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Relactation? What the heck is that, you may ask. But as resources and information become more and more readily available, more and more women and choosing to give relactation a try in order to continue to provide breast milk to their baby even after their milk supply has initially dried up. Women who have lost their milk supply can re-initiate their supply through pumping!
I have initiated relactation a total of three times. The first time, I didn’t do so well. It was 2008 and there wasn’t nearly as much information available about relactation as there is now. The second time, I blew the ball out of the park! After being completely dry (not even drops!) for over 2 months, I relactated and hit production as high as 70 ounces per day; without using domperidone, a medication often used to induce lactation or relactate.
The most common question I get is “how?!” While it might seem like the answer should be complex and confusing, it really isn’t. I followed a very strict and consistent pumping schedule. First thing in the morning and right before bed I would power pump;
So morning and night I power pumped. I usually watched Netflix or played on my phone while power pumping. In between power pumping, I pumped every two hours for approximately 20 minutes give or take. I clocked my pump times from the starting time of each pump. So if I started pumping at 3:00pm, then my next pump should start at 5:00pm
I rarely pumped at night.
Trust me, I had every intention of pumping at night, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. I turn into an absolute zombie. I would set alarms on my phone to wake up and I would shut them off in my sleep. I even downloaded a trick alarm, where you have to prove you’re awake by solving math problems before it will shut off. I woke up with the battery taken out of my phone and I didn’t remember doing it. I think, over the course of a year (the time I commenced relactation to the time I decided to wean) I only pumped at night five or six times total. I wanted to pump at night because I knew it would improve my progress, but try as I might, it just wasn’t working for me.
The single biggest contributor to my success was my ability to maintain my motivation. Relactation is a hard thing to do and progress is very slow, and often times, not immediately identifiable. This is the hardest part for most!
My husband (being the super hot geek he is) made me a special chart that allowed me to track not only my production, but the time I spent and milliliters per minute average! Take a peek!
Want a copy of the template for your own tracking purposes? Download Sammi’s Super Relactation Log Here!
Additionally, a huge motivator for me was logging! I bought a school planner, similar to this one, and logged all of my pump times. I made note of the starting time, ending time, total minutes for each session, total milliliters and then I added up all the minutes and milliliters at the end of the day and plugged them into the excel file my husband made for me. My logs typically looked something like this;
8:00-8:20 —- 40 mins (power pump) —– 15ml
10:00-10:20 —- 20 mins — 5ml
12:00-12:20 —- 20 mins — 10ml
2:00-2:20 —— 20 mins —- 5ml
4:00-4:20 —— 20 mins —- 5ml
6:00-6:20 —- 20 mins —- 3ml
8:00-8:20 —- 20 mins —- 5ml
10:00-10:20 — 40 mins (power pump) — 10ml
Total mins: 200 mins
Total ml: 58ml
It got to the point I would get super excited for my last power pump of the day so I could total up my production and log it on my excel file. It was a great motivator.
On that note, another HUGE component of my motivation was accuracy. You can have just a tiny bit in a bottle and it’s 3ml. You can pump again and feel it looks about the same, but it be 5ml. For this reason, I STRONGLY recommend having small syringes available to allow you to accurately measure your production. If you buy a bulk pack with caps, you can even freeze your milk in these syringes to use for earaches, teething and colds, since antibodies are often more condensed in women producing smaller amounts of milk! I continued to use syringes only for milk storage and would freeze them as soon as they were full to 10cc. Once I started producing 4oz or so a day, I moved on to using bags.
The most important thing to do when relactating is to remain consistent. It is so easy to get behind or put off pumping, or skip a session, but that lack of concistency is the most detrimental thing to your supply. A lot of women feel like if they wait longer to pump, they’ll get “more” milk, but the reality is, pumping more often is best, even if it appears you’re getting less (or in the early days, nothing)! Remaining consistent is so hard, especially when progress is slow, but the consistency pays off.
For me, I never saw the results of what I did today, until three or four days from now. If I pumped really well and often all day Monday, then I wouldn’t expect to see an increase in supply until Thursday or Friday. This is also another reason you should keep a pumping log and use my excel file; you’ll be better able to spot trends in your pumping schedule and your changes in production!
