Thursday, 4 October 2012

So You’ve Given Up Breastfeeding...

I often have to sit and listen to assorted tales of woe from women who gave up breastfeeding because they had mastitis, cracked nipples, a c-section, the runs.

It seems that a large proportion of formula feeders are not happy with their choice. Statistics back this up: “Every year more than 200,000 mothers stop breastfeeding in the first few days and weeks – 90% of these mothers would have liked to continue” (The Guardian 2011).

Now of course, these women will swear blind that they did not give up breastfeeding due to lack of effort. Great! Because what I am about to suggest will require effort in spades

-          Relactation!

Restarting milk production is easier the shorter the gap since breastfeeding stopped - but it’s never too late. Breast milk is a flexible resource. Amazingly, it’s also possible to induce lactation when you’ve never given birth or ever been pregnant. So there really is no excuse ladies! Here’s how it’s done:

If you've never breastfed effectively your baby may take a while to figure out what to do. In that case you will need to rely mainly on pumping to get your breasts in working order. Once they are producing more milk, persuading your baby to latch on will be easier.

You’ll need to pump every two to four hours, day and night. Some women start to produce milk within  three weeks, while others may need six weeks or more. If you’re relactating, the rule of thumb states that it will take at least the same amount of time to begin lactating as has passed since you weaned, so if it’s been six weeks since you breastfed, it will probably take six weeks to fully lactate.

Try not to become discouraged if you have little or no visible milk production while pumping. There's something about a real baby, her smell or the feel of her in your arms, that jump-starts lactation like nothing else. Close your eyes while pumping and think about your little one. Creative visualization can affect your whole body.

Here’s my four-step feeding process for relactating:

1.   If possible, breastfeed for a few minutes to encourage the baby to associate the breast with feeding. Provide skin-to-skin contact as much as possible, this will stimulate you to release the hormones you need to make milk.
2.   Supplement the feeding with a supplemental feeding device (such as THIS one) that can be used while baby nurses.
3.   Cut out any other source of sucking; This includes a pacifier.
4.   Pump using a high quality breast-pump (Look for one that provides an automatic suction-release cycle that mimics your baby's suck; THIS is the best one - these hospital-grade pumps offer double pumping, are great for establishing a strong milk supply, and are perfect for the working mother).

Regarding step 2: initially you will need to carry on feeding your baby with formula until your milk supply has got going again. This is where the supplemental feeding device (SFD) comes in. A SFD is a device whereby your baby sucks formula from a small tube taped to your nipple, thus stimulating your milk production as he sucks (see image).

When the time comes to put your baby to the breast, you have to be patient. Many older babies are often a little reluctant to nurse from a breast at first, as they’ve been bottle fed and may need time to become accustomed to the breast.

Remember, if you want big things to change, you have to make big changes. Think positive: you can build up a milk supply once more. If adoptive mothers can do it, so can you!


Jen said...

LOVE THIS!!! Thank you! I am always telling moms who quit nursing but still have young babies that they can always relactate. I am going to start giving them your site to come to for info as a kick off point. Though, to be honest, not one has ever asked for more information.

Jordan and Melissa said...

This might be good for my second baby. I lost most of my milk from getting food poisoning when she was 3.5 months old. I couldn't even keep water down for 24 hours.... it just kept going after that and by 7 months my milk supply was pretty much gone. And during all that time I was taking herbal pills like Fenugreek, rubbing basil essential oil on, eating oatmeal, pumping after breastfeeding, pumping in between breast feeding, rubbing the breasts, I tried just about everything and I still couldn't gain ANY of my milk back. My doctor even said to try eating Frosty's from Wendys or the root beer shakes from A&W because the yeast they use is different and is supposed to help produce more milk. Still nothing. I wanted to buy those pills that are supposed to help, but I couldn't get my doctor to prescribe them since they are almost illegal to most states anyway. I don't know that this evidence can apply to every person. Every body is built differently, same with the hormones that they carry. Guess if I lose my milk with the second baby for some reason then I can give it a try.

Fantastikraft said...

my respect to any mama who re-lactates. that sounds like a lot of work.

Jami Miranda said...

so true Jen!! i tell mommas that ALL the time but they never ask for more info :(

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