When is Too Late to Start Breastfeeding?

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When is it too late to start breastfeeding?

Breastfeeding is a natural and beneficial way to nourish and bond with your baby. While many women start breastfeeding immediately after birth, others may have various reasons for not initiating breastfeeding or stopping it at some point.

The question arises: Is it too late to start breastfeeding if you didn’t begin right after birth or if you took a break?

This article will explore the possibility of beginning breastfeeding later and its challenges and benefits.

Starting Breastfeeding Later

The good news is that it is never too late to start breastfeeding. Whether you didn’t start breastfeeding initially or stopped for a period, there is still a chance to relactate and resume breastfeeding.

While factors may impact your ability to breastfeed and produce breast milk, many women have successfully relactated after a break.

The key is to approach the process with determination and seek support from a lactation consultant or healthcare provider.

Factors Affecting the Feasibility of Starting Breastfeeding Later

The feasibility of starting breastfeeding later depends on various factors. If you have never breastfed before or are starting after a long break, the process may be more challenging.

However, building your milk supply and breastfeeding is still possible.

Factors that can influence the ease of relactation include:

  • Previous breastfeeding experience: If you have breastfed before, your body may have a stronger memory of producing milk, making the relactation process easier.
  • Baby’s age: The younger the baby, the higher the likelihood of successful relactation. Babies under four months old have shown higher success rates in latching and breastfeeding after a break.
  • Support: Having support from healthcare professionals, lactation consultants, and family can significantly impact your success in starting breastfeeding later.
  • Understanding the process: Educating yourself about the relactation process and knowing what to expect can help you navigate the challenges more effectively.
  • Patience and perseverance: Relactation takes time and dedication. Being patient with yourself and your baby and persevering through any setbacks will increase your chances of success.

How Does Relactation Work?

Relactation is re-establishing your milk supply and resuming breastfeeding after a break.

It involves two main goals: stimulating milk production in your body and getting your baby to latch onto your breast.

By combining breast stimulation through nursing or pumping and practicing techniques to encourage your baby to latch, you can initiate the relactation process. 

Here are some strategies that can facilitate relactation:

Frequent Breast Stimulation

Breast stimulation is crucial for relactation as it signals your body to produce milk. Nursing or pumping as often as your baby would feed (8 to 12 times a day) helps create a regular breast stimulation schedule.

Aim for 15 to 20 minutes per session, switching breasts when the first one feels empty.

Consistency and regularity in breast stimulation will help your body produce an adequate milk supply.

Skin-to-Skin Contact

Spending time in close contact with your baby, particularly through skin-to-skin contact, can promote bonding and stimulate lactation.

Skin-to-skin time releases hormones that regulate milk production and increase the chances of successful relactation.

Consider incorporating skin-to-skin time into your daily routine to enhance the relactation process.

Supplemental Nursing Devices

Supplemental nursing devices, such as nursing tubes or supplemental nursing systems, can aid in relactation.

These devices allow your baby to receive formula or expressed breast milk while nursing at the breast.

They provide the necessary breast stimulation and help your baby associate nursing with feeding, encouraging successful relactation.

Medications or Herbal Supplements

While there is limited research on the effectiveness of medications and herbal supplements for relactation, some mothers have found them helpful.

A doctor may prescribe medications like Domperidone to increase milk production, while herbal supplements like fenugreek are believed to have lactation-enhancing properties.

However, consulting a healthcare provider before taking any medications or supplements is essential.

Expert Assistance

Getting guidance from a lactation consultant or healthcare provider experienced in relactation can be invaluable.

They can provide personalized advice, support, and troubleshooting strategies tailored to your situation.

Don’t hesitate to reach out for professional assistance during your relactation journey.

Flexibility and Adaptability

Relactation is a unique process, and what works for one person may not work for another.

Staying flexible and open to trying different positions, schedules, and strategies is important.

Adjusting your approach based on your baby’s cues and needs can increase your chances of success.

Benefits of Starting Breastfeeding Later

Starting breastfeeding later, whether after a break or never having initiated it, can offer numerous benefits for both you and your baby. Here are some advantages to consider:

Bonding and Emotional Connection

Breastfeeding provides intimate bonding and emotional connection between you and your baby.

The skin-to-skin contact and the act of nursing can enhance the bond and create a sense of closeness.

Starting breastfeeding later allows you to experience this special connection and deepen your relationship with your child.

Nutritional Benefits

Breast milk is designed to meet your baby’s nutritional needs, providing essential nutrients, antibodies, and enzymes.

By starting breastfeeding later, you can offer your baby the optimal nutrition breast milk provides.

Breast milk has been shown to support healthy growth and development, boost the immune system, and reduce the risk of certain health conditions in babies.

Convenience and Cost Savings

Breastfeeding offers convenience and cost savings compared to formula feeding. You don’t have to worry about preparing bottles or carrying formula with you.

Breast milk is readily available and always at the right temperature.

Additionally, breastfeeding can save you money on formula expenses.

Long-Term Health Benefits

Breastfeeding has long-term health benefits that extend beyond infancy.

Breastfeeding can reduce the risk of childhood obesity, asthma, diabetes, and certain types of cancer in both mothers and babies.

Starting breastfeeding later can contribute to your child’s long-term health and well-being.

Challenges of Initiating Breastfeeding at a Later Stage

While starting breastfeeding later is possible and beneficial, it is essential to acknowledge the potential challenges that may arise.

