk. It's a relationship. Even if your breastfeeding journey takes a path that you didn’t expect and looks different than you planned, there are still ways to enjoy the benefits of nursing.
I hope this post has given you a good idea of where you can start your relactation journey. If there are any moms out there reading this who have embarked on a relactation journey, please share your experiences so other families can benefit!
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