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 THISone) 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; THISis 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!