by Heidi Green
June 21, 2012
Yes. Relactation—re-establishing a milk supply that has disappeared or diminished—requires the same three ingredients as initiating breastfeeding: a baby (to consume the milk), a breast (to make the milk), and a brain (to stimulate milk production).
To increase your baby’s interest in breastfeeding you will want to:
Here are some strategies that have helped other mothers:
Some mothers use a nursing supplementer when relactating, which allows their babies to suckle at the breast while drawing expressed breast milk or infant formula through a tube placed near the nipple. Others use a breast pump to help increase their milk supply, at the same time that they work on bringing their baby back to the breast. Still others find that it helps the baby to transition from bottle-feeding to breastfeeding if they bottle-feed their baby skin-to-skin as an intermediate step.
As you engage in the process of relactation, you’ll want to make sure that your baby is getting the nutrients he needs. Your baby will still require supplementary feedings—at least at first—to ensure that both his body and his brain continue to grow well and that he has the energy needed to breastfeed. If he is gaining weight well (4–8 ounces a week or 1–2 pounds per month) and breastfeeding at least eight times in each 24 hours, you can slowly reduce the amount of supplement while maintaining or even increasing the amount of time your baby spends at the breast.
Make sure to go slow, and check your baby’s weight, as well as the number of wet and dirty diapers he produces, to ensure that he is still getting the nutrients he needs for healthy growth.
You will probably want to consult with your baby’s health care provider for support and guidance during this process. You may also want to reach out to family members and friends, La Leche League leaders, or lactation consultants.
Relactation can go quickly or it can take many weeks. Some mothers are only able to eliminate the supplement entirely after their baby adds complementary foods to the diet at about 6 months of age. Regardless of how much or how little milk you produce, the end result is worth the effort.
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