The question of how inducing lactation can be performed doesn’t come to mind often because not a lot of moms are going to have an issue with producing milk (even if it’s not the adequate amount).
Inducing lactation is usually a step taken if you’ve decided on surrogacy, to become an adoptive mother who opts for adoptive breastfeeding, or to become a milk donor.
Why, you may ask? Well, breast milk is a lot healthier for a baby than regular cow’s milk or formula most of the time.
The problem arises when you don’t go through pregnancy, so your body has never started producing the hormone prolactin to aid in starting up milk production and provide you with a healthy and steady milk supply to nurture your little one with.
For some reason, you weren’t able to conceive a child of your own or didn’t want to go through the whole process of pregnancy.
Or you simply decided that adoption would make you and your partner happy, as well as provide a home for a child that so desperately needs one.
That, or maybe you and your partner aren’t biologically capable of conceiving one.
All of these reasons are valid though and mean the issue of not having enough milk of your own to help sustain your newly adopted baby.
This is why these mothers often turn to inducing lactation rather than relying on other sources which can be… well… less than reliable at times or simply unavailable nearby.
But how does one go about it? Well, that’s what I’m here to talk to you about this time around, so let’s get right into it.
Different Ways Of Inducing Lactation To Become A Breastfeeding Mother
Now, the most important thing to note before you start yourself off on this journey is that results vary greatly from one mom to the next.
Some moms may see a slight improvement as they induce lactation and are thus able to provide for a portion of their child’s breastfeeding needs.
Some may see even greater success and be able to cover a majority of the nutritive human milk through various pro-lactation methods, while some lucky individuals may even be able to induce just as much breast milk production in their breasts as any other postpartum mamma.
Then again, where there are total successes, there are potential failures as well, where some moms don’t manage to squeeze out even a single drop because of some specific hormonal reasons.
Nothing is really their fault, it’s just that all these methods work differently for every single mom and it’s tough to produce milk at the snap of a finger.
It’s a bit easier for women who’ve already breastfed their kids before or who’ve gone through a pregnancy, as their bodies are already used to the motions and simply think it’s time to fire the milk factory back up again.
This process is called relactation and will usually be able to provide an adequate amount of milk to provide your little one with the necessary nutrients he needs to grow through his developmental stages in a timely manner with little to no complications.
Unlike with a regular pregnancy, where the hormones oxytocin and prolactin are produced throughout the pregnancy to help stimulate milk production, with induced lactation you’re likely to need some help to increase those prolactin levels.
Usually it’s a combination of the baby suckling on the nipple for longer periods of time or through the use of an electric breast pump on a low setting to help with stimulating the let down reflex.
Another thing to note is that the process of relactation and inducing lactation in general can take some time.
Much like it was the case with increasing breast milk production earlier, you may see vast differences in just how long it takes for your body to even start producing breast milk.
It’s much easier for moms who are the birth mothers of their little ones because they have the adequate oxytocin and prolactin levels to generate their first and most important milk called colostrum, followed by a hopefully regular milk supply.
Meanwhile, some other moms may take upwards of a few weeks to even months to see their first results. The most important part is to not lose hope and to stay determined that you’ll make it, because you just might.
Now, there are many different factors that come into play when trying to optimize inducing lactation without pregnancy.
Some of the main ones are:
1. Your overall health. As with anything else related to your body, your health plays a pivotal role in just how quickly or just how much milk your body will be able to produce to sustain your child.
If you aren’t exactly the picture of health and are prone to getting sick or have suffered some sort of rough complication, chances are your body may have gone through a bit of trauma, which reduces the chances of prolactin and oxytocin from being released into the body.
2. Previous breastfeeding experience. As mentioned before, if you are a veteran mom or someone who’s had the chance to help breastfeed before, inducing lactation will be a much easier and quicker task for you than for newer moms.
That’s because your mammary milk glands are more developed and quicker to start producing milk than that of mammas who are yet to experience a pregnancy.
There’s also a bit of mental discipline at play here, but more on that later.
3. The state of your breasts. This is something that isn’t just isolated to inducing lactation, but overall breastfeeding capability as well.
This encompasses any potential injuries your breasts may have sustained, any potential surgical procedures or even complications in the development of the mammary milk glands due to insufficient glandular tissue (IGT).