Here are some common challenges associated with initiating breastfeeding at a later stage:

Baby’s Readiness to Latch

Babies who have never breastfed or have taken a long break may be less accustomed to latching onto the breast.

They may need time to learn the breastfeeding technique and adjust to the new experience.

It is important to be patient and provide support to help your baby establish a proper latch.

Milk Supply and Production

Milk supply may be a challenge when starting breastfeeding later. If you have not breastfed for a significant period, your milk production may have decreased or stopped altogether.

Building up your milk supply may take time and consistent breast stimulation. It is important to be patient and persistent in your efforts.

Emotional and Psychological Factors

Starting breastfeeding later can evoke a range of emotions, including feelings of guilt or inadequacy.

Addressing these emotions and seeking support from healthcare professionals or support groups is essential.

Remember that every drop of breast milk you can provide for your baby matters, and your efforts are not in vain.

Tips for Successful Relactation or Initiating Breastfeeding Later

If you are considering starting breastfeeding later, here are some tips to increase your chances of success:

  • Seek professional support: Work with a lactation consultant or healthcare provider experienced in relactation. They can provide guidance, advice, and personalized strategies tailored to your situation.
  • Establish a regular breastfeeding routine: Aim for frequent breast stimulation through nursing or pumping. Consistency is key to signaling your body to produce milk.
  • Practice skin-to-skin contact: Spend time with your baby in close contact, promoting bonding and stimulating lactation.
  • Use supplemental nursing devices: Consider using nursing tubes or supplemental nursing systems to aid in relactation and help your baby associate nursing with feeding.
  • Stay flexible and adaptable: Be open to trying different positions, schedules, and strategies. Adjust your approach based on your baby’s cues and needs.
  • Take care of yourself: Prioritize self-care, including proper nutrition, hydration, rest, and emotional support. Taking care of yourself will positively impact your milk supply and overall well-being.
  • Celebrate progress: Acknowledge and celebrate every drop of breast milk you produce. Recognize that relactation is a journey, and every step forward is an achievement.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can my baby learn to breastfeed at three months?

Yes, it is possible for babies to learn to breastfeed at three months of age. While some babies may have been exclusively breastfed since birth, others may have been introduced to bottle feeding or faced challenges with breastfeeding initially. However, many babies can learn or improve their breastfeeding skills at three months and beyond with patience, support, and proper guidance.

How long after you stop pumping can you relactate?

Generally, the longer the gap since stopping pumping, the more challenging it may be to relactate. However, relactation is possible in many cases, even after a significant break. With proper techniques, consistent pumping or breastfeeding, and support from a lactation consultant, some mothers can reestablish their milk supply within a few weeks.

Is it possible to go back to breastfeeding after exclusively pumping?

Yes, it’s possible to transition back to breastfeeding after exclusively pumping. Offer the breast frequently, be patient, use nipple shields if needed, and seek professional support. With time and dedication, many mothers successfully make the switch.

Will pumping every 2 hours increase milk supply?

Pumping every 2 hours can help increase milk supply as it stimulates milk production. However, individual responses may vary. Consult a lactation consultant or healthcare provider for personalized guidance.

Wrapping it Up

In conclusion, it is never too late to start breastfeeding. Whether you didn’t initiate breastfeeding initially or took a break, relactation offers the possibility of resuming breastfeeding and reaping its numerous benefits.

While challenges may arise, with determination, support, and perseverance, you can successfully start breastfeeding later.

Remember to seek professional guidance, practice regular breast stimulation, and be patient with yourself and your baby.

Starting breastfeeding later can provide a special bonding experience and offer long-term health benefits for you and your little one.

The information provided in this article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Do not disregard or delay seeking professional medical advice because of something you read in this article.

Sources

Unicef UK (2023, April 21). Skin-to-skin contact. Unicef. Retrieved July 2, 2023, from https://www.unicef.org.uk/babyfriendly/baby-friendly-resources/implementing-standards-resources/skin-to-skin-contact/

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2021, July 27). Breastfeeding Benefits Both Baby and Mom. CDC.gov. Retrieved July 2, 2023, from https://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpao/features/breastfeeding-benefits/index.html

US Department of Agriculture (2021, July 27). Low Milk Supply. WIC Breastfeeding Support – U.S. Department of Agriculture. Retrieved July 2, 2023, from https://wicbreastfeeding.fns.usda.gov/low-milk-supply

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2021, July 27). Supporting Families with Relactation. Retrieved July 2, 2023, from https://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/breastfeeding-special-circumstances/supporting-families-with-relactation.html

Jackson, L., De Pascalis, L., Harrold, J., & Fallon, V. (2021). Guilt, shame, and postpartum infant feeding outcomes: A systematic review. Maternal & child nutrition17(3), e13141. https://doi.org/10.1111/mcn.13141

Author

  • Cam Russo

    Cam is a blogger, author, and content strategist with a keen love for the written word. His journey with high-functioning autism has kindled a strong advocacy for autism awareness. Today, Cam dedicates his efforts to educating parents. He sees laughter as a game-changer in learning, and strives every day to make education a fun and enjoyable journey for all his readers.

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Cam Russo
Cam is a blogger, author, and content strategist with a keen love for the written word. His journey with high-functioning autism has kindled a strong advocacy for autism awareness. Today, Cam dedicates his efforts to educating parents. He sees laughter as a game-changer in learning, and strives every day to make education a fun and enjoyable journey for all his readers.