Are you feeding your baby breastmilk and formula (mixed feeding) but would like to exclusively feed your baby your breastmilk only?
Are you currently formula feeding but would love to breastfeed your baby?
Have you weaned your baby but would like to breastfeed again?
Have a read of the following two stories from women who have experienced low supply, mixed feeding and relactation. Both of these women are now breastfeeding their babies again without supplementing with artificial breastmilk or donor breastmilk. Just 100% of their own milk! Many women find it is possible to relactate AND build up their supply! It is even possible for women who have never been pregnant to lactate. Many women have induced lacation in order to feed their adopted babies.
Here are some basic tips to relactate, increase your milk and/or get your baby interested in breastfeeding…
1. You can start pumping if you find your baby does not want to breastfeed for very long, or is not interested in taking the breast. Since you are trying to build your supply back up or induce lactation again, it is important to pump frequently. If you can pump about every 2-3 hours that is ideal. At night you can go for longer between pumping but try to get at least one pumping session in per night. When you start pumping you might not get any milk at all or just small amounts, just keep going! Some women find it takes a couple of months to really get their supply going again, especially if their babies are not breastfeeding or are only occasionally breastfeeding. Women who have never lactated or have had an extended period of time since breastfeeding might find they do not build up enough of a supply to exclusively breastfeed BUT most women will at least be able to partially breastfeed their babies and many women will eventually be able to exclusively breastfeed their babies. Keep positive!
2. Directly feeding your baby from the breast is the most effective way to increase your supply or relactate. Offer your breast to your baby frequently when they are happy! Do not try breastfeeding when your baby is upset or irritated as it will be nearly impossible to latch them on.
3. Hold your baby SKIN-TO-SKIN as often as you can, in a calm relaxed environment (lying in your bed, in a comfy chair, carrying them around in a sling at home etc. etc.). This is an extremely important step. Although it sounds so simple, often this is how babies get interested in breastfeeding again.
4. Many women find that by doing these steps they start to see an increase in their milk. Some women find that by taking a galactogogue (a substance that increases milk supply), they are able to increase their supply even more. The important thing to remember is that an herbal or prescribed galactogogue will only work if you take it while actively trying to build your supply at the same time. You will not see an increase if you do nothing but take a galactogogue. Contact me if you have questions about this and would like to set up a consultation.
5. PATIENCE AND PERSEVERANCE! PATIENCE AND PERSEVERANCE! PATIENCE AND PERSEVERANCE! This is so important. Many women who keep persevering and gently encourage their babies to breastfeed while doing heaps of skin to skin with their babies do get results! It just takes a lot of patience, perseverance and time. It will not happen overnight. Support helps too. Ask for help with cleaning, laundry, cooking etc. while you focus on just being with your baby. Rest and just “hang out” with your baby. Do not have people over unless they are doing your laundry or cooking you dinner! 🙂
Now for some stories. The following two mums were generous enough to share their experiences. Hopefully you will find their stories inspiring!
After experiencing chronic pain due to side effects from medications she received during her cesarean and becoming addicted to pain medication because of it, Liz made the decision to stop breastfeeding her baby. She was devastated as she had attended breastfeeding meetings throughout her pregnancy and it was very important to her to breastfeed, yet she found herself in a situation where taking care of herself (and weaning her baby to do this) was vital to her well being. She was able to get off of every medication she was taking (including anti-depressants) and started to feel like herself again. She was able to focus on getting her milk supply back and getting her baby back onto the breast. Here is her incredible story to relactation and how she was able to breastfeed her baby girl again after having not breastfed her for over five months …
“As soon as I discovered that re-lactation was an option, I knew I had to try it. I couldn’t get back those months with my baby, but if I could nurse again, I believed I could put my pain behind me. I was not worried about my supply. I knew I would produce enough milk and in the off chance I didn’t, I knew every little bit I did was important for my baby. The problem was helping my baby remember how to nurse.