Breast injuries and surgeries may cause issues because they often damage the glandular tissue, causing side effects that lower the overall milk production of your breasts and stifling your capability to be a fully-functioning breastfeeding mother.
4. The way in which you treat your child. This may sound like a long shot, but trust me, it has its own scientific reasons behind it.
You see, even if you’re incapable of producing even a few drops of milk just yet, know that even holding your baby close to you during this time is going to help.
That’s because the hormone oxytocin isn’t just there to stimulate the production of breast milk, but is also the hormone of endearment and serves as a pain suppressant during labor.
One might call it a mother’s best friend as it’s basically our lifeline to fully functional motherhood – and rightfully so.
So, make sure to provide your kids with the love and affection that they so wholeheartedly deserve and you’ll also be helping provide their liquid gold meals quicker.
5. The level of motivation of both you and your baby.
All the existing supplementers in the world won’t help you nearly as much if you and the baby lack the motivation to get that milk flow going.
Our mental mindset plays a huge part in the efficiency of anything in our bodies and breastfeeding is no exception.
It takes a mind that’s focused and determined to be an efficient breastfeeding mother with a full milk supply for their hungry little child, as well as a child determined to get milk straight from the source rather than various other donors or alternative means.
This is the part that manages to tie in with the health bit of this segment because proper dieting and exercise greatly aid in retaining a more positive and focused attitude toward anything – including inducing lactation.
6. The level at which the act of breastfeeding is supported in your local community.
Another thing that greatly plays into the mental aspect of breastfeeding and just how much milk you’ll be able to produce is how socially accepted and supported breastfeeding is.
While this may seem like a negligent detail to many of you more traditional moms, know that the pressure from the people we interact with on a daily basis has a great effect on our self-esteem, confidence, and overall motivation.
That’s why it’s important to surround yourself with people who support you in your decision to breastfeed.
While this normally isn’t a problem, doing it in public is where it does become one for people who feel weirded out by the simple notion of seeing a woman’s breast.
It has become a sort of stigma in some areas and is sadly unavoidable if you live in one such place.
My best advice is to try your best to not get bothered by it, but I know from personal experience that it’s hard to avoid the people who just won’t have any of it and feel the need to toss their two cents in.
7. The frequency of breast stimulation and milk removal.
Obviously, one of the most important factors in the effectiveness of inducing lactation is how often your breasts get stimulated to do so in the first place.
If you have your child constantly on the breast, you should be golden, but know that you should still be meeting the baby’s needs for nutrition, something that he may not be getting if you’re still trying to induce lactation and don’t have an adequate amount of breastmilk to feed him yourself.
In cases like these, it’s best to set up some sort of supplemental nursing system that attaches directly to the breast and will help supplement the missing milk for your child.
Doing it in such a way is going to keep the baby motivated to suckle as he’ll believe it’s all coming directly from your breast, helping keep him stimulated and hopefully leading to you getting rid of the supplementer for good as you feel your breast milk come in.
The alternative method that most women tend to gravitate toward before they receive their child, whether through the natural act of birthing or through surrogate and adoptive methods, is the use of a hospital-grade electric breast pump.
By putting it on a lower setting, you get to work on stimulating your breasts and training a let down reflex even before your little one arrives in his new home.
The other option is stimulating breasts through hand expression – admittedly a rather inefficient process in comparison to the other two, but should work well enough to get you going or to keep a steady flow of milk going.
Plus, if you overdid it with breast stimulants and somehow ended up suffering from breast engorgement, hand expression of the affected breast should serve as a quick and easy solution.
8. The interaction between breastfeeding and period cycles.
When you’re breastfeeding an adopted or surrogate child when you haven’t gone through a pregnancy yourself, you may find that your overall milk production levels are going to suffer a bit of a drop during your menstrual cycle.
While our periods are normally suppressed for a period of time after giving birth to allow the womb to recover, that isn’t the case if we haven’t delivered the baby ourselves.
Thus the menstruation itself is going to start suppressing the hormone prolactin and cause us to produce less milk.
This is because prolactin is also the hormone responsible for keeping the menstrual cycles suppressed in the first place, but without the hormone being given that function, it’ll only end up as the one being suppressed itself.
Not only that, but the composition of your milk may change to become a bit richer in sodium chloride while losing out on the sweet lactose for the duration of the period.
