While breastfeeding is a beautiful, natural process, it's not always easy. In fact, many nursing moms end up "quitting" before they're ready, and for a variety of reasons. Milk production, baby's latching issues, and even postpartum depression can interfere with breastfeeding. So if you've stopped nursing, but want to get it going again, know that you're not alone. In fact, wondering how to breastfeed after stopping isn't atypical. And, rest assured, it can be done.
According to Dr. William Sears, pediatrician and author of over 30 parenting books, breastfeeding after stopping is called "induced lactation" and, while difficult, is possible. Dr. Sears goes to add that even if you've adopted your child, it's possible to "trick" your mind and body into producing milk to breastfeed. The first step, Dr. Sears suggests, is to envision the milk to stimulate your hormones. The more you can imagine feeing your baby, the easier it'll be for your body to get into gear. Next, you'll need a breast pump (preferably a hospital grade double pump that you can rent), and begin pumping at least three times per day. Your milk should start coming in within a couple weeks.
If you breastfed previously, but stopped for whatever reason and are ready to get going again, your baby might've become more accustomed to the bottle. Sucking milk from a bottle is less work for your baby, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine, which means you'll have to do some convincing to get them back to your breast. Taking your baby to their favorite feeding spot, nap-nursing, and babywearing may help remind them how to breastfeed again, but patience is a virtue.
The website MotherLove.com states that in several studies, the rate of partial or full relactation ranged from 75 to 98 percent, with the caveat being those successful had help from trained breastfeeding professionals. They site goes on to add that, aside from help, your chances of success increase if you have "a younger baby, shorter gap between weaning and relactating (sometimes called a “lactation gap”), and a willingness of the baby to take the breast. "
According to experts, the process of starting breastfeeding after you've stopped has two parts: re-establishing milk supply and bringing baby back to the breast. That's why a solid support system is arguably the most important aspect, because it can be a slow, frustrating process. In addition to the above tips, experts recommend frequent feedings with a good latch, pumping after feedings (again, for a strong milk supply), making sure breasts are fully emptied (with breast compression, if necessary), a lot of skin-to-skin contact, and supplements. As always, you should always talk to your doctor before taking any over-the-counter supplemented or medicines.
Today's Parent says that, once your baby is back to breastfeeding, check their diapers to keep an eye on how much breast milk he or she is actually consuming. Watch for loose, yellow bowel movements in particular, as they will be able to tell you if they're getting enough milk. In the beginning, especially, you may need to supplement breastfeeding sessions with formula, to ensure that your baby is getting enough nutrients. By staying flexible and consistent, you'll be back to regular breastfeeding soon enough.
If you're doing all of the above, and still have issues, you can check out LowMilkSupply.org, a website dedicated to helping moms establish or re-establish milk supply. The site provides moms with advice from certified lactation consultants. If you're in need of in-person professional breastfeeding support, the International Lactation Consultant Association can connect you with experts in your area. Breastfeeding after stopping may not be an easy task, but once you get back to it, it'll be a rewarding one.
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