When Is It Too Late to Start Breastfeeding?

The experts say it is never too late to breastfeed after bottle feeding. Although there is a bit more work required to switch from formula to breast milk entirely, many breastfeeding mothers say they didn’t get started breastfeeding until their baby was 6 weeks old or older!

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How late is too late to start breastfeeding?

In general, it’s never too late to start breastfeeding. That is probably a huge relief for you if you’re reading this. And in this post I’m going to share very inspiring, encouraging data and personal experience to help you start breastfeeding again or even for the first time.

I recently read the story of one mom whose son was unable to properly latch to her breast from the very start. She struggled for several days trying to feed her newborn baby, but he just could not get the hang of it. Feeling guilty, pressured and desperate to nourish her son, she offered formula from a bottle and he accepted that quickly! Several weeks later, armed with the inspiring stories of other mothers who were able to get a late start with breastfeeding, her son not only was able to latch, but within a week she was exclusively breastfeeding!

Dozens of stories like this one are shared every day in breastfeeding forums and in breastfeeding support groups. And according to the experts, a late start at breastfeeding is certainly attainable! So if it’s been 3 days, one week, 8 weeks or more, it’s never too late to start breastfeeding!

Massager tool to help with milk supply

La Leche League International says it’s even possible to begin breastfeeding a 9 month old formula-fed baby. That might sound far-fetched, but considering how awesome our bodies are, I certainly wouldn’t doubt what we’re capable of.

Can You Start Breastfeeding After 3 days?

Your chance of breastfeeding is significantly high if it’s only been a few days since you stopped breastfeeding. So yes, if your baby is 3 days old, you can start breastfeeding and you’ll probably have a much easier time than you think.

For a lot of mothers, breastfeeding is much more challenging than they thought it would be. And there’s the fact that some babies are born early, with lip or tongue ties, or with other health issues that get in the way of breastfeeding. Not to mention how traumatic some births can be on the mom. 

In my case, I was extremely sick for weeks after having my first child. I stayed nauseous and unable to eat for an entire month and was exhausted from feeling so bad. There were several people telling me to focus on myself and just feed formula and if I had done that, that would have been okay. 

If you have found yourself in a similar situation and were unable to “push through it”, do not beat yourself up! But also, don’t give up on breastfeeding! 

Can You Start Breastfeeding After 8 weeks?

Yes! You can breastfeed after 8 weeks, and even if you never started. This is referred to as relactation and most mothers who stopped breastfeeding can restart later. Whether your baby has been bottle-fed for 1 or 2 months (or even longer) it is possible to begin breastfeeding after stopping. Later in this article, I cover expert tips to increase your milk supply. Jump ahead if you need to.

But first, Join below to receive my Lying-in Guide for breastfeeding mothers! I’d love to support you through your Breastfeeding Journey!

Breastfeeding an Adopted Baby

Even adoptive mothers can induce lactation and begin breastfeeding babies who have previously been bottle-fed formula. There are thousands of success stories of adoptive mothers who were able to nurse their adopted newborns and infants, without ever being pregnant or breastfeeding before. Most of these stories show that the best chances of succeeding at late breastfeeding are before the time the baby reaches 6 months of age and more likely if there is induced lactation beforehand.

You are a good candidate to try relactation or induced lactation if…
  • Your baby nursed in the first few days of life, but for reasons like inability to latch or hospitalization due to premature birth was switched to a bottle.
  • Your baby is under the age of 6 months. This applies to adopted babies too!
  • You have breastfed before, even if only for the first few days.
  • You are very determined to breastfeed. It will take dedication!

**If you recently had a premature baby, I encourage you to next read this post about feeding and pumping guidelines for late preterm babies.

No matter the reason, bottle-fed babies can make the switch and become breastfed babies in no time! Here’s how….

Is it ever too late to increase milk supply?

Again, the answer is no, it’s never too late to increase your milk supply if you start to dry up. Whatever the reason was, if your milk supply stopped you can get it back!

*The following tips can also be used to increase your milk supply and/or induce lactation. These techniques work for adoptive mothers too.

1. Constant Contact–devote a minimum of 2 days to being in constant physical contact with your baby. Use a few natural skin-to-skin positions as frequently as possible to encourage baby to breastfeed. Lay on your back with baby lying belly to belly on you. When you are calm and welcoming, baby’s natural instincts will stimulate him to search for your breast.

