According to experts, it is NEVER too late to start breastfeeding. So, if you are wondering whether 8 weeks is too late to start breastfeeding, it’s not!! With little patience, persistence, and determination, you can start breastfeeding after stopping or even when breast drying up. Read on for tips and tricks.
Breastfeeding is hard. Even when you are fully prepared and determined to breastfeed your baby, it always doesn’t go as planned.
I read as much as I could about breastfeeding before the arrival of my baby but still could not breastfeed my baby for the first 8-10 weeks, mainly because he had a hard time learning to latch.
Frustration, anxiety, and postpartum hormone made me give up teaching my baby how to breastfeed in the first 8 weeks. I still insisted on pumping and feeding him breastmilk in a bottle rather than formula.
But it was extremely hard to keep up with pumping and caring for a newborn (at least for me!). It took a whole lot of time for pumping during days, and waking up for pumping every 2-3 hours was way beyond frustrating. Also, traveling with frozen breastmilk was another big concern.
It is then it occurred to me to start breastfeeding after stopping. I had done a lot of research, took help from lactation, took a breastfeeding class to learn that it is NOT TOO late to start breastfeeding even when you did not breastfeed for 1 week, 4 weeks, 8 weeks, 6 months, 9 months, or after your breast drying up.
This article will teach you how it is NOT TOO late to start breastfeeding after bottle feeding and after breast drying up.
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Can you Start Breastfeeding after Stopping?
Yes, absolutely. You can start breastfeeding after stopping. The process of restarting breastfeeding is called relactation.
Even after you have stopped breastfeeding for 3 days, 1 week, 8 weeks, 3 months or 9 months, it is possible to relactate.
Given the immune properties of breastmilk and the benefits that breastfeeding offers to both mom and baby, it is no wonder why moms want to give it another try.
If your initial attempt at breastfeeding didn’t go as planned due to lack of education, support, misinformation, or medical reason, it’s a great decision to start breastfeeding after stopping.
And if you ask me whether relactation is worth it?
I would say 100% worth it for your sanity because pumping takes a lot of time and energy, and trust me, once you get your milk supply back (fully or partially) and bring the baby back to the breast, there is no other experience like this.
Is 8 Week TOO Late to Start Breastfeeding?
No, 8 weeks is not too late to start breastfeeding. Actually, the younger the baby is, you have a higher chance of relactation success than the older babies.
If you couldn’t breastfeed your baby during the initial few days because you were separated from your baby at birth, or you choose formula over breastfeeding, or due to lack of information and support, you still have a chance at relactation at 8 weeks.
As long as you understand how relactation works, you will be able to re-establish your milk supply.
Relactation is a two-step process.
First, inducing or bringing back mother’s breast milk supply
Second, teach baby how to latch and feed through breast
Both the steps of the relactation process are interdependent. The more you feed a baby, the more breast milk you are going to make. So, when you stop breastfeeding your baby for a couple of days or a month, your milk supply decreases.
To understand the supply and demand cycle of breast milk production, check out this article on establishing and maintaining breastmilk supply.
Once you bring back your milk supply (we will talk about it in a bit), another challenge is to bring the baby back to the breast.
Because the baby may have been used to the taste of the formula if you have chosen to feed the baby with formula in the absence of breastfeeding, or feeding breast milk in the bottle also causes nipple confusion once you bring the baby back to the breast after a long break.
Even after all these challenges, it is 100% possible to restart breastfeeding if you haven’t breastfed in 8 weeks.
With knowledge of how relactation works, support from lactation professionals, lots of patience, and determination, you can successfully re-establish a breastfeeding relationship with your baby at 8 weeks or even months are stopping.
The research studies (1-2) also confirm relactation success with proper education and support.
A prospective research study published in 2018 included 64 mothers with initial lactation failure and low milk supply issues with infants less than 4 months of age with an aim to find out the success rate of relactation by proper counseling and support.
The study concluded that the relactation was possible in 100% of mothers. However, the chances of complete relactation depended on the duration of artificial feeding and whether or not they were bottle-fed (2).
This study may suggest that your success at relactation increases when you are well educated about relactation, have a younger baby, and get enough support.
And while it’s always not possible to restore the entire milk supply, partial milk supply is still plentiful for your baby’s development.
So, your success rate of relactation is higher at 8 weeks if you are determined to bring your milk supply back and bring the baby back to the breast.
Now let’s look at how to relactate, aka how to brings back milk supply and bring the baby back to the breast.
Tips to get Breast Milk Come Back after Drying Up
Breastfeeding is a supply and demand cycle. How often and how much milk you remove from the breast by breastfeeding or pumping (demand) is directly proportional to how much milk your breasts will make (supply). It is because of this reason; lactation professional recommends establishing milk supply right after birth.
But if you couldn’t build your milk supply initially, here are the tips to get breast milk back after drying up.
