when is it too late to start breastfeeding

When Is It Too Late To Start Breastfeeding?

I know you’re probably carrying a lot of questions around, and one might be – when is it too late to start breastfeeding?

Let me reassure you: in most cases, it’s never too late!!

Yes, you heard right! Even if you stopped breastfeeding or didn’t get to start right after your little one entered the world, re-establishing breastfeeding, a beautiful journey called relactation, or starting breastfeeding (induced lactation) is often achievable with the right guidance and support.

Of course, factors like your baby’s age, why breastfeeding didn’t happen initially, and your health condition play a role. That’s why it’s crucial to have a heart-to-heart with a healthcare professional or lactation consultant who can guide you toward the best decision for you and your baby.

Maybe breastfeeding didn’t kick off as planned, or perhaps you initially chose a different path. But now, you’re wondering – what if I want to start nursing my baby, even though some time has elapsed? Can I hop onto the breastfeeding journey now?

In this post I’ll discuss the 5 main signs breastfeeding may not work, why and when to start breastfeeding, some of the challenges you may face with relactation (plus tips to overcome them), and, importantly, how to get into the right mindset.

Let’s get started!

When is it too late to start breastfeeding?

The decision to start breastfeeding can be influenced by various factors. Like I say, in most cases breastfeeding can be started or re-commenced but there are five potential signs that might suggest it’s too late to start breastfeeding:

  1. Maternal Health: Certain medical conditions, medications, or surgeries can make breastfeeding challenging or even impossible. If a mother’s health could be compromised by breastfeeding, it might be too late to start.

  2. Infant Health: If a baby has a medical condition that prevents them from latching on or sucking properly, breastfeeding might not be feasible.

  3. Lactation Issues: If significant time has passed since childbirth and a mother’s milk supply has not been stimulated, it can be more difficult to establish breastfeeding. While relactation is possible, it requires considerable effort and may not be successful in all cases.

  4. Baby’s Age and Feeding Habits: Older infants who are accustomed to bottle-feeding may resist the breast. While it’s possible to transition from bottle to breast, it can be challenging and might not be successful.

  5. Lack of Support: Successful breastfeeding often requires a strong support system. If a mother lacks this support or faces significant barriers, it could be too late to start breastfeeding.

Why start breastfeeding?

It’s widely understood that breastfeeding is a natural and healthy way to nourish your baby providing numerous benefits for both you and your child.

Health benefits for babies

Breast milk contains antibodies that help protect your baby from infections and illnesses. It also has the perfect balance of nutrients that your baby needs to grow and develop. Breastfeeding has been linked to a lower risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), childhood obesity, and certain types of cancer.

One of the wonderful aspects of breastfeeding is the adaptability of your body to your baby’s needs. Whether you’re nursing younger babies or older babies, your body adjusts the composition of your milk to suit your baby’s developmental stage.

Health benefits for mothers

Breastfeeding can help the mother’s body recover from childbirth more quickly. It may also reduce the risk of certain health conditions, such as breast and ovarian cancers.


Breastfeeding is a great way to bond with your baby. The skin-to-skin contact that occurs during breastfeeding releases hormones that promote feelings of love and attachment. It also helps your baby feel secure and comforted.

Immune support

Breast milk is rich in antibodies that can help your baby fight off viruses and bacteria, leading to fewer instances of illnesses like ear infections, respiratory illnesses, and diarrhea.


Breastfeeding is essentially free and always available, which can save considerable money compared to the cost of formula feeding.

Starting your journey – how much breast milk supply do I even have?

Starting your breastfeeding journey later than immediately after birth may initially result in a partial milk supply. However, with regular feeding or pumping, many mothers find they can increase their milk production.

It’s a common concern for mothers – how much milk will be produced? The answer varies for every individual. Factors like the frequency of baby feeds, the baby’s age, and the mother’s health can influence the volume of milk produced.

