Guest Writer: Tiffany Mooney
Relactation can be difficult but the most rewarding part of the journey is seeing my milk in the fridge every day. Seeing my accomplishment is motivation. I can think to myself, “yes I made that!“. I want to help encourage and motivate others through the process of relactating so keep reading to see if there is some tips that might help you on your journey!
When I first started my relactation journey I was only getting 5ml-10ml combined. I knew what my goal was and I wanted to do it right! Relactation is a CONFIDENCE game, so play the game every day. Don’t expect to get to the full 24 oz you had before, in fact, don’t aim for a certain amount, just work the game plan and you will start to notice results.
The Pump: The pump you use matters. Just like a pair of jeans, the size does not fit all. Everyone responds differently to different pumps. When relactating we are trying to get the Prolactin and Oxytocin to work together to make milk and the only way to do that is to stimulate the breast by touching and pulling the nipples. So when you pump you should be gently working your way up to higher suction. I highly recommend Spectra Synergy Gold, Spectra Dual Compact, or Willow Go. You can likely get them free from insurance, but if not offered, Spectra S1/S2 are cheaper. All these pumps have a vibration pull to them which helps stimulate milk production.
Get Sized. I was personally sized by Crystal from Save The Milk. She now offers two options for sizing depending on the needs you have. The simplest way to get your size, is by using the Nipple Queen Ruler and size yourself in the comfort of your home. The number on the ruler is the product to buy. it’s that simple! The other option is the full Pumping Pretty System which is a godsend!
Set a schedule: To achieve a good supply you will need to commit to a set schedule. Ideally, you would want to pump 10-12 times a day to mimic a newborn’s schedule, but let’s face it, not everyone has the time. I set my schedule to pump 8-10 times daily at 12 a.m., 4 a.m., 7 a.m., (power pump) 10 a.m., 1 p.m., 4 p.m., 6 p.m., and 9 p.m., (power pump).
Latch: If you are able, try to latch your baby to the breast during the day. If baby refuses, twilight nursing may be helpful. I latched 3-6 times in addition to the 8 pumping sessions.
Suction strength: Higher suction doesn’t equal more milk. Keep the suction at a comfortable strength or else you could cause your skin to crack and this would set you back on your journey. Lubrication: Lubricate the inside of the flanges for maximum comfort during pumping, your nipples will likely get sore when you first start this journey. I like Earth Momma Organic Nipple Butter.
Length of your session: This one is a little hard to nail down, you will have to base this on the time you have to commit. As I mentioned, I was only getting 5-10 mls combined and I could clearly see milk dripping every so often so I pumped for 40 minutes. In that time, I could see my last letdown is at 35 minutes and I pumped 5 more minutes to encourage my body to believe it needed to be making more milk. I would suggest a 30 minute goal. then follow up with hand expressing till no more drops usually another few minutes.
Hand expressing: You don’t have to pump. You can gently hand express. I pump first and after each session I would hand express for those last few drops. It is essential to making sure you’re empty!
Hydration: There is mixed feelings about this, my opinion is you need to hydrate. You don’t need to over do it! You just need to quench your thirst and make sure you are replenishing your nutrients that you’re losing by producing milk. I drink at least 100oz-125oz a day, if not more, for a few reasons: My body weight, I live in the desert, and I’m lactating. Electrolytes are important to maintain. A lot of moms like drinking Body Armor, Gatorade and Liquid IV.
Power Pumping: No idea who invented this, but you pump for 20 minutes, 10 minute rest, Pump for 10 minutes, 10 minutes rest, and pump again for 10 minutes. This is done to mimic cluster feeding. Your body thinks its a new pumping session and will produce another letdown. This helps increase supply over time… yes it does take a lot of time. You can do mini power pump sessions, it just cutting down the time to 10/5/5/5 etc.
Breast stimulation: I mentioned how prolactin is created by touching and this is where massaging and vibration helps. When pumping or nursing, massage your breast by hand or with a lactation massager. This helps stimulate the T3-T5 thoracic nurves that connect to the pituitary gland that produce the milk making signals. It also helps shake loose the milk deep in the ducts so you don’t get clogs.
Night Pumps: I know its hard to wake at night, however, it’s extremely crucial for relactation. Prolactin levels peak between 2-4 a.m. so aim to get a session in.
Pump Parts: As your journey continues, make sure you change your duckbills every 2-3 weeks. As you’re pumping frequently, they will wear out fast.
Meditate: Studies have shown that meditation helps boost oxytocin which helps your milk flow. Imagine a peaceful waterfall surrounded by nature – you are mother nature- you are feeding and nurturing. Relaxation helps tremendously! Have fun while your pumping, open up Tiktok, watch your favorite TV show. A watched pot never over boils, so stop looking at your bottes as that will lead to more stress. If you can’t stop yourself put baby socks over your bottles, research shows it helps. In addition, get yourself some small Medela colostrum bottles. You can adapt these with other brand flanges here.
Supplements: These are great for some moms and you have better chances of responding to them if you are drinking and eating properly and even then, some just don’t respond. You wont know what works for you until you try them. Do your research as some can have side effects, reduce supply or interfere with medication. There are herbs, teas, tinctures, powder, liquid but my all time favorite is Cookies, Then Milk by Nikki Bredeson. You may hear moms talking about Lecithin. I used it to help empty quicker and when you empty quicker you get those milk making signals to work! (QueenBee15 for %15 off) You can find a lot of the supplements here.
I was very proud regardless of the amount I was getting at the end of the day and you should be too! Relactation is very hard work, it takes dedication and a lot of time. Having the right support helped tremendously. I joined FB relactation groups, and Crystal’s Support Group, followed relactating moms on Tiktok. After 2 months on my journey I was able to hit a total of 6-7 oz a day. That’s great progress for me. Just remember this is a process, it takes months to get to a good supply but if you are determined, you will get there!
If you would like some support, feel free to reach out to Tiffany Mooney!