Ask Our Experts: How Do I Get My Milk Supply Back After I Stopped Breastfeeding For Five Weeks?

Cathy McCormick

NDC Possum Clinic Practitioner, Midwife and Lactation Consultant, Cathy McCormick from HolisticBaby offers her advice.

Q: I have an 8-week-old baby and at around 3 weeks I decided to bottle feed with formula. I’ve now decided that I want to breastfeed again, but wondering how I go about getting my supply back and whether this is even a possibility?

 

A: Many mothers in the early weeks navigate new and often challenging experiences. There are so many things to make decisions about, including how to care for and feed your new baby.  The good news is we don’t have to be rigid, we can actually be quite flexible in our thoughts and actions – babies are highly adaptive to change, if we take small steps, and keep things simple and relaxed.

 

Any breastmilk you can offer your baby is wonderful gift and you sound like a very devoted mother. I am not sure why breastfeeding stopped but the most common reasons are sore painful feeds, perceived or low milk supply and feeling overwhelmed.

 

“Regardless of the reason, yes you can absolutely work towards your goal of building your milk supply and breastfeeding again.”

 

The easiest way to bring in a milk supply is allowing baby to suckle at the breast as this will tell your breasts to make milk. I presume you had breastmilk in the early weeks, so the hormone prolactin is your milk making hormone. The prolactin sites need to be re woken so best to also start pumping frequently, a minimum 8 x day. Most babies need to feed 8-12 x off each breast in the first hours and first weeks to open lots of prolactin sites so our milk supply is robust. Prolactin is our mothering hormone, if you can enjoy lots of skin to skin even when you are bottle feeding formula this is also supportive for you and your baby.

 

The hormone oxytocin is the hormone that lets the milk flow, so again lots of skin to skin supports our connection to our baby, looking at our baby while we pump, and relaxation breathing can all be helpful. We want it to be as casual and relaxing as possible otherwise you and baby will become stressed, and this can lead to an aversion. We might not always feel calm, but we can act calm with deep breathing and gentle touch. It is important to keep in mind that breastfeeding is not just about the milk.

 

Ideas to give your baby more breastmilk and gentle encouragement, to return to breastfeeding:
  • Start doing lots of ’skin to skin’ even when bottle feeding.
  • When you bottle feed your baby try Paced Bottle Feeding.
  • Whatever you pump start replacing formula volumes with breastmilk.
  • Offer the breast frequently and see if your baby is happy to suck. If they suckle at all it is a good sign, but if they don’t it does not mean that you should give up the idea.
  • Being patient and gently persistent. It is important not to force a baby to breastfeed.
  • When baby is relaxed which might be part way through a bottle then you could do skin to skin or lie with your baby so they have closeness to your breasts, some babies just latch themselves, or in the night when baby is waking up or going to sleep they may suckle as a relaxing option not with the goal to feed.
  • Keep your baby close to you and give them access to your breast at all times.
  • Sleeping a baby close to you makes it easier to feed at night. Night feeds are very helpful for building a milk supply.
  • Stop any dummy or pacifier use and offer the breast instead as a way to help settle them.
  • Don’t set a time frame on it, some mums can get supply up within a few weeks’ others take 6-8 weeks. The breastfeeding journey is different for everyone.
  • Be flexible and approach this in your own way with the resources you have available and do what suits you and your baby.
  • Consider starting a breastfeeding tea, breastfeeding milk makers or supplements or you can talk to your GP and see if you are suitable to start a drug called ‘Domperidone’.
  • Try a Supplemental Feeder, this can help to keep your baby sucking, as it gives them extra milk while they breastfeed.

 

For further support, you can contact HolisticBaby they have lactation consultants and Mother Support Groups which help build community and support mums. They also offer home, clinic, Telehealth appointments and ZOOM appointments. You can also follow Cathy on Instagram @holisticbaby

For tips of how to store, thaw and heat expressed milk read more here.

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