Relactation is rebuilding a birth mother's milk supply after it has been reduced or dried up.

In one survey of 366 women who relactated, most reported not being as concerned with the amount of milk they produced as they were with having the opportunity to nurture their baby through breastfeeding. Although some mothers made the decision to relactate based on their baby's intolerance of formula, most did so because of the effect breastfeeding would have on their relationship with their baby. In hindsight, 75 percent of the women surveyed felt relactation had been a positive experience and the amount of milk they produced had been unrelated to their feelings of success.

In this survey, more than half the mothers established a full milk supply within a month. It took another 25 percent of the mothers to fully relactate. The remaining mothers both breastfed and bottle fed until the baby was weaned. Mothers who attempted relactation within two months of childbirth reported greater milk production than those who attempted it later on. Many women have found the length of time it takes to relactate fully (completely meeting the baby's needs) is about equal to how long it has been since breastfeeding was discontinued. Several weeks is a realistic expectation for most mothers.

When used in combination with frequent nursing and/or milk expression, certain medications have been found to increase mother's milk supply. One of the most commonly used is metoclopramide (Reglan), which when given at 10 mg doses three times per day for seven to fourteen days has been found to increase milk production an average of 110 percent in mothers with one month old babies. When the metoclopramide is discontinued, milk supply may drop, but not usually to the level it was before treatment.

Some babies switch to the breast easily; others need lots of encouragement. In the aforementioned survey, 39 percent of the women queried reported that their baby nursed well on the first attempt, 32 percent said their babies were ambivalent about breastfeeding, and 28 percent refused the breast. But within a week, 54 percent of the babies had taken the breast well, and by ten days the number rose to 74 percent. Although babies younger than three months and those who had previously breastfed tended to be more willing, the most crucial factors were time, patience and persistence.

In another report six children between twelve and forty-eight months who had been weaned for up to six months stimulated their mothers to at least partially relactate through sucking alone.

A nursing supplementer can help avoid nipple confusion and stimlate the mother's milk supply at the same time. If a mother's milk supply is very low, the nursing supplementer will offer a baby instant reward at the breast. In order to avoid the baby becoming overly dependent upon the supplementer, suggest the mother try using the supplementer on one breast only and after the baby's initial hunger has been satisfied switiching to the breast without the supplementer. -La Leche League International, excerpted from "The Breastfeeding Answer Book," 1997.

Reprinted from Midwifery Today E-News (Vol 1 Issue 8, Feb. 19, 1999)
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