Breastfeeding Outside The Box

One thing I love about my job as a Lactation Consultant is the variety in how each family approaches feeding their babies. Some of my favorite care plans to create are the ones outside of the box of what one might consider a “normal” breastfeeding experience.

A service we are proud to offer is supporting parents in induced lactation, relactation, and/or navigating co-feeding. This could mean breastfeeding/chestfeeding without birthing (think adoptive parent or non-gestating parent) or beginning to lactate after a period of weaning (think a parent who stopped breastfeeding or pumping for baby, but had a change in heart for any variety of reasons).

Some parents may choose to co-feed, meaning both the gestational parent and non-gestation parent are able to pump for or breastfeed/chestfeed their baby. The gestational parent will begin making milk after baby is born, while the non-gestational parent can begin inducing lactation during the pregnancy and build up a milk supply as the due date approaches.

An adoptive parent may begin inducing lactation once they have a match with a biological/first parent. A parent via surrogacy could begin inducing lactation once their surrogate is pregnant. Each work toward building a milk supply as baby’s due date approaches.

So, how exactly does one induce lactation? There is no one size fits all plan. Each plan is as unique as the individuals themselves, tailored to their goals and specific circumstances. Plans may include simply putting baby to breast, hand expressing, partner stimulation, an around the clock pumping schedule, herbs, and/or medications. You and your Lactation Consultant can create a plan that you feel comfortable with, and that is optimal for your situation. For example, a care plan for inducing lactation might involve three stages. The first stage may potentially include medications and herbs to discuss with your physician. The second stage may involve beginning to stimulate your breasts to create a milk supply. Lastly, the third stage can address how to begin feeding once baby is here (And sometimes baby is already here, so we dive straight into stage 3!).

When relactating, your Lactation Consultant will help you customize a plan incorporating the following factors: how long it has been since you last made milk, your goal for making milk and/or breastfeeding, and how much time each day you have to dedicate to your care plan.

If your goal with inducing lactation, relactating, or co-feeding is to focus on bonding with baby through breastfeeding, you may consider starting simple by placing baby to breast with a supplemental nursing system (SNS). This device allows the parent to feed baby at breast with a flow of milk (pumped milk, donor milk, and/or formula) via small tubing that runs beside the nipple. The advantage of using the SNS is that it provides parent and baby an opportunity to bond at breast, and at-breast stimulation to help build a milk supply. It also allows baby to feed in a more biological way to optimize their oral development.

An example of feeding with a temporary supplemental nursing system being used to help give baby extra flow while breastfeeding.

As part of your care plan with a Nurture consultant, we provide you with: evidence based options, resources, questions to ask your physician, questions to ask your insurance company, and supplies that might be helpful during the process. If you find yourself in an “out of the box” feeding situation, consider scheduling a consultation with Nurture. We would love the opportunity to support you on your journey!

*Nurture Columbus is inclusive of all gender identities and expressions (including parents identifying as transgender, cisgender, or non-binary), sexual orientations, and forms of family.

About the author: Julie Oberholzer is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) with Nurture Columbus, in Columbus, Ohio.  With her background in Public Health and Lactation, she enjoys meeting with parents and new babies, helping them on their feeding journey and supporting them as they find their new normal.

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