When to start breastfeeding

Here are some tips for starting breastfeeding at different stages:

Immediately after delivery

The first hour after birth is recognized as crucial for successful breastfeeding. Skin-to-skin time and nursing within the first hour can help establish milk production and a good latch. If you are unable to nurse right away, pumping can help stimulate milk production.

After a late start

If you were unable to nurse immediately after delivery, don’t worry. It’s rarely too late to start breastfeeding. It may take some patience and persistence, but with the help of a lactation consultant and some skin-to-skin contact, you can establish a good milk supply.

After bottle feeding

If you have been feeding your baby with a bottle, you can still switch to breastfeeding. It may take some time for your baby to adjust, but with a good latch and some patience, you can establish a successful breastfeeding routine.

After adopting a baby

Even adoptive mothers can stimulate their breasts to produce milk and begin breastfeeding through induced lactation, which may involve medications, herbs, and guidance from a lactation consultant. Milk production varies among individuals; some may initially have ample milk supply, while others may produce less. Regardless, with the right support, adoptive mothers can enable their adopted baby to enjoy the benefits of breastfeeding.

After pregnancy complications

If you experienced complications during pregnancy or delivery, it may take some time for your milk to come in. Pumping, rest, and good nutrition can help stimulate and induce lactation. If you are struggling, don’t hesitate to reach out to a lactation support consultant for help.

Challenges and tips

Here are some common challenges and tips for successful breastfeeding.

Common challenges

  • Older baby

If you are planning to begin breastfeeding an older baby, they may be more resistant to latching on. Try different breastfeeding positions and be patient. It may take some time for your baby to get used to exclusive breastfeeding.

  • Understanding hunger cues

It can be difficult to understand your baby’s hunger cues, especially if you are a first-time mother. Look for signs of rooting, sucking, and lip-smacking. These are all signs that your baby is hungry.

  • Nipple confusion

This is especially true if your baby is used to bottle-feeding. A human nipple is different to that from a bottle nipple and babies can take a little while to learn a new way of latching.

  • Low milk supply

The more you breastfeed, the more milk your body will produce. When your baby is going through a growth spurt, they may want to breastfeed more often. This is normal and will help increase your milk supply.

Read more about breastfeeding challenges here: 11 Common Breastfeeding problems and how to fix them for good

Tips for successful breastfeeding

breastfeeding positions
  • Breastfeeding position

Try different positions until you find one that is comfortable for you and your baby. Techniques like switching breasts during feeds and ensuring regular breast stimulation can encourage your body to produce more milk and perfect your babys latch.

  • Good latch

To ensure successful breastfeeding, it’s important to establish a proper latch and position. A good latch with your baby’s mouth wide open and covering the entire nipple and areola means that your baby is able to suckle effectively, which will help stimulate breast milk production more. The right position can also help prevent nipple pain and discomfort.

  • Healthy diet

Maintaining a healthy diet and increasing your fluid intake can help increase milk production.

  • Skin-to-skin contact

Skin-to-skin contact is important for bonding and can also help increase milk supply.

  • Lactation support supplement

If you are producing little or no milk, consider taking a lactation support supplement or herbal supplements. They can help increase milk supply and are safe for breastfeeding mothers.

Examples include lactation cookies, breastfeeding protein powders, and galactagogues.

  • Breast stimulation and pumping

The process of lactation involves regular breast stimulation and nipple stimulation, either by your baby’s feeding or using a breast pump or hand expression to stimulate your breasts between feedings. Tools like an electric double breast pump, wearable pump or smart pump may help. Don’t be afraid to pump expressed milk to ensure that you have an ample breast milk supply.

  • Breast compression

Breast compression can help your baby get more milk while breastfeeding. Use your fingers to compress your breast while your baby is breastfeeding. This will help your baby get more milk and will also help increase your milk supply.

  • Addressing nipple confusion

Try to limit bottles and encourage your baby to latch onto your breast regularly. You might also need to consider the use of a supplemental nursing device, especially if your milk supply is low.

