Is it possible to go back to breastfeeding after you have stopped?
With so many moms working from home now during the coronavirus, breastfeeding feels like the easiest and healthiest option for their baby. But what if you weaned your baby within the last few months and are wishing you could start back up again? We talked with Kiinde IBCLC, Dominique, about the possibility of relactation or induced lactation for moms who might want to try to start breastfeeding again.
What is induced lactation and/or relactation?
Induced lactation is when a mother lactates, without having been pregnant. Relactation is when a mother has stopped breastfeeding – her milk has “stopped” – and then she takes steps to get the milk to start again.
What is the process for relactating?
Moms who want to relactate should start with pumping and/or using hand expression 8 to 12 times every 24 hours, for at least 15-20 minutes each time. This creates the stimulation that will trigger certain hormones to start the milk-making process again.
Can anyone induce lactation or relactate?
Yes, anyone can try to induce lactation. However, not everyone will be successful. This fact should not discourage anyone from trying, though! Some mothers will be able to get a full supply, and others only a partial supply, and others none at all, but you don’t know until you try.
Why should someone work with an IBCLC through this process?
An IBCLC will talk through your medical history with you to see if you are a good candidate for relactation. They will make sure your pump is functioning properly, and help you with the proper pump setting for maximum milk production, as well as making sure your flanges are a good fit, which is very important. Your IBCLC will work with you to set up a schedule as well, based on the output you are producing. If your goal with relactation is to have your baby breastfeed, they will help the parents with latching and transitioning from bottles while making sure the infant is being fed completely and safely.
Do you believe induced lactation or relactation is a viable option for those experiencing a lack of formula during this pandemic?
I do believe it can be a viable option, because if the mother is successful with it, even it’s only a partial supply, that’s less formula you will have to purchase and more antibodies and protection your baby will get. I think if parents are concerned, they should at least try and see what they can produce.
What resources are available to someone who may need help feeding their infant right now?
Some milk banks will allow you to purchase donated breast milk, and some food banks have formula. There is also the possibility of mother-to-mother milk donation, but just be sure to thoroughly screen your donor. If you are a part of the WIC program, you can check with your local grocery store to see if they can order formula specifically for you, or you can purchase directly from a formula company online. There is no need to “panic buy”, though – we want to keep the shelves full for everyone.
Any additional information parents should know?
The younger your baby, the greater your chances are at inducing lactation, and the fuller your supply will be. There are herbs and drinks that claim to help with boosting milk supply, but be sure to talk to your lactation consultant and/or your healthcare provider before starting these. Schedule waking up at night to pump, because this will move things along better. Also, moms are often reluctant to try hand expression, but it’s a great way to stimulate milk supply and encourage higher yield in lactation, even if it takes some work in the beginning.
My biggest piece of advice: Reach out to a lactation consultant for questions, help, and support! You can contact Kiinde’s lactation consultants at [email protected] Remember, you’re not in this alone, and sometimes simple tricks may make things that much better and move you that much closer to success.