Relactation tips: How to get your child back to breast
If your breast milk supply suddenly went down or never really started, then certain relactation tips can help you solve this issue.
For the first three months after my daughter's birth I was able to breastfeed quite easily. Luckily for me, she latched on without any difficulties and we enjoyed a beautiful bonding time together.
However, by the end of the fourth month my breast milk supply went down. The doctor suggested that I start formula immediately and as a first-time mum I did what I was told. This dried out my breastmilk in no time.
Even so, I was determined to make breastfeeding work again. So I consulted a lactation expert who suggested some relactation tips.
After just a month, I was back on track and still nursing (my baby is almost two years old).
What is relactation?
If your breast milk supply suddenly went down or never really started in the first place, why not try relactation techniques before considering other options?
These techniques kickstart the breastfeeding process, increase breast milk supply, help you produce milk for an adopted baby, and most importantly bring your baby back to the breast.
Just remember that this may take patience and a few days, perhaps even weeks, but if you are determined to breastfeed, this is the best way.
What are the most effective relactation tips?
Some of the most effective relactation tips include skin-to-skin contact, decreasing dependency on artificial teats as well as changing breastfeeding positions. But there's more you can try.
Let's take an in-depth look into all of these techniques.
- Hand express or pump: This is one of the most common methods to stimulate breast milk. Here, you pump or hand express about eight to 12 times per day, for a minimum of 20 minutes. This stimulates prolactin, which is the primary hormone for production of milk and it will help you pump three to four times a day and once or twice each night.
To fasten the process and for a more efficient drainage, you can also use a breast pump.
- Skin-to-skin contact: Making skin-to-skin contact with your baby will stimulate his natural feeding reflexes. You can also try bathing together, keeping your baby in between your breasts (just as you did when he was born).
You can also carry your baby in a sling to keep him close or sleep close to him. Do not worry about him immediately latching on, just give your baby some time and he will slowly but gradually come back to the breast.
- Avoid using bottles: Instead of using the bottle for all the feeds, you can try finger feeding (using a thin pipe to feed while letting him suck on a finger simultaneously) or the cup feeding (using a cup to feed) technique. This will break your baby's dependency on artificial teats.
If you cannot just break the habit of bottle feeding, you can also try to cover the bottle and keep it next to your bare breast. Or you can try nipple shield when your baby is not desperately hungry.
- Avoid using pacifiers: Do not encourage your child to depend on a pacifier for comfort. Instead, skin-to-skin contact and suckling is a good way to pacify your baby. This will encourage a good latch on the breast and make feeding an easier and faster process.
Also, try to keep your baby in a sling, especially when you are in the house. This way your baby has an easy access to the breast and his dependency on the teat will automatically increase.
- Try the sleeping baby latch: Sometimes a baby can latch on while still lightly asleep. Bring him close to your full breast and let him suckle on his own. It's better if you initiate a let down (of milk) beforehand. So that the minute your baby latches on, his reward is waiting.
Alternatively, you can also try hand compress so that the supply increases. But make sure to keep your fingers slightly away from his face in order to avoid waking him up.
- Switch from bottle to breast: A smart way to get your baby back on the breast is to try the bottle to breast relactation technique. When your baby is feeding with a bottle and it is half full, replace it with your breast.
It could be possible that your baby rejects it initially. But don't get disheartened and continue this, especially when your baby is nearly full.
- Try changing your breastfeeding position: Try new positions to help your baby latch on quickly. Laid back postures are a good way to begin. You can also try cross cradle and hold your breast as your baby nurses. Alternatively, side lying (feeding as you lay on the side with your baby's mouth facing the nipple).
A crucial thing to bear in mind while trying these relactation tips is to make sure you strike the right balance between a full and a soft breast.
Should I try relactation with a full breast of a soft breast?
While a soft breast will give your baby the opportunity to latch on easily, a full breast will make your baby feel rewarded and immediately satiated.
Also, if you flatten your breast or compress it slightly to fit into your baby's mouth, a latch can be easy. Once the baby starts to latch on, you need to be more careful about his feeds.
What should I do when the baby latches on?
When the baby is finally attached to your breasts and is comfortable breastfeeding, there are four things to bear in mind.
- Feed more for more milk: Once your baby has latched on well, give him the breast as a comforter as well as for nursing. This could be every two hours during the day and perhaps every four hour during the night. Remember that your prolactin levels (hormone that stimulates milk supply) is high during night time. So do not skip night feeds. And also feed with both breasts to keep up the milk supply and use compression if needed.
- Practice a good latch: Check with your lactation consultant to see which nursing position allows your baby to get a deep latch. Try different positions to know which is preferable for your baby. Is it the cradle hold, or the rugby hold or if he is comfortable lying down or in a cross cradle hold.
- Identify the need to pump: Pumping after feeds and even after your baby is able to latch on properly can further increase breast milk supply. If you are unable to pump or find it stressful, you can also try hand compression and stimulation as well as a breast switch.
- Keep the baby well fed: Ensure that your baby is well fed. Give him milk on demand and also in addition as a supplement from time-to-time. Also make sure to keep a tab on his weight regularly so you know he is well nourished.
All of these relactation tips can prove to be successful when a mother has adequate support and is self motivated. Her age, lactation gap as well as breastfeeding experience do not play the most important role in such a scenario.
Just remember that the younger the baby, the easier the latch.
Now lets talk about the milk supply and its composition.
What should I expect once the milk comes?
Once your milk comes you will notice the following changes in your baby's feeding demands:
- Your baby will depend less on supplements and formula as he gets more attached to the breast
- Sometimes a delay in the production may also lead to frustration and your fluctuating hormones may cause mood swings
- You may also notice a few changes in your menstrual cycle post delivery
Also, irrespective of when you nurse, the composition of your breast milk remains the same. It will still have colostrum, except for those mothers who were not pregnant and breastfed their adopted babies. In their case, the milk can taste like mature milk and lack colostrum.
However, in some cases mums may produce less milk.
So while some mums would be able to produce milk to their optimum capacity, others may not produce as much as the baby demands. In such cases, you would be advised to include galactagogues (breastmilk boosters) in your diet to boost and maintain milk supply.
How should I keep my milk supply up?
As mentioned in this article, you must include the following into your diet to ensure that your breast milk supply is up:
- Fenugreek seeds (methi), which is available as tea. It's commonly used by Indian mums to increase breastmilk supply
- Tumeric powder and turi leaves (both can be bought at Tekka market)
- Chinese herbs including Dang Gui and dates also improve your milk supply
- Filipina mums swear by malunggay. You can find it in speciality Filipino stores in Singapore.
- Green papaya and fish head soup as well as fish maw soup in your diet is also helpful. You can also have pig trotter soup
- Also include nuts like almonds, walnuts and dried figs as well as lactation cookies (consisting of one of these ingredients: rolled oats, brewers yeast, flaxseeds or fenugreek)
- Drink plenty of water and fluids all day
In addition to these dietary measures, you should also get a regular checkup and weigh your baby to determine proper nourishment.
Just remember that with these relactation tips, it is possible to produce milk and bring your baby back to the breast. Try not rush into anything and give yourself as well as your baby sometime to adjust.
Most importantly, if you have a supportive family and the right guidance this process can not only be fruitful but a great bonding experience for you and your baby.