Ideally, a mother should start breastfeeding immediately after birth, yet sometimes challenges may arise that prevent her. Pediatricians recommend babies be breastfed exclusively for the first six months and continue supplementing with other foods for up to two years.
When Is It Too Late To Start Breastfeeding?
There is no time limit on when you should start to breastfeed or re-lactate, but after the baby gets to six months, it could get harder to restart. After this age, the baby is accustomed to other foods and may not like breast milk. Two factors are involved when breastfeeding; the ability of the baby to latch and the flow of milk. This article delves at factors that lead to delayed breastfeeding, how to handle it, and how to avoid the preventable ones.
Factors That Can Lead To Late Breastfeeding
Several factors can make a mother delay breastfeeding.
A mother or the baby could get sick, leading to delayed breastfeeding. For instance, a baby may get ill and be put on a life-saving machine, making them unable to latch. In such a scenario, the mother can pump milk and feed the baby. The mother could also be on medications that pass through breast milk to the baby.
Due to the baby’s underdeveloped immune system, the mother is discouraged from breastfeeding. Postpartum mental disorders and infections on nipples or breasts could also make a mother delay breastfeeding.
A mother could delay breastfeeding if she is not near the baby. She could be away due to several factors such as imprisonment, journeying, or when she attends to emergencies. A mother might have died, and the adoptive mother takes time to start breastfeeding the child.
Poor Flow Of Milk
Several factors could lead to poor or no flow of breast milk. They include;
- When a mother waits for so long before breastfeeding.
- Ineffective latch.
- Medications and drugs.
- Poor nutrition.
- Hormonal or endocrine problems.
- Use of hormonal birth control.
You can improve the flow by latching the child effectively, improving your diet, and regularly breastfeeding. Your doctor could also prescribe drugs that can balance hormones.
Adoption And Surrogacy
When a mother gives out a child for adoption or if she dies, an adoptive mother can take in a child and start breastfeeding him. Such incidents could cause delays in kick-starting the breastfeeding process.
Relactation is whereby a woman starts breastfeeding a child after a gap. The gap could have been due to illness or absence. Breast milk has many benefits to the baby, hence the need to continue breastfeeding even after a break. It is easier to re-lactate a child below six months after a short break.
As you start to breastfeed, it may feel awkward or a bit weird, but you get used to it with time. It calls for patience and perseverance to be able to reintroduce a child to breastfeeding again. The time it takes to re-lactate successfully depends on the frequency of breastfeeding, the age of the child, and the time gap.
How To Relactate Successfully
- Offer the breast every 2 to 3 hours. In the beginning, let the child latch even when no milk is flowing. Ensure that you give them both breasts on every feed.
- Use an electric or manual pump to stimulate flow. If the baby is not getting enough milk, pump and bottle feed them.
- Nurse the baby for as long as the baby wants. Some will take longer to fill up than others, be patient with them.
- When the child gets used to breastfeeding, start reducing the amount of formula you feed him.
- Have a skin to skin moment with the baby. It will help the child get used to her smell and be comfortable while breastfeeding.
- Relax. After a long period without breastfeeding, you may get anxious. Anxiety and stress lead to reduced flow of milk. You could take a warm bath and put on some relaxing background music before you start breastfeeding.
- Be patient. The process of re-lactation may take time, ideally two weeks, but some babies could take a shorter or longer time.
- Nutrition. To produce enough milk, you need to eat a well-balanced meal.
- Talk to your doctor if your milk is not flowing. There could be an issue with your hormones which your doctor could help sort out.
Tips on How To Prevent Delayed Breastfeeding
Several factors, as highlighted above, could cause a mother to delay breastfeeding. Some are avoidable, while others are not. Below are some tips that might help you avoid the preventable causes of delayed breastfeeding;
- Be prepared emotionally. Stress and anxiety can affect the flow of milk. Before birth, you need to be in a good mental state. Seek support from family and friends, and where possible, join a support group.
- Eat a balanced diet during pregnancy and after birth. If possible, ask your doctor’s advice on supplements that safely stimulate milk flow without harming you or the baby.
- Discontinue drug abuse or misuse.
- Breastfeed as many times as you can.
- In the case of surrogacy, be prepared before your surrogate gives birth to ensure you can breastfeed immediately after the baby is born.
- Relax and enjoy every moment. There is no perfect way or ideal time to start breastfeeding. Some mothers will start breastfeeding immediately, while others will take a long time.
- Seek medical attention if you are not producing milk or have any infection or pain in your nipples.
In conclusion, there is no definite time when it is too late to start breastfeeding. However, it is easier to introduce breastfeeding or re-lactate a baby below six months than it could with an older one. Several factors could cause delayed breastfeeding, such as illness, adoption and surrogacy, absenteeism, and poor milk flow. Patience, treatment, and support could help a mother start breastfeeding effectively.