Perhaps you left the hospital intending to feed your baby formula, but you now long to breastfeed, or your little one's system has proven intolerant to formula. Maybe you've been apart from your newborn due to hospitalization and your milk has already "dried up." Perhaps you got off to a poor breastfeeding start because you had an unusually difficult time healing after a c-section, or your baby "weaned" far earlier than you'd hoped. Maybe you're adopting and would love the chance to breastfeed. Read on! With a little know-how and lot of patience, you can indeed make—or remake—mother's milk.
Relactation and Induced Lactation
Relactation, the rebuilding of one's milk supply weeks or even months after lactation has stopped, or induced lactation, the production of milk from where there was none (as may be the case with adoptive moms), are both viable options for any woman eager to breastfeed.
But under these circumstances, the making of milk is a time-consuming undertaking likely to be fraught with moments of heartbreak, frustration, and worry—but many more, and more lasting, moments of joy, tenderness, and pride. A few dos and don'ts will get you through the worst of it and onto the best:
- Do it for the right reasons —not because you think you should but because you truly want to experience the unparalleled closeness of breastfeeding.
- Don't expect your milk to show up overnight.
- Do get the support of your family and doctors.
- Don't be discouraged by the need to supplement; recognize that supplementation, in the beginning and possibly throughout your breastfeeding relationship, doesn't at all diminish the importance of your commitment and the value of your milk.
- Do enlist the help of a certified lactation consultant (you can locate one through your hospital, La Leche League, or the International Lactation Consultant Association).
How it Works
Ideally, a woman's pregnancy prepares her body to produce milk, the experience of birth gets the milk "flowing," and her baby's suckling provides the demand that keeps the milk supply up. Though this may not have been the case in your particular situation, that doesn't mean you can't now make milk.
Prolactin and oxytocin, the milk-making and milk-releasing hormones, are pituitary (not ovarian) hormones. That means even a woman who's never been pregnant may be able to lactate, as may a woman who has had a hysterectomy. Both prolactin and oxytocin are produced in direct response to nipple stimulation by massage, breast pump, and baby's nursing. Most effective in stimulating your milk supply, of course, is your baby. So nurse as frequently as possible. Next to your baby, an efficient hospital-grade double-electric pump, used frequently (every two to three hours) for about 15 minutes a session, may be your ace in the hole.
How Much Milk Will You Get and When?
Be patient, as your milk may be painfully slow in coming. Don't be discouraged by mere drops after weeks of effort—where's there's any milk at all, there's likely to be much more! Look for other encouraging signs of success, including fuller, more tender breasts, nipples changing color, increased thirst, and changes in menstrual cycle or libido.
Don't fall prey to performance anxiety, as it will only hinder milk production. Rest assured that most all mothers are able to produce at least some milk, though the amount varies considerably from woman to woman. If you view supplementation as your ally in this process, you'll be much happier, more relaxed, and pleasantly surprised by all that you do make. Remind yourself that any amount of mother's milk will benefit your baby.
It's impossible to determine how long it will take to build your supply. It is known that the hormone level is naturally highest in mothers who delivered a baby within three months. So if you're a mom trying relactation within that 3-month window, you're chances for success are especially high.to be continued...