When my first child was born, I knew breastfeeding was for me, and luckily my baby girl adapted immediately without any latching difficulties. Unfortunately, my breasts seemed to have trouble producing enough milk, and after a few months, my baby was not getting enough to eat. I was young and didn't know any better, so when the doctor suggested that I supplement breastfeeding with formula, I just did what I was told. As a result, my milk dried up completely, and my daughter was formula-fed from then on.
With my second child, I was determined to make a go of breastfeeding again. A few months of nursing went by, and once again, my milk production started to slow. This time, I sought the help of a licensed lactation consultant, who helped me use relactation techniques to increase my milk supply. As a result, I successfully nursed my daughter without trouble for a couple of years. But then I started to feel pressure from family and friends to wean my daughter; I eventually succumbed to that pressure, even though neither I nor my child was ready to wean. The abrupt change in our breastfeeding schedule caused my milk to stop flowing, but worst of all, we were both unhappy. After a couple of months, I found the strength inside myself to try breastfeeding again. I went back to my lactation consultant to brush up on the relactation techniques, and I was able to get my milk flowing again. I ended up nursing my child until she was almost 4 years old. Weaning the second time around was easy because we were both ready for it.
Could Relactation Help You?
If your breast milk stops flowing, or never started in the first place, certain techniques can help you increase your milk supply. These techniques can help if you want to breastfeed again after stopping, increase the production of your milk, or even start producing milk for an adopted baby. According to La Leche League International, you do not need to have ever been pregnant in order to begin producing breast milk.
La Leche League says, "Adoptive mothers may be able to induce lactation by using a breast pump every 2-3 hours, either before the baby comes or after. Some also use a device, such as the Medela Supplemental Nursing System or the Lact-Aid Nurser Training System. These both enable you to feed your baby while he is at your breast. This way, your baby gets enough milk while stimulating your body to produce your own milk."
When your nipples are stimulated through pumping or nursing, it increases production of the hormones that help your breasts make milk. I used this type of supplemental nursing device when I needed help to restart my own milk flow, and it worked like a charm.
According to a study in the Journal of Tropical Pediatrics, approximately 92 percent of women taking part in the study experienced full relactation after using stimulation techniques. However, everyone's situation is unique. Issues that could affect your relactation success include:
- Nipple anatomy: Some women have inverted or damaged nipples that need special care.
- Age of your baby: Older and adopted babies may take longer to start breastfeeding, especially if they have never nursed before.
- Special needs: Babies with cleft palettes, Down syndrome or other special needs can take a little longer to restart nursing.
- Support: Having a circle of supportive friends and family can give you the motivation you might need to keep going.
Above all, if you start with a strong desire to breastfeed, that strength can help make your relactation a success for both you and your baby. Begin by consulting with a licensed lactation consultant to discuss your specific situation. She can help you find out why you have trouble producing milk and can teach you how to increase milk supply with a supplemental nursing system.