I pumped for a couple of months while trying the many wonderful suggestions from my friends at La Leche League. I took Fenugreek and ate oatmeal. I stayed well hydrated. I slept skin to skin with my baby, not only to help her remember to nurse, but also because just being close to your baby helps your body produce the hormones needed to make milk. I pumped in the middle of the night, when those hormones are highest. Progress in my supply was noticeable, but although Jane showed some promising early signs such as relaxing against me when we were skin to skin and even turning her head to my chest, she hardly noticed or cared about my breasts. My heart broke at her excitement to be given a bottle.
The SNS (supplemental nursing system) was a disaster for us. She would play with the tubes and not try latching, even with a nipple shield. She was too old not to find them entertaining. I must have tried it several times before I decided that if every session would result in a sobbing baby and me chucking the SNS across the room that it just wasn’t going to work for us. I had to figure something else out, not just to help her, but for my own sanity. I had to figure out something realistic that I could handle.
After doing some reading and talking to La Leche League some more, I found an article online which would end up being one of the most useful tips I came across. It was about re-lactation for adopted babies. As far as teaching baby to nurse, it reminded mothers that nursing is an intimate act that is part of the trusting relationship between Mom and Baby. It really resonated with me. I felt that my baby, in being abruptly weaned at a young age, then hardly being held close by her mother for two months, that I had to rebuild that basic relationship with her. I stopped worrying so much about every attempt to nurse but focused on just bonding with her through bottle feeding, diaper changing, and just everyday activities together. I promised her over and over that I would still love her as much as ever if she chose not to nurse again, but if she did that I would always be there for her, that she could trust me, that I was sorry about weaning her before and not being able to take care of her before. I would talk to her like this very calmly and softly at night before going to sleep, but often I would have tears running down my face in the dark.
Finally, we went on a long vacation and I needed to figure out exactly what I could handle while we were away. Just in time, I had an email from an old high school friend who is also an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant who reminded me that lots of skin to skin was most important. So I made a decision: I would do what I could on vacation, things that were working for us already, but focus on consistently continuing to a) keep my supply up by maintaining a pumping schedule, b) provide as much skin to skin as I could considering we would almost constantly be around relatives and c) “nurse” her during bottle feedings by putting her face against my bare skin (even if it wasn’t actually my breast) and looking at her and smiling at her like we were nursing. Even though by now she could certainly hold her own bottle, these were things that I knew I could do without going crazy on what was supposed to be a relaxing and enjoyable vacation. I also packed my nipple shield, just in case, but had no intention of using it. I just knew if an opportunity presented itself I would be sorry if I didn’t have it.
A week or so of our trip went by and Jane started exhibiting some strange behaviours. She started rooting on everything, my 8 year old cousin, my husband, even the bed. I saw her doing it from out a window when she and my husband were lounging outside on a blanket on the grass. I knew what she was looking for, even if she still didn’t. Suddenly I knew she would get it, and she would get it soon.
I had a bottle of breast milk ready for her nap, but when I brought her into the guest room, I took out the nipple shield and closed the door. By now I had enough of a supply that I was able to hand express some milk into the shield and offered her my breast while we lay side by side on the bed. On the third try, she latched on. I did not cry tears of joy, which surprised me. I just breathed a sigh of relief. I knew I only had about half the milk she needed for each day, but I knew the hardest part was over. She began nursing again, at 7 ½ months old, 5 months after the last time she nursed and about 2 months since I started the process of re-lactation. When she fell asleep I went straight to my husband with the bottle of breast milk, still full. It took him a second to figure out what it meant. Then I messaged my friend Meghan at La Leche League. As luck would have it, she was on her way to a leaders meeting, where everyone cheered at the news. I felt blessed with my wonderful family and friends and their support.
