The First Step
Your first step is to work with an IBCLC! You can go on Facebook and other social media groups and ask for advice but you will not be getting an individualized clinical assessment of your own unique situation so the recommendations you get will not be targeted and in some cases may be harmful. An International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, the highest level of clinical lactation expertise, will do a thorough health and birth history both of which will yield many factors to consider when developing your plan. Another key factor to assess is what your lactation history was to being with. The IBCLC will also discuss with you realistic expectations and required commitment to the care plan to help you understand how much work will be involved and what practical expectations you can have.
Relactating Requires A Great Deal Of Commitment
Any relactation plan will look at the effectiveness of your baby’s latch and the level of competency of milk transfer that your baby has. Next, an effective relactation plan will include a clear step by step pumping plan and likely a recommendation for the rental of a industrial hospital grade pump.
You will NEED to pump with frequency to inform your brain that there is a baby to feed and that your body needs to work hard to respond to the new demand. The pumping schedule will include overnight milk expression. Adding hand massaging to your pumping session can further stimulate your body by helping to increase the release of more oxytocin which in turn helps trigger your milk ejection reflex and yields more output of milk. Any time you express more milk than what has been your normal it will trigger the body to increase your production.
Hospital Grade Pumps Versus Personal Use Pumps
When it comes to pumps the term “hospital grade” is NOT regulated. This is why some electric personal use pumps currently market themselves as “hospital grade strength.” Technically any pump motor that can be used by multiple users is a hospital grade pump motor. However, a true industrial hospital grade motor does have stronger suction, a special wavelength, and tends to have the capability for special programming to support lactating persons with medical necessities to yield their maximum potential for milk production.
This is one case where a “pump is just a pump” does not apply. An industrial hospital grade pump isn’t just about a closed system to allow multiple users. The biggest difference is that industrial hospital grade motors have a different wavelength than personal use electric pumps. This is why it is so important to work with an IBCLC. There can be significant differences between the capabilities of industrial hospital grade and personal use pump motors and this can make a big impact on the results of your relactation effort.
You Will NOT See Results Overnight!
One of the reasons that it is so important to work with an experienced IBCLC is that it will take time for your care plan to produce results so it is important to have a lactation expert monitor your results to make any necessary adjustments to your plan. In addition, your IBCLC is required to have education in effective counseling, psychology and sociology and will be able to effectively cheer you along and to encourage you to keep going, while gently reminding you to have practical expectations and also pointing out all of your progress.
Before starting, the IBCLC should discuss with you a short and long term plan. The short term plan will be more labor intensive and may at times require blood work to rule out any hormonal deficiencies that can impact your ability to produce milk, or may also include the recommendation of galactagogue herbs that can help increase milk production. The word galactagogue, or galactogogue, comes from the Greek meaning milk leading. A galactagogue is a substance that promotes lactation in humans and other mammalian species.
If after reviewing your health history the IBCLC recommends blood work and the results show deficiencies in areas that impact lactation efficacy, you will have to work with a medical provider, alongside your IBCLC, to get the ineffective hormonal processes under management typically with the aide of allopathic medications, supplements, and in some instances dietary changes.
Milk Removal is KEY!!!!
No matter what other factors make up your individualized relactation care plan, the key factor will ALWAYS be effective and consistent milk removal! Whether through and effective latch, hand expression, or pump usage, or a combination of two or more of these milk removal methods, the bottom line is that creating a demand, by emptying your breasts or chest with efficiency, is the one factor that can not be outsourced or replaced by any other option. You MUST remove milk effectively and with consistency throughout the day in order to positively impact your milk production.
Your results will be wholly dependent on what your health history is, what your early lactation experience was, the level of quality and the compliance to your care plan. For some of you, it can take 2 to 4 weeks to see significant results, while for some others, the care plan may initially yield moderate results and through applied consistency you may come to see more significant results in about 12 to 16 weeks.
It is never too late!! If you have a desire to relactate it is always worth the effort to try, as long as you are doing it under expert support and you have clear expectations and a clear understanding of the commitment required. Any amount of milk you produce will be an improvement over not providing any human milk to your baby. Any amount of time you lactate will also yield health benefits to you like a reduction in your risk factor for certain hormonal breast (or chest) cancers and ovarian cancer. Some studies have also found that breast or chest feeding may reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and cardiovascular disease, including high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
Call A Local IBCLC And Get Started!
If you are ready to start your relactation journey, you can find a local IBCLC at the ILCA website, or by calling your local La Leche League Leader, or by contacting a local Breastfeeding USA Counselor. If you are local to Hudson Country or nearby counties feel free to contact me for support, or if you are in New York outside of my service area you can find an experienced IBCLC at the New York Lacation Consultant Association’s website. In New Jersey outside of my service area, you can visit ZipMilk to locate an IBCLC near you. Make sure to ask any IBCLC you contact if they have experience with relactation.
Take your first step and make that call today!