Some new mums start breastfeeding their babies, only to switch to bottle feeding later on. Other mums start with bottle feeding, but later decide that they want to switch to breastfeeding – or to a combination of breastfeeding and pumping.
Whether you stopped breastfeeding for a while and want to return to it, or you want to start breastfeeding for the very first time, you might be wondering: When is it too late to start breastfeeding?
In short, it is never too late to start breastfeeding. However, depending on certain factors, it might take you, your body, and your baby a while to adjust to breastfeeding.
Is It Ever Too Late to Start Breastfeeding?
With a bit of patience and perseverance, most women should be able to start breastfeeding, even if you’ve never done so before and didn’t start off with breastfeeding.
However, certain things might make it more of a challenge to start breastfeeding:
- Pregnancy – You can get pregnant again as little as three weeks following your birth. Pregnancy might interfere with the hormones your body relies on to breastfeed, which might make breastfeeding more difficult.
- Medication – Some medication might interfere with your hormones, which again, could make breastfeeding a challenge.
- Your baby – All babies are different, and some may refuse to latch on, no matter what you try.
But generally speaking, it’s never too late to start breastfeeding. Though the closer you are to birth, the easier you might find it to start. Yet some mums manage to start breastfeeding as late as 8 weeks after birth – or even longer.
What is Relactation?
If you stopped breastfeeding for whatever reason, it could take some time to re-establish your body’s milk supply. This process is known as relactation.
How to Re-establish your Milk Supply
Talk to your doctor or midwife for expert advice on re-establishing your milk supply. But to get you started, here are some things that can help with relactation:
- Skin contact with your baby. Close physical contact with your baby can encourage your body to start producing milk again. Try the laid-back breastfeeding position as a way of maintaining close contact comfortably for long periods.
- Stay hydrated. It’s important to drink lots of water in the days, weeks, and months following birth. But staying hydrated may also contribute to good milk production.
- Eat well. Certain foods and herbal supplements may encourage milk production. Try fenugreek seeds, carrots, spinach, garlic, and fennel.
- Stimulate your breasts. Massaging your breasts and nipples multiple times a day can encourage milk production and the “let down” reflex. Also be sure to read our guide on how pumping can help you keep up your supply of breastmilk.
How Long Does Relactation Take?
Generally speaking, it depends on how long it’s been since you last breastfed. But every woman’s different. It might take you a few days, or it might be a month or more until you’ve re-established your milk supplies.
Some mums temporarily stop breastfeeding if they’re ill, injured, or travelling. If it’s only been a week or so since you breastfed your baby, then relactation shouldn’t take too long.
But if you’re struggling, or you want support, talk to your doctor, your midwife, or a lactation specialist.
Encouraging Your Baby to Latch On
If you’re starting breastfeeding with an older baby, or with a baby who’s used to bottle feeding, then it may take some time to encourage them to latch on to your breast.
It can be frustrating – and often painful – to handle a baby who simply does not want to latch on. So the most important thing is to be patient. Your baby will likely need some time to adjust to a new way of feeding. And remember that it may also take your body some time to adjust.
Here are some things that might help encourage your baby to latch on:
- The laid-back breastfeeding position. This comfortable position can help your baby get to grips with their natural feeding reflexes. Read more about how the laid-back position can make it easier for your baby to start breastfeeding.
- Close contact. Holding your baby close while making skin-on-skin contact can be a positive bonding experience for both of you. Peacefully holding your baby close to your breast could, over time, encourage them to latch on.
- Knowing when to feed. If you’re stressed, your baby will probably be stressed too. Your baby may be more likely to latch on if they’re feeling calm and happy. So to begin with, avoid trying to feed your baby when they’re overly tired or hungry. In this state of mind, they may be more resistant to change.
Further Support With Breastfeeding
Remember that you can always talk to your doctor or midwife if you have any questions or concerns about breastfeeding. Look around online and you’ll also find websites, forums, and Facebook groups full of supportive mums who are going through the same thing as you are, all over the world.
Also, we have loads of guides and resources to help you through those crucial early months of your baby’s life:
- How to prepare for breastfeeding.
- When to buy, measure, and wear nursing bras.
- What is the let-down reflex when breastfeeding?
- Why does my other breast leak when breastfeeding?
We also have a range of sustainable baby products. For instance, we have reusable breast pads that will help you stay dry, clean, and comfortable while you’re breastfeeding.
Take a look at our range of comfortable, absorbent, and eco-friendly reusable breast pads.