You might have thought your days of nursing bras and leaky boobs were behind you when suddenly life throws a curveball and you find yourself considering breastfeeding again. But if it’s been a while since you last breastfed your child, you might also be wondering if you even have breast milk left in there. So can you relactate for a toddler? You might be pleasantly surprised at the answer.
As for why a lady would want to start lactating again, you might decide to give your girls another go for a bunch of reasons.
“A person would want to relactate if her baby is not tolerating alternate milks or formula,” Leigh Anne O'Connor, IBCLC, a lactation consultant in NYC, tells Romper. “She may want to relactate if her baby is sick, since human milk has immunities that are unique to the breastfeeding as well as protective properties for general illnesses.”
And for some moms who wished that they had nursed longer, relactation gives them an opportunity to breastfeed once again and score that sweet connection with their kiddo. Plus, if you had to take prescription meds at some point postpartum, that could have conflicted with your ability to nurse. “Sometimes women want to relactate because the child is having difficulty with formula,” Andrea Tran RN, IBCLC, a registered nurse and lactation consultant, tells Romper. “And if the child is experiencing frequent illnesses or is being treated for a severe illness, the mom might want to try to boost the child’s immune system through breastfeeding.”
Now that you know the reasons why, is breastfeeding a possibility if you haven’t done it in eons? Absolutely, say the experts. “If a mom had an abundant supply before, chances are good she will have a good supply after relactating,” says Tran. “How successful she will be is often based on how long she has breastfed in the past — a woman who only nursed for a month or two will have a much harder time than a woman who breastfed for a year.”
To get things, um, flowing again, you can use a breast pump or have your child nurse at your breasts. “If the child gets frustrated, you can hook up a supplemental nursing system, such as a tube at the breast with milk or formula so that when she is nursing, she’s getting something,” advises O’Connor. “And at the same time, the mom is stimulating milk production.” There are even supplements you can take, both prescription and over-the-counter, that can boost your breast milk supply. Just speak with your doctor first so he can prescribe something that’s safe for you and your child. And before you know it, you’ll be blissfully breastfeeding once again.
Andrea Tran, RN, IBCLC, a registered nurse and lactation consultant
Leigh Anne O'Connor, IBCLC, a lactation consultant in NYC