There are several reasons why someone might hope to bring their milk supply back up and begin breastfeeding again. But is it possible to relactate after a period of not? Read more to find out!
Life doesn’t always go as planned.
You may have dreamed of breastfeeding, only to have issue after issue after your baby was born, which resulted in formula being a better option at the time.
Or perhaps you wanted to use formula from the start, but a few months in, you start to think, “Well, maybe I should have at least tried…”
Feeding decisions are personal and complex, and it’s okay to change your mind. But when it comes to breastfeeding, it’s not always as simple as just starting back up as soon as you have that pang of regret for stopping or not starting at all.
Bottom Line: It is never too late to start or restart breastfeeding. While there may be varying factors that will impact your ability to breastfeed and produce breast milk, many women have been able to successfully relactate after a period of not nursing. Let’s dive into this topic a little bit more.
If you want to start breastfeeding again, I recommend working with a lactation consultant to ensure you are going about it the right way and are supported. I offer virtual consults if you need it, which you can book here.
Is it too late to start breastfeeding?
Chances are, no, it’s not too late to start breastfeeding. The main reasons I would say it is too late to start breastfeeding are:
- Your baby absolutely refuses to latch, no matter what you do (you could still pump, though)
- You are pregnant (not impossible, but it would be more of a “dry nursing” experience and not really for nutrition)
- You are taking a medication that is incompatible with breastfeed
In general, the closer are to when you gave birth, the higher the likelihood is that you will be able to start breastfeeding again. Of course, this depends on the circumstances!
Can I start breastfeeding if I didn’t in the past?
Yes! If you started with formula from the beginning, it’s still possible to start breastfeeding. Again, depending on your baby’s age and personality, it may be trickier for some. Your ability to produce breast milk will depend on a few different factors as well.
If you stopped breastfeeding can you start again?
There is no clear answer to this question, as it depends on a number of different factors.
If you stopped breastfeeding your baby for a short period of time, for example due to illness or travel, then it is definitely possible to pickup breastfeeding again.
However, if you stopped breastfeeding your baby a longer period of time, such as several months or even years, it might be a little trickier. This is due to the fact that your milk has likely diminished or completely disappeared, your baby may not be interested in latching, etc. However, that doesn’t mean it’s possible !
Ultimately, whether or not it is possible to breastfeed again will depend on your individual situation.
What is Relactation
Relactation is the process of re-establishing a milk supply and beginning to breastfeed after a period of time. The length of time can vary, and it may take a few weeks or longer to re-establish your milk production.
Relactation and induced lactation are often used interchangeably, but they are not the same thing. Induced lactation is bringing in your milk without actually being pregnant, while relactation is a process that occurs when you were producing milk at one point, stopped nursing, and want to bring your milk back in.
This process can be accomplished through a variety of different techniques, such as breastfeeding, pumping, and a combination of herbs and hormones. The underlying goal of relactation is to build a milk supply in order to provide nutrition for an infant who was previously breastfed.
While this may seem like an impossible task for many women, with the right approach and dedication it can be done. Whether you want to relactate for your own child or you’re helping out a friend or family member, with the right approach and determination you can successfully build your milk supply and successfully nurse another baby.
So if you’re ready to take on the challenge, just remember that with sustained effort and patience, anything is possible!
Reasons you might want to start breastfeeding again
There are many different reasons why you might want to start breastfeeding again.
- You stopped because you felt really overwhelmed at the time and now that life has calmed down, you’d like to try again.
- You want to reap the benefits of breastfeeding, such as reducing your baby’s risk of developing asthma, diabetes, and obesity.
- You miss the emotional bond that comes with breastfeeding
- You want to provide your baby with the beneficial nutrients
- It is RSV and Flu season and you want to provide your baby with more antibodies to fight off illness
- You didn’t feel like you gave breastfeeding a fair shot
Whether you’re looking for physical health benefits or simply a deeper connection with your child, there are many compelling reasons why you might want to consider starting up your breastfeeding routine again.