Having a hands free pumping set up was crucial to my success. I was able to cool, clean, work and tend to the kids all while pumping. Had I not had a hands-free set up, I doubt this would have been possible for me. My hands-free setup was a Medela Freestyle hacked to work with Freemie cups using spectra backflow protectors.
While I loved my hands-free setup, it wasn’t suitable for exclusive use. The suction just wasn’t as strong on my Medela Freestyle as it was my Spectra S2. I used my Spectra S2 with my Freemie cups for my power pumping sessions and any pumping sessions I didn’t need to be on the move and was sitting around.
When I was out and about or needed to be up and moving, I used the hacked Medela Freestyle.
This combination worked great for me. This isn’t to say another pump won’t work, but for me, these two worked well together.
The third time I re-lactated, I used the Ameda Platinum alongside the hacked Freestyle to allow me freedom. I have to say I loved the Ameda Platinum and it was so much more effective than any other pump I have tried. It is very expensive to buy, and is usually only accessible through a rental, but it is amazing. If you have access to an Ameda platinum, USE IT!
Medications & Supplements
About a week into relactating, I got discouraged and ordered domperidone. Domperidone is a medication often prescribed and used to induce lactation. While I had never used it before, I had heard so many good things about domperidone from other women. I had used Reglan in the past and refused to ever take that again.
Because it was an international order, I was looking at quite a bit of time before it would arrive, so in the mean time, I started taking fenugreek, blessed thistle, shatavari and spirulina by CassavaShop.com. It took me a while, but once I tweaked with my dosages a bit and watched my logs, I was able to figure out what would work best for me and how my supply responded.
Not everyone responds the same way to herbals though. Some women will actually see a decrease with fenugreek, so be sure to play around with it and ALWAYS watch your logs for any upward or downward trends that could be the result of adding a new herbal!
Water is so, so, so important just for everyday life! It’s even more important when you are lactating (or attempting to re-lactate). If your body is lacking the fluids it needs to sustain itself, producing fluids to sustain another human being is absolutely out of the question. If you are dehydrated, your milk supply will suffer (or fail to come in).
I have such a hard time making sure I drink enough water. I bought 1 gallon jugs of distilled water and would start drinking it in the morning and attempt to finish it by bedtime. Most days I drank 3/4 of the jug to the whole jug. I kept it by my pump so that every pump session, I’d remember to drink a good amount then and there!
Foods & Drinks
While there are plenty of foods believed to boost supply, I really didn’t focus too much on foods and drinks. I did try to incorporate a few things into my diet though.
Powerade! I found women on all sorts of breastfeeding and lactation groups talking about how Powerade boosted their supply. Some women claimed it was only one specific color that did, but in my experience, it didn’t matter. But then again, I will only drink the red or blue Powerade. In retrospect, I should have opted for the sugar-free Powerade, but I did drink a 32oz container of Powerade nearly every day, on top of the water I was consuming.
I ate a lot of oatmeal too. Steel cut and rolled oats, made in my rice cooker. It worked great and was a hot, healthy breakfast with little prep time each morning. Oatmeal is supposed to improve supply, but instant oatmeal doesn’t have the same effect. I also made oatmeal cookies with rolled oats.
I used a lot of carnation malted milk powder. I don’t drink alcohol at all, so having a beer wasn’t really an option for improving supply. No way would I be able to gag down a beer, ever. A lot of women use Ovaltine chocolate malt powder, but I really didn’t feel it made much difference and went straight for Carnation malted milk powder. I made a lot of milkshakes with 3-4tbsp of malted milk powder each. It was great and I really felt it helped my supply.
In Conclusion . . .
Relactation is a very difficult and time-consuming process, however, with the right amount of motivation and consistency, it is absolutely possible to achieve. Not all women will respond the same; some are able to relactate quickly, while others may need more time. Some may achieve larger quantities of milk, while others do not. There is no secret formula or recipe to achieve the exact same results as another person, however, with consistency and motivation, it can be done and I am here to support you!
Have any questions? Drop a comment on this post or my video and I’ll do my best to help!
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