Induced Lactation and Re-lactation

bonding, induced lactation

What is induced lactation?

This is when a woman who has never had a child, induces lactation by stimulating milk production. A woman will usually do this if she plans to breastfeed an adopted baby.

What is re-lactation?

This is when a woman who has stopped breastfeeding, starts to stimulate milk production to resume breastfeeding again.

learn more about the re-lactation process here. 

What is partial re-lactation?

This is when a mother who is breastfeeding an older child, wants to increase her milk supply to breastfeed an adopted baby.

tiny baby, small baby, newborn baby

Possible Reasons for Re-lactation

  • The baby may not be tolerating formula very well.
  • The baby is getting sick too often or developing allergies. 
  • The mother was told or assumed that she had a low supply when she, in fact, didn’t. She then might have started to feed baby supplements and in turn lowered her milk supply, which leads to her stopping altogether. She might later decide that she wants to re-lactate and try again. 

Possible Reasons for Induced Lactation

  • To ensure that the adopted baby does not fall ill. 
  • The mother may feel that she wants to use breastfeeding to bond with her adopted baby. 

Re-lactation Statistics

    50% of mothers can establish a full milk supply, within a month of re-lactation. 25% take more than a month to establish an ample supply, and another 25% have to supplement with donor milk or formula. 

Inducing Lactation Statistics

Women, who have been trying to induce lactation for longer than 6 months, usually produce between 50 – 100% of baby’s nutritional needs via breast milk. Those women who have had less time to prepare, usually only produce enough milk for about 25 – 50% of baby’s milk needs. 

Things that Influence Success

  • Support from family, friends, and society as a whole. 
  • The baby’s ability and willingness to breastfeed and remove enough milk from the breasts. Lots of skin to skin contact is essential. 
  • The time and effort the mother is willing to devote to re-lactate / induce lactation. 

How to Induce Lactation

  • Some women find it comforting enough just to have their baby suckle on their breasts, without having to provide all of their baby’s nutritional needs. 
  • It is vital that the mother prepares long in advance if she would like to build a good supply for her baby. 
  • The process of induced lactation will usually start with the introduction of oral contraceptives, which will make her body produce certain hormones.
  • She will also start to take Domperidone. Six weeks before the birth of the baby, the birth control pills are stopped and pumping, Domperidone and breast massage are continued. The mother can then take other natural herbs to help increase her supply. 
  • Feed your baby frequently. At least 12 times per 24 hours. (Breastfeed the baby at least every three hours at night) 
  • Pump frequently. Use an automatic, electric, double action hospital grade pump. Pump until two minutes after no more milk is coming out. 
  • Breast compressions while breastfeeding can help increase supply, by increasing the flow of milk. 
  • If the mother needs to supplement her baby, she can use an SNS to feed the baby supplements while she breastfeeds. This allows the baby time to practice breastfeeding and increases the mother's milk supply.
  • Dried Fenugreek seeds can be used to make tea. Boil a tablespoon of seeds in 1-liter water. Boil for 5 minutes, strain and drink two to three cups daily with lemon juice and honey for taste.
  • Other lactogenic foods. 

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Tracy Behr, CBC, CLD (CBI)

Reference: Course summary information through Childbirth international on the physiology of breastfeeding / induced lactation and re-lactation.

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