Tips for starting breastfeeding with an older baby
When it comes to starting breastfeeding with an older baby, there are a few things that you should keep in mind.
For one thing, it is important to be patient and understanding. Not only might your little one need some time to adjust to the new routine, but they may also struggle with the physical aspects of breastfeeding.
This can make the experience seem overwhelming or even painful at first. If they have teeth, they might even bite if it’s something they aren’t familiar with (here are some tips on how to deal with a biting baby while breastfeeding).
Another key tip is to take things slowly and gradually build up your baby’s nursing tolerance. You want to make the breast a happy place and stop if anyone is getting frustrating.
You may also want to practice different positions and techniques so that you can find a position that works well for both you and your baby.
You should make sure your baby/toddler isn’t overly hungry or tired when you offer the breast. Offering a small amount of an alternative milk or food before nursing can be helpful.
Many mothers have had success with doing skin to skin and even taking a bath together to help encourage a peaceful, calming experience.
Ultimately, with a bit of patience and perseverance, you can successfully navigate the transition from bottle-feeding to breastfeeding with an older baby.
Can you latch an older baby who has never breastfed?
There is no definitive answer to this question, as every baby is different and there are many factors that can influence how successful a latch may be.
An older baby who has not yet experienced that connection may have a hard time learning to latch effectively and getting enough milk from the breast.
However, some babies pick it up right away. It might be helpful to use a supplemental nursing system to help give the baby a reason to suckle at the breast.
If you initially stopped breastfeeding due to latch issues, it’s important to make sure there isn’t an underlying reason behind this difficulty, such as an oral restriction.
I definitely recommend working with a lactation consultant to help your baby learn to latch.
Is it too late to establish breast milk supply?
There is no question that establishing a milk supply is best done in the early hours, days, and weeks after your baby is born.
However, that doesn’t mean it’s not possible to establish a strong milk supply later on. It will likely be a slower process, though some find that it picks right back up. If you had a lot of milk in the beginning, it may be easier for you to relactate.
One thing to keep in mind is that you should have realistic expectations and celebrate any successes you see.
As I mentioned earlier, women who have never been pregnant are able to induce lactation and make a good amount of milk, so if you used to produce breast milk, you’re at least in a position where you likely should be able to produce milk again.
How long does it take to relactate?
There is no had and fast answer to this. A lot of it can depend on how long it has been since you last breastfed. Some people say that it takes as long to relactate as its been since you last nursed (so if you stopped a month again, it might take a month to get back to where you want), however, I don’t think this is the most accurate measurement.
Most women are able to start seeing drops within a few days of starting to relactate. If you have nursed more frequently, it is even more likely.
Consistency is key! Here is some more information on relactation – The Ultimate Relactation Guide – How to Get Your Breast Milk Back
Can I start breastfeeding my toddler?
There is no simple answer to this question, as there are a number of factors that need to be taken into consideration.
There is no rule that says you can’t start breastfeeding a toddler when you haven’t before, but many feel like it can be confusing or overwhelming to a toddler (and mom) to start it up as a toddler.
Others claim that it may be too taxing on the mother’s body, especially if she is already a parent to other young children.
Ultimately, whether or not you decide to breastfeed your toddler is a personal choice that should be made based on what feels right for you and your family. You can certainly try it out and see how things go.
That said, if you do choose to breastfeed your toddler, it is important to pay close attention to your own mental and physical health during this time, as well as ensuring that your child gets all of their nutritional needs met through other means.
If you stopped breastfeeding and now want to start again, know that it is possible! Relactation takes time and patience, but it can be done with the help of a lactation consultant and by following a few simple tips. There are many reasons why parents might want to relactate their older babies, so don’t hesitate to reach out for support if you’re considering it.
Other articles you may enjoy:
- The Best Times to Pump to Increase Milk Supply
- Top 9 Best Lactation Supplements for Increasing Milk Supply
- How to Know When to Stop Breastfeeding: 10 Possible Reasons
- 14 Tips for Surviving Distracted Nursing