Re-lactation is the method of rebuilding the milk supply of a birth mother, which has decreased after weeks or months of not breastfeeding. Induced lactation is the process of stimulating a milk supply in an adoptive mother. If you are considering either of these processes, be sure to evaluate your feelings, goals and realistic expectations. You also should be in contact with professionals who are familiar with lactation, such as a lactation consultant.
Mothers try re-lactation for several reasons. If your baby has an allergy to formula or has a serious medical condition, he may need to return to breastfeeding. You also may want to try re-lactation if you were separated from your baby for an extended period or if you stopped nursing after having problems and want to try again.
The younger the baby and the more willing he is to take the breast again will contribute to a more successful experience. Re-lactation requires much time and effort. Before trying re-lactation, consider your daily obligations, other children within the home and your support system. It is very important to include your partner in this decision. The more supportive your partner, the easier it will be to overcome obstacles.
The milk-making tissues of the breast already have been developed for lactation by the time you deliver the baby and will need frequent stimulation and draining to re-lactate. To build up the supply, nurse at least every two to three hours during the day and night. Also, allow the baby to comfort suck at the breast; the stimulation will help increase the supply. If the baby needs to relearn how to suck at the breast or if he sucks weakly, you may need to pump after nursing to add more stimulation to the breasts. Drink plenty of fluids and eat nourishing meals and snacks. Enlist lots of help at home with the household duties and child-care so you have time to rest.
The time it takes to rebuild a milk supply depends on how long you have not been breastfeeding. If the baby has stopped nursing for a month and you decide to re-lactate, it will take at least a month to build up your supply.
Generally an infant younger than 3 months can be coaxed back to the breast. From 3 to 6 months of age the infant may need more time to relearn suckling at the breast. After 6 months, most infants will have a difficult time going back to the breast. You may need to use a supplemental feeding system to entice the baby to breastfeed again. The device holds banked breast milk or formula in a container with a thin tube. The tube is taped to the areola and the baby latches on to both the nipple and the tube. The supplementing device gets the baby to nurse at the breast and then the mother can reduce the flow gradually until the device is no longer needed.
Remember that breastfeeding is a two-person process, requiring you to have realistic expectations about the infant and yourself. Define what would be successful nursing and try to remain patient. The infant has been receiving bottles and may require much time to take the breast.
Women who did not give birth can still breastfeed. The primary organ involved with lactation is the pituitary gland in the brain. This gland produces the hormones that support lactation. Activity at the nipple stimulates the gland. A suckling infant or an electric pump or hand massage can accomplish this. Once you know when you will receive the adopted baby, you should begin a breast-pumping schedule. You can start pumping a few 10-minute sessions a day, working up to a session every two to two and one-half hours. Lactation will begin approximately four weeks after the schedule is started. If you don't have the necessary prep time before receiving the baby, you can still nurse him. The infant can be supplemented at the breast with a supplemental feeding system until lactation begins.
For best results, the infant should be no older than 3 months. The infant will take time to learn to suckle at the breast. You should understand that the milk supply may not be sufficient to nourish the baby entirely, but the infant can be breastfed at the breast along with formula in a supplemental feeding system. This enables you to both feed and nurture the baby at the breast.
Re-lactating and inducing lactation are great ways for you to build a unique relationship with your baby that benefits both of you, as well as the family members who support you.