At first she would nurse at night and for naps (no more getting up to pump!). I started nursing her in the Ergo, too, and she took to that well. Within a few days it was obvious she didn’t need the nipple shield. We were walking all around New York City, her in the Ergo, my husband peeking in to watch her nurse, even more in awe of the sight than he had been when she was a newborn. It was even more miraculous the second time around. I stopped pumping almost immediately because I was so tired of it, but with good breastfeeding management I was up to a full supply anyway when she was about 9 months old. It was a struggle, but a worthy one, and not a day goes by that I am not grateful to have my nursing relationship back with my baby.
I am not sure how to close this up except to share my advice for mothers who wish to re-lactate. Be realistic, have hope, learn everything you can, try it all, and then use what works for you and your baby. It also helps to have a supportive friend and knowledgeable person on your side, as well as a supportive partner.
Thank you to La Leche League who taught me everything I needed to know, my friends and leaders Meghan and Megan, and all the other leaders in Salt Lake who were behind us every step of the way. I also wouldn’t have done it without my husband, whose complete faith and support helped me make it through the toughest days. And to my baby girl, for making me a Mother, the hardest but best job in the world.”
Here is Jemima’s story about re-building her supply after she realised her baby was not gaining weight. He was diagnosed as “failure to thrive” and was hospitalised for twenty four hours. The following is her story of how she got through it and back to exclusively breastfeeding a happy healthy baby!
It was my first pregnancy and we had planned for a home birth. After an intervention free pregnancy and feeling fantastic, I went into labour having no drama’s at all, except for some full on pain and Jack’s head getting stuck half out. He was then born a few hours later in an ambulance on the way to hospital and with an APGAR of 10 to the ambo’s surprise!
Baby Jack latched well and from what I thought also fed well from birth. Despite getting through some intense pain as my nipples desensitised, being on the boob seemed to be his favourite place so that’s where he spent much of his first 2-3 weeks. After visits from family at 3 weeks it was pointed out that Jack was ‘on the boob an awful lot’, ‘be careful not to get sore nipples’ and ‘maybe he needs to have a feeding routine’, I was just doing what seemed to keep him happy, but it got me thinking…. maybe they were right? So I started being mindful of timing feeds.
About the same time Jack very slowly started to have slight unsettled periods late in the day. At first they just seemed to be normal baby behaviour but they gradually became a bit worse. He had one or two periods in the day when he would just cry like he had intense tummy pains or what I thought looked and sounded like ‘colic’ (later found out they were hunger pains). I took him to some practitioners and said I thought he had colic. It also seemed liked he was gorging and swallowing air at the start of a feed (probably because he was so hungry). It seemed he was getting too much milk too quickly and the advice was to space feeds apart so he had time to digest, feed lying back and only let him feed for 20mins at a time. So we did this over a few weeks but he was still unhappy. He was also looking rather slim by now and because I had been hibernating and only looking at him every day I hadn’t noticed just how much weight he had actually lost (or not put on). When I weighed him he was only just over his birth weight at 8 weeks.
I am still not sure if I wasn’t producing enough milk from the start or by spacing and limiting feeds caused my milk supply to fall. Either way it made the problem worse and we ended up in hospital as a ‘failure to thrive’ baby. It was found that Jack simply wasn’t getting enough milk so I embarked on doing everything possible to increase my supply. This is when I met Meg. I didn’t want to feed Jack formula so with Meg coming into hospital to pump her milk for Jack and then other mums donating their milk once we were home again, I started taking Fenugreek, Domperidone (a prescribed galactogogue), had acupuncture, saw a chiropractor, ate heaps of good organic grass fed meats and fats, talked to lactation consultants, started pumping day and night with a heavy duty double breast pump and had Jack on my breast as much as possible, day and night. Jack immediately started to gain weight and ever so slowly my milk supply started to build up. It took about 4 months before Jack could rely 100% on me for milk and about 2-3 months to wean myself off Domperidone.
All the effort was so worth it in the end and now I am so glad I didn’t give up even when at times it seemed like I wasn’t getting anywhere. Jack is now a very healthy and strong 12 month old and I cannot give enough thanks to – Meg, Danielle and all the other mums that helped and supported me through this time.
Love, Jemima & Jack.