This facet doesn’t affect your milk production levels directly, but can dissuade your baby from trying to breastfeed when the flavor of the breast milk changes, leading to less feedings and potential issues due to that.
But, don’t fret, this isn’t a permanent condition. It will pass as soon as your menstrual cycle is done, after which you should be back to normal again.
9. How frequently you rely on galactagogues or medicines to help stimulate hormone production.
The final influential aspect and one of the most important ones when trying to induce lactation or to help relactate is through the use of galactagogues and various other medicinal supplements.
Galactagogues are different herbs, foods, and medicines that help promote the creation of breast milk in humans and other mammals.
While the usefulness of their effects is yet to be fully determined given the lack of testing, many mothers have reported positive results from them.
One of the most popular galactagogues include domperidone, which is a medicinal supplement, or, if you’re more of a person who delves into herbs rather than pills, you may want to give fenugreek a shot, the benefit of which is that it usually comes in the form of a tea for breastfeeding enhancement.
That said, whenever you consider taking any sort of medicine, it’s best to advise your personal lactation consultant (IBCLC) or any other qualified healthcare provider on the proper use of any galactagogues and their potential side effects on your body.
Always let them have the final word when it’s something potentially risky, and don’t rely on internet advice alone for matters like these, no matter how educated the people may claim they are.
What The Ideal Routine For The Induction Of Lactation Looks Like
With all this in mind, it’s time to weave out a pattern of what the most ideal process of relactation and gradual milk production increase would look like.
The start may be a bit shaky, but shouldn’t be anything too difficult for a strong mom such as yourself.
Now, you won’t be making too much milk at the beginning, if any, and you may be relying on breast milk from donor moms, baby formulas, or other supplements to help you keep your little one properly fed.
This, however, doesn’t mean that your job here is to just feed them and be done with it. No. What you should do is treat your little one as if you’re breastfeeding him.
Always keep him close to your warm bosom so that your child accommodates himself to your presence and to help stimulate those breast milk production hormones through tender love and care.
Naturally, you should still have the baby nurse on your breast even if there’s nothing coming out as the baby’s suckling motions are your best method of inducing lactation in the first place.
The best way of going about this is utilize some sort of at-breast supplementer to trick the baby into thinking that all of the milk is coming from your breast, which, in turn, is going to motivate him to suckle with more determination and will have him adjusting to exclusively breastfeeding a lot easier down the line.
Do make sure that your baby latches properly, otherwise you may end up with a fussy baby or having to deal with their spit up a lot more often due to air bubbles formed from an improper latching position.
Nevermind the associated breastfeeding pain.
During the times when your child isn’t breastfeeding or while you’re at work, do make sure to keep your breasts stimulated either through hand expression or the use of an electric breast pump at a lower setting to help keep your breasts in action, so to speak.
And, if you’re opting for any galactagogues, it’s important to keep to the prescription given to you by your lactation consultant or qualified health care provider to achieve the most optimal results.
The rest is just repeating and monitoring your progress.
Don’t try setting the bar too high or comparing yourself to birth mothers.
Everyone has a different pace and even small victories can mean the world to a mom in comparison to that of some others, especially since they serve as great motivators.
The key is to be patient and to stay calm. Don’t let any of your nerves show because your baby is likely to pick up on them and become a lot fussier during feeding time.
As time goes by, you are likely to see progress in your breastfeeding capabilities and can slowly start excluding supplements from your child’s diet and swapping him over to your own breast milk.
And that’s the gist of it. Nothing too complicated, just a bit of attention to routine and making sure to not break out of it.
Don’t let yourself go too long without breastfeeding your child or expressing milk in a different way, as you’re likely to then lose progress on your relactation.
Also note that it’s best to avoid using baby bottles at the start until your child has gotten used to your own breast, after which you can introduce him to the breast milk you pump out.
This is mainly to avoid nipple confusion, which can be a pain to deal with should it occur.
Inducing lactation may seem like a lot of effort at first, but is really simple once you get started.
It’s just a lot of front-loaded information that you can slowly digest as you prepare to accept a new child into your fold, whether through the efforts of a natural birth, or the act of surrogacy or adoption.
All babies feed the same way anyway.
It all boils down to diligence and motivation, then you’re almost guaranteed to succeed in relactating in a few weeks and being able to provide similar amounts of milk to that of a birth mother.
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