If you have followed my journey for a while, you will know that I had severe anxiety attacks after my birth with Cameron (now 3.5 years old) and weaned him from breastfeeding at a mere 1 week old because of medication and advice from health professionals.
What followed was a lot of guilt and it made recovery from postpartum depression and anxiety even more difficult. I didn’t really know what options I had and am very thankful to a child health nurse who asked if I was aware of re-lactation. By this point, it had only been three weeks but Cameron was used to the bottle and my milk had dried up due to lack of stimulation and stress.
Thank goodness for Google and an open mind. I researched and read and questioned and researched some more. I found a lactation consultant at a free clinic and whilst she hadn’t had any experience with relactation, she was willing to seek advice and provide me with information. I shared my journey at my side blog: Relactater.
What is relactation?
In short, it is re-establishing breastfeeding after stopping, or after a period of very little breastfeeding. Another related process is induced lactation (inducing lactation artificially – typically for adoption).
How likely am I to succeed?
There isn’t a lot of research on relactation, but the studies that have been done suggest that, with proper support, most mothers can partially or fully relactate.
I was very fortunate. I was able to go from expressing a couple of drops of breast milk to a full supply AND get Cameron back to the breast. It took a month, and lots of determination and effort but it was well worth it.
After relactating I nursed my son until I was 12 weeks pregnant with my daughter (my supply dropped to almost nothing) and Cam was almost 20 months old. Since then I have received emails, sometimes more than one a week, with desperate mamas wanting to relactate but feeling lost and wanting to find someone who has successfully relactated.
So this post is for them.. and all the future mamas who need the help, guidance, information and support. You can always email me at racheous [at] live .com.au to chat. I’m not an expert, just happy to share my experience.
Top 10 Relactation Tips
1. Do not forget the importance of drinking water and resting.
2. You are going to need supportive family, friends and healthcare professionals.
3. Galactagogue medication (Domperidone aka Motilium) helps your breastmilk production immensely. In some countries, this is not available anywhere but online. In Australia you can see your doctor for a prescription and advice.
4. Galactagogue supplements such as Fenugreek and Blessed Thistle can increase your supply.
5. Get a hospital grade double breast pump. I hired one through the Australian Breastfeeding Association (ABA).
6. Speaking of pumping, remember the #1 rule of breast milk production: supply = demand. Therefore, you need to pump more frequently than your baby is feeding and pump through the night (yes, really)
7. Skin on skin time with baby has been shown to be effective in helping breast milk production.
8. You can consider purchasing a Supplemental Nursing System (SNS, or Lactaid in the US). This is a device that feeds the baby extra milk at the breast (rather than by bottle) through fine tubes connected to a container worn on a cord around the mother’s neck. This adds stimulation for milk production as the baby sucks and can help bring a baby back to the breast.A Supplemental Nursing System can be used with either formula or breast milk (including donated breast milk*)Ensure you get the help of a lactation consultant, as it can be fiddly and hurt the babies mouth if used incorrectly.9. Make some lactation cookies. At the very least, they are delicious! The cookies are high in omega 3 (through the eggs and the linseed/flaxseed meal) which is proven to boost breast milk supply. Brewers Yeast is also meant to be a milk supply helper, and is high in protein.Brewers Yeast and Flaxseed/Linseed meal can be found at health food stores. Add your own subsitution for chocolate if you wish – e.g dried apricots, mashed banana, almonds/cashews, coconut, etc.
10. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Relactating takes time and effort out of an already exhausting day of raising a baby. Accept help! Anyone supporting a relactating mama should consider: baking a batch of lactation cookies, bringing over a meal, offering to help with other children and/or baby. Every bit helps.
Keep in mind: It is difficult, but it may be so worth it!
I don’t just want to breast-feed my son; I want to breast-nurture him. – Rachel in 2010
The World Health Organization publication “Relactation: review of experience and recommendations for practice”
La Leche League (LLLI) page ‘Relactation’
Kelly Mom page ‘Relactation and Adoptive Breastfeeding‘
* I used donor breast milk for a few weeks while relactating. Lucy was also fed the breast milk of several generous milky mamas. I will do a separate post on this.
If you are interested in donating or receiving donor breast milk, Human Milk for Human Babies (HM4HB) or Eats on Feets are amazing organisations that help connect local families who have made the informed choice to share breastmilk.