You may also like to avoid using pacifiers in the early weeks of breastfeeding as some believe that they can interfere with your baby’s ability to latch on and can also reduce milk supply. However, there are some pacifiers specifically designed for breastfed babies. Check out my post: The Best Pacifiers for Breastfed Babies in 2023


  • Be determined and persist: Breastfeeding can be challenging, but it is important to be determined. Remember that breast milk provides important nutrients for your baby and can also help strengthen your bond. Persistence is key to successful breastfeeding. Keep trying and seek help if you need it.

  • Rest: Rest is important for breastfeeding mothers. Make sure you are getting enough sleep and taking care of yourself. Read more about this here: 13 Self-Care Ideas for Moms: Top Tips for Daily Relaxation

  • Help: If you are having trouble with breastfeeding, seek help from a lactation consultant or other breastfeeding support group.

  • Recognize that it’s ok to change your mind: If you are having trouble with breastfeeding, it is okay to change your mind. Formula feeding is a safe and healthy option for babies.

A note about lactation consultants

Lactation specialists or consultants can provide invaluable support, especially if you’re planning to restart breastfeeding.

Consulting with a lactation specialist can be an invaluable resource for learning techniques to encourage milk flow, addressing any breastfeeding challenges, and getting personalized advice for your situation. They can provide practical tips and emotional support, making your breastfeeding journey smoother and more enjoyable.

Breastfeeding isn’t all or nothing

It’s also worth mentioning that breastfeeding isn’t an all-or-nothing approach. Some mothers might not be able to produce a full milk supply initially, but every drop of breastmilk is beneficial to your baby.

If required, supplementary milk can be provided alongside breastfeeding to ensure your baby is getting enough nutrition.

Formula-fed babies, too, thrive and develop well, and some mothers choose or need to use formula for various reasons. As a breastfeeding mother, whether you choose to exclusively breastfeed, combine breast and bottle, or shift to formula, remember that each mother’s journey is unique.

Further reading:

How to Transition From Pumping to Breastfeeding: Your Relactation Strategy for 2023

Breastfeeding vs Exclusive Pumping: Which is Right for You?


In conclusion, it’s never truly too late to start or restart your breastfeeding journey. Each journey is unique, filled with challenges and triumphs.

Through it all, you’re never alone. Lactation consultants or specialists are there to provide professional guidance, empowering you with practical techniques to stimulate milk flow and address any breastfeeding hurdles. They offer tailored advice to suit your situation, providing not just technical assistance, but also emotional support.

So, embark on your breastfeeding journey whenever you feel ready, knowing you have a wealth of support to make it smoother and more enjoyable.

Remember, the journey isn’t just about feeding; it’s about building a beautiful bond with your child.

Final thoughts

When my second baby was born I was determined to breastfeed just as I had done with my first baby. But very quickly I knew something was wrong, and it turned out my mother’s instinct and my medical experience as a paramedic were right: my boy had a condition called laryngomalacia (causing issues with breathing and swallowing).

Long story short, he had surgery on his throat at 11 weeks old and had to be fed through a nasogastric tube. I pumped breast milk while the tube was in situ then as soon as I could got back to breastfeeding. It was a challenging time!! But we did it and I ended up breastfeeding him for 16 months.

The message I give to moms is: just face each challenge as it comes and absorb as much support from friends, your partner and health care professional as you can.



Have questions? I have answers.

It’s never truly “too late” to try breastfeeding. Even if you didn’t start immediately after birth, or you have an adopted baby, it’s often possible to establish or re-establish breastfeeding and get milk flowing with the right support and information.

Yes, you can start breastfeeding after 3 months. This process, known as relactation, can take time and patience but is possible with the right support and guidance.

No, 2 weeks is not too late to start breastfeeding. Many mothers successfully initiate or re-initiate breastfeeding even after this time period and are able to start producing milk.

It’s never too late to establish milk supply or increase milk flow. However, the process may take time and will require regular stimulation of the breasts through breastfeeding or pumping.

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