Can a mother go back or start breastfeeding after lactation has stopped?
A mother may have several reasons for not breastfeeding her baby immediately — a difficult labor or c-section, discomforts in the initial breastfeeding sessions, baby was left in the hospital — whatever the reason, a mother may still re-establish producing breast milk and re-lactate to breastfeed her baby.
I have met mothers who, after eight weeks of ‘decreased milk production’, still wanted to breastfeed their baby. Some wanted to breastfeed because they were told that they ‘should’. Others just wanted to bond with their baby. I often advise mothers who want to re-lactate that breastfeeding is always a choice and not because you ‘have to’ as family and friends pressure you to.
Although it may be difficult and time consuming, re-lactation is still possible. As the process does not happen overnight, the mother may still have to give her baby formula milk as a supplement. This may frustrate the mother and cause her stress. But if the mother does it for the right reasons — because she wants to bond with her baby or her baby is intolerant of lactose — then I could work with the mother.
It always helps if the mother gets support from her husband, family and even doctor as she goes through this long and slow process.
A mother’s hormone level is at its highest within 3 months of delivery. Prolactin and oxytocin, the milk-making and milk-releasing hormones have to be stimulated through breast massage. The best stimulant though, is still baby’s sucking/nursing.
The breast pump should also be used frequently, every 2 to 3 hours per day for about 15 minutes to 20 minutes maximum per session. Do this regularly, and if possible, keep to a schedule. Once baby starts to breastfeed, pump your breast after every feeding to further increase milk production.
Seek guidance from your doctor and follow doctor’s advice to get lots of rest, avoid stress and avoid or eliminate caffeine and alcohol. Eat properly and take lots of water (3 to 4 L/day).
Also seek your doctor’s advice if you have to take any drugs or medication (including allergy medications, contraceptives, hormone replacement therapy) as these may affect your ability to produce milk.
You may also want to take Fenugreek (diabetics, please seek the counsel of a physician before taking) and Blessed Thistle or brewer’s yeast to help in lactation.
How to train baby to breastfeed again?
Ofcourse it is easier to train a few weeks old baby from the bottle to the nipple; but longer for a few months old baby. A baby feeding from the breast sucks harder and thus works harder. Expect the baby to be reluctant at the beginning. The key is to make the change gradual and gentle for the baby.
In training the baby to breastfeed again, it is important that the mother NOT be the person to bottle feed the baby; the father, grandparent or nanny could bottle feed the baby in a cradle position. Position the baby in a way that the baby turns toward you to take the bottle.
For the mother, try offering the breast to the baby before bottle feeding. The mother should also spend time cradling the baby, letting the baby feel your bare chest and letting the baby smell you.
Another method is using a supplemental feeding system like Medela’s Supplemental System (SNS). For mothers with tight budgets, I recommend using a *tube feeding system, which has the same effect as SNS. With this tube feeding system, a nursing bottle with supplemental milk/formula is used along with a small discreet tube which is taped to the mother’s breast; the tube extends just beyond the mother’s nipples. With this method, the baby is nourished/sucks at the mother’s breast with formula or donated milk while stimulating your breast to increase milk production.
Be sure that a pediatrician closely monitors your baby’s weight to know if the baby is gaining or losing weight.
*Other source: video of lactation nursing aid of Dr. Jack Newman, MD