Relactation is known as the process by which lactation is re-established after having stopped for a period of a few weeks or months. It is needed when lactation has to be induced in order to breastfeed a child, who has been born by surrogacy, is an adopted child, or a partner’s child. It is also applicable in instances of a medical procedure or illness or in case breastfeeding is not successfully established after birth. It can also take place if a parent who has previously lactated wishes to feed an infant, for example, in same-sex relationships or marriages involving transgender folks. Relactation may be needed in other cases as well, especially if an infant does not tolerate formula or in case there is a desire to feed during a natural disaster or outbreak of a disease.
While this may sound intimidating, it is totally possible. According to Dr. Aditi Tandon, Gynaecologist at Chicnutrix, relactation can be done with patience, time, good support, determination, and most importantly, the right kind of advice. It may not always be easy, and may or may not work for you, but in most situations, it produces enough supply to meet the needs of the baby. If the supply is not adequate, the baby can always be offered formula or donor milk.
Ensuring Successful Relactation
Success depends on how long ago lactation stopped. This means that the amount of time it takes to relactate is equal to how long it has been since breastfeeding has been stopped. The younger the baby, the easier it will be to resume breastfeeding, and the baby will be more likely to resume it. Babies under three months will be the most willing and babies under six months will be less willing, while those babies who have been breastfed previously will be more willing than those who are not.
Breastfeeding works on a demand and supply basis, so the more the milk is removed by feeding or expressing, the more the production will be. In order to start relactating, you need to start nursing eight to 10 times a day, including two times at night for 20 to 30 minutes. Offer the breast every two to three hours, with nursing on both sides. In case the baby does not latch well, you can express either by manual expression or using a breast pump which will help stimulate production and express milk. Using a double electric breast pump is an effective way to express breast milk.
Until the supply is adequate, the baby can be on formula or donor breast milk between feeds, but you should continue to put the baby to the breast before and after feeds for as long as the baby is willing. This helps improve the milk supply and can also be used to pacify instead of using a dummy or pacifier.
Improving Milk Supply
To improve the milk supply, breast massage, and nipple stimulation can additionally help. This will send hormonal signals to switch the production of milk back on by the release of the prolactin hormone. Breast massage also called breastices, and nipple stimulation needs to be done for five to seven minutes on both breasts twice a day. Most women prefer to do this before going to bed and in the morning after waking up.
- Skin-to-skin contact, even while not breastfeeding, also helps improve the supply.
- One must also learn to recognise a deep latch, which also improves the supply and is not painful.
- It is important to fully empty both breasts completely while feeding or pumping. This not only improves the supply, but also avoids breast engorgement, breast infections, or plugged ducts.
- You may additionally need medication like domperidone to establish supply for which you would need to consult your health service provider.
- Certain herbs like Moringa, Goats Rue, and Shatavari can help in improving the milk supply. These herbs can be consumed after consulting a lactation expert.
- For the right advice, get support from a lactation consultant or find a local support group where you can discuss all your questions.
You will know whether your baby is getting sufficient milk when they are peeing at least six times a day (six wet nappies in 24 hours) and pooping at least two times per day, as well as if the baby is gaining the recommended weight. What is most important is to be motivated and patient. You may not start producing milk immediately, and this is exactly when you should not give up. Some women take days, some take weeks before there is a significant increase in their supply. Everyone responds differently, hence, it is difficult to provide a time frame.
Relactation may be a time-consuming process and at times also be difficult, but it definitely is possible. With the right support, information, and dedication, it works for most women and is worthwhile, even if the supply is not adequate. Breastfeeding offers many health benefits to the baby and the mother and is also the best way for bonding with your baby.
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