Another position that encourages baby to turn to the breast is holding him in your arms with his head near your breast as if you’re about to start feeding. Both of these positions work best if you and baby are bare skinned so that the mother-baby chemistry is easily communicated through the skin. As soon as baby appears ready to latch, let him! Allow baby to suckle for as long as he wants, switching breasts at each session.

2. Drink Tons of Water–One mother said she would drink a full glass of water every time her baby latched. She believed drinking the water brought in her milk supply quicker and somehow stimulated a fast letdown as well. Not only will you need the extra hydration now, but many moms swear by the concept that increasing your fluids helps increase milk supply too. If you don’t love water, try a beverage that helps with milk production. (click the image below)

Earth Mama Organics - Organic Milkmaid Tea

3. Give Extra Stimulation to Your Breasts–When baby isn’t nursing as well as while your baby is near you, massage your breasts and nipples and pump for a few minutes. Massaging tools, like this one (Pink Lotus), help with milk stimulation and flow and can clear clogged ducts as well.

4. Expect A Healthy Milk Supply, Fast–Research has proven that when it comes to a Mother’s milk supply, her expectations play a real part in the end result. One article in particular explains that what we expect to happen–usually based off of what we hear other moms say (like not producing enough milk for baby)–is likely going to happen! So if you think MILK, MILK, MILK, you’re more likely to see milk! Read my latest post on the top 10 ways to boost your milk supply.

5. Eat Foods That Promote A Healthy Milk Supply–Treat yourself to nutty oatmeal cookies every day. Other lactation promoting foods include:

  • Fenugreek seeds-Inexpensive and I have used them to increase my own supply on several occasions (supply drops now and then). You could also try an alcohol free tincture, like this organic one, to avoid the bitter taste of the seeds or swallowing capsules.
  • Carrots-Carrot cake anyone? Yum!
  • Spinach-Here is a spinach packed smoothie!
  • Garlic-If you can’t stomach whole cloves, here’s an odorless capsule form on Amazon.
  • Fennel-Easily taken in the form of a tea.

**Caution! These herbs/supplement options work quick! I usually only needed to use them for two days at most, but of course everyone is different. To avoid an oversupply, stop taking herbs or supplements when milk production picks up.

6. Enlist the support of a lactation consultant–An experienced lactation consultant will be your best source of information, support and advice getting started. And having someone who understands how you feel and how important this decision is for you could really make all the difference! You can simply google “lactation consultants near me” or reach out to me as I offer same day support by phone! Get more details here.

Also, joining breastfeeding support groups on Facebook was a great resource for me! Check out our growing community of Breastfeeding Warriors on Facebook and start posting your questions and helping other Mamas!

Adoptive breastfeeding

How long does it take to increase milk supply after it has decreased

It can take anywhere from a few days to 4 weeks to increase your milk supply after it has decreased or stopped. If you are 100% dedicated to breastfeeding, the odds (and mother nature) are in your favor.

One of the most important early-stage breastfeeding tips to remember is that in the beginning of your journey your baby will need to nurse more often. This is called cluster feeding, sometimes referred to as comfort nursing (although they are different), and you should not stop it. In fact, you should welcome cluster feeding as a sign of your baby establishing your milk supply, not that he’s telling you he’s still hungry. Read more about cluster feeding in this post!

Most experts suggest that if you’ve been formula feeding for a while, you should continue supplementing with formula for 4-6 weeks as this is typically the amount of time it takes to establish a stable milk supply. Always offer the breast first. If baby begins to fuss at the breast, continue to try to nurse for just a few minutes, allowing time for your body to respond to the cries. Before baby gets truly upset, go ahead and bottle feed. I wrote another post that guides you through the process of weaning from formula to go back to breastfeeding. Check that out!

Be patient! Understand that for most, late breastfeeding can takes weeks to achieve, but with the right mindset and using the tips mentioned above you can begin breastfeeding your baby at nearly any age!



La Leche League International, http://forums.llli.org/showthread.php?113115-Start-breastfeeding-at-9-months

Breastfeeding USA, Breastfeeding Your Adopted Baby. https://breastfeedingusa.org/content/article/breastfeeding-your-adopted-baby-0


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