Offer Breast to your Baby Often
If you haven’t breastfed your baby in a while and not pumped in a long time, you might not have breast milk. But bringing the baby back to the breast, regardless of your milk status, will signal your body to produce milk.
So, offer the breast to your baby more often when trying to re-establish your milk supply. If you have a longer break before relactation, your baby might not be interested in feeding directly through our breast, but that’s okay. Your baby may eventually learn to feed on your breast with continuously trying.
Pump your Breast
Pumping frequently can help stimulate your milk supply when you are trying to bring back your milk supply. Frequent and efficient pumping strategies are your best bet when your breasts are dried up.
Pumping first thing in the morning, when milk-producing hormone – prolactin level is higher, will help establish and boost your milk supply. After that, you want to pump every 2-3 hours. Initially, you may not get anything, but that’s okay. Pumping is a skill, and once you do it more often, you will be better at it.
The most important thing to consider when establishing milk supply is frequently pumping ( do not miss pumping sessions!) even when you don’t get anything initially.
Power pumping is another strategy that will help you boost your milk supply once you start seeing an increase in your milk supply with frequently pumping for a couple of days.
Power pumping happens for one hour only once a day at the same time every day. You can do it for few days to signal your body to make more milk. This is how it works,
- Pump 20 minutes
- Rest 10 minutes
- Pump 10 minutes
- Rest 10
- Pump 10
Pump Both Breast Simultaneously
Research has shown that pumping both breasts simultaneously rather than one breast at a time saves time and increases milk yield. Simultaneous pumping was also shown to be associated with more milk ejections, more efficient and more effective milk removal, and improved drainage of the breasts. Use a double electric breast pump like THIS one to pump both breasts simultaneously (3-4).
You can also use this Silicon Hakka cup to catch leaking breast milk from the breast not being nursed on. So instead of the breast milk leak out into a breast pad, catch it using this silicon cup and add it to your freezer stash.
Breast compression is by gently squeezing your breast while breastfeeding or pumping to increase the milk flow. This method is great for encouraging your baby to suck actively with increase milk flow and keep them interested in feeding at the breast when you have a low milk supply.
Research has also shown that breast massaging combined with breast pumping can increase the amount of expressed milk (5). LaVie Lactation Massager works great for improving milk flow while breastfeeding.
Feed Baby When they are Half Asleep
When you are trying to offer baby breast after a break, they resist it. It is usual for babies as they are used to bottle or artificial ways of feeding. However, it will take time for them to adapt to the breast.
If your baby is resisting your breast, try offering them breast when they are in their light sleep cycle. They are more willing to take a breast at that time at night or just before they wake up in the morning.
Establishing milk supply and breastfeeding requires a good amount of energy. So, eat well-balanced meals and healthy snacks to meet your body’s nutrition needs. Breastfeeding moms need about 2,500 calories per day. So, to get that much-needed energy, include following in your diet.
- Eat at least a cup of whole grains like oatmeal, barley, millet, and quinoa.
- Include fruits and green leafy vegetables in each meal.
- Include Nuts and seeds like flaxseed, almonds, and sesame seeds in your diet every day.
Try Lactation Teas
Take Galactagogues Herbs
Galactagogues herbs like fenugreek, blessed thistle, brewer’s yeast, Anise, moringa can help increase your milk supply. You can find these herbs in supplement forms, and they work best along with your pumping schedule and breastfeeding your baby.
Increase your fluid intake
In addition to a healthy diet, drinking enough fluid is also important to establish your milk supply. Do not force yourself to drink more water but drink to thirst. Make sure you have your water bottle with you when you are pumping or breastfeeding your baby.
If you are not into drinking water, try beverages that will help boost your milk supply.
Try Supplemental Nursing System to Relactate
Supplemental Nursing System is essentially a tube device with a bag to hold breast milk or formula (worn around the mother’s neck) and a feeding tube (gets attached to the mother’s breast). You can fill the bag with breast milk or formula and attach the tube to your breast. The baby feeds through the tiny tube while still latched at the breast. This system will help stimulate your breast to produce more breast milk.
Many women have found success at relactation with Supplemental Nursing System. This system is worth trying if your baby is interested in latching at your breast, but you are not making enough milk to keep them interested.
Getting physical and emotional support is what you need the most when you are trying to relactate. Relactation requires lots of time and energy, and having a supportive partner at your side makes a huge difference.
Getting your partner to care for your baby (when he is available) while you pump is a huge help. I also encourage you to join a supportive relactation group on Facebook. Don’t just join any breastfeeding or pumping group. Find a relactation group, so you can connect with like-minded moms and get the encouragement you need.
Get Help from Lactation Consultant
I can not stress this enough to get support from a lactation consultant when trying to relactate. I had a great success to They can give you personalized advice based on your situation. They will help you with your pumping strategies and teach you how to bring the baby back to the breast and much more. Here is how you can find them in your area.
For Canada, Click here to find Lactation Consultant in your area
For the USA, Click here to find Lactation Consultant in your area
Reintroducing Breastfeeding After Bottle
Another important part of the relactation process is bringing the baby back to the breast. Once you take a break from breastfeeding and give the baby a bottle, they may prefer a bottle over your breast.
And it is a huge challenge to bring the baby back to the breast. The main reason why they prefer the bottle over the breast is the milk flow and nipple preference. Babies do not have to work hard to get milk from the bottle vs. breast.
That is why it is also essential to paced bottle feed baby. Basically, you hold the bottle at an angle (so the nipple is not full of milk) and let the baby suck the nipple of the bottle to get the milk rather than holding the bottle horizontally with a continuous flow of the milk from the nipple. Thus, it is easy for a paced bottle-fed baby to switch between the bottle and the breast.
If you are not paced bottle feeding your baby, you may want to try it. Here is a detailed article on paced bottle feeding.
Now let’s look at the tips for reintroducing breast after bottle-feeding or encouraging baby to breastfeed
Skin to skin contact
Skin-to-skin contact is recommended by a Lactation consultant when you want to stimulate your nipple. It also helps babies get used to being close to you as they may or may not be getting skin to skin because of bottle feeding.
Once you put your baby skin-to-skin, they naturally get drawn to the nipple if they are hungry. This is a great way to encourage the baby to come back to the breast. Skin-to-skin also helps breast milk flow freely by releasing a hormone called oxytocin, responsible for promoting milk supply.
Another way to keep your baby close to you is babywearing them. Co-bathing is also great for getting skin-to-skin with your baby and relax.
Use Nipple shield
If your baby resists breast because they are used to bottle nipples, try a nipple shield. You wear them at the breast when feeding to facilitate proper latch and then slowly take them off once your baby starts suckling. Check out the article on how to use a nipple shield here.
Feed them in a dark and distraction-free room
Once they get a little older, they start exploring things around them, and little noise is enough for them to disturb your breastfeeding session. So, do yourself a favor and feed them in a dark and distraction-free room. When they are relaxed and not stimulated, they are more willing to feed on a breast.
Express your milk on nipple before offering Breast
Hand express milk on your nipple at the start of nursing. It will keep them interested in nursing until your letdown starts. As mentioned above, breast compression also helps with your milk flowing during breastfeeding.
Also, offer your breast when they are in their light sleep cycle or just before they wake up in the morning.
Remain Patient and Positive
The hardest part of relactation for me was bringing the baby back to the breast after bottle feeding for weeks.
It might bring a lot of frustration when they start crying when you offer them to breast and shows no interest in latching at all. But getting frustrated will not take you anywhere, and the babies do sense your frustration.
So, be calm and take one step at a time. Try latching your baby at each feeding session before offering a bottle. Even if they latch for a few seconds, it’s a win.
Encourage them to take a breast by talking to them. I used to sing nursery rhyme while I was trying to get him to latch.
With consistent effort, he slowly started taking breast for a few minutes to 20 minutes a day. However, it took me almost a month and a half to make enough milk to breastfeed him exclusively.
Although, the timeline for relactation varies depending on your situation. When I started the relactation process, I had a low milk supply, and it did not take me a long time to re-establish my milk supply, but it took a long time to bring my baby back to the breast. So, depending on the situation, the time period for relactation varies.
It was no easy journey, but it was worth the effort at relactation. To keep me encouraged during the relactation process, I constantly read encouraging breastfeeding quotes and positive postpartum affirmations to keep myself motivated as a new mom.
When Is It too Late to Start Breastfeeding?
It is NEVER too late to start breastfeeding. Depending on how old your baby is and how long you have gone without breastfeeding or pumping, you may or may not fully bring back your milk supply, but bringing back a partial milk supply is still better for your baby’s development.
So, if you want to take a shot at relactation, you should certainly give it a try regardless of whether you haven’t breastfed your baby for 3 days, 1 week, 4 weeks, 8 weeks or even months.
Keep in mind that relactation is a long process, and it does take lots of time, determination, and patience. But with knowing how the relactation process works and support, you can succeed at relactation.
Is 8 Week TOO Late to Start Breastfeeding? – Conclusion
I hope this article has convinced you that 8 weeks is not too late to start breastfeeding. And these tips on getting breast milk back after drying up and reintroducing breastfeeding after the bottle has given you some ideas on getting started with your relactation process.
If you have any questions or concerns about the relactation process, do let me know in a comment below. And I highly recommend, if you can, take some advice from a lactation consultant before you try relactation. They can come up with a plan depending upon your status of breastfeeding.
Before you go, if you need help with re-establishing your milk supply, check out this online Pump It Up! class This course teaches you exactly how to pump to increase your milk supply.
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Seema, Patwari AK, Satyanarayana L. Relactation: an effective intervention to promote exclusive breastfeeding. J Trop Pediatr. 1997 Aug;43(4):213-6. doi: 10.1093/tropej/43.4.213. PMID: 283123.
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