So you stopped breastfeeding and want to start again? It IS possible to get your breast milk back after stopping with relactation. Here is what you need to keep in mind, including sample relactation plans and tips.
Can Breast Milk Come Back After Drying Up?
For one reason or another, many women who have previously stopped breastfeeding decide to give it another go.
Perhaps you had a rough beginning to breastfeeding and chose to wean. But now you’re reconsidering and need to know how to bring your milk supply back and begin breastfeeding again.
Or maybe you and your infant were separated because of medical issues, and you couldn’t continue breastfeeding, and you would like to attempt once more.
It very well may be that your child weaned months prior; however, for whatever reason, it seems like it might be a good idea to try again – and you’re wondering, “Can I breastfeed again?”
Are you ready for some good news? It is all possible! Yes, it is possible to restart breastfeeding your baby, and we are going to cover everything you need to know about relactation in this article.
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What Is Relactation?
Relactation is when a person starts breastfeeding again after a gap. A mother may not have breastfed for a few days, weeks, months, or even years. It requires a lot of effort and diligence, but many moms have previously done it, and so can you with the right support.
Relactation Vs. Induced Lactation
Sometimes people use these terms interchangeably – however, they are definitely different concepts.
- Relactation implies re-building up your milk supply after to weaning your infant from nursing or yourself from the breast pump. Typicallly this is done within a few weeks or months after previously weaning.
- Induced Lactation means building up a milk supply if you didn’t give birth to your baby and never breastfed before. This is something that some adoptive parents choose to do.
How long does it take to relactate?
Each body responds differently to attempts at relactation. Some find success right away, while others find it to be a little bit more slow moving.
However, when following a relactation plan, you can hope to see some underlying outcomes within fourteen days of trying. Some believe that the amount of time it takes to relactate is about equivalent to how long it’s been since you weaned from breastfeeding.
Working with a lactation consultant is one of the best things you can do, as they can help you come up with a plan based on your individual circumstances.
A few common reasons why you’d want to relactate are:
- You may have quit breastfeeding sooner than you needed to or wanted to, and you may have changed your perspective.
- You may have been separated from your infant, or your baby may have been sick
- Relactation can likewise apply to a parent who previously breastfed a biological kid and now wishes to make milk for an adopted child
- You have a kid birthed by a surrogate and need to breastfeed the newborn.
Step by Step Instructions to Relactate
If you breastfed your infant and might want to begin doing that once more, you can try and use them to jump start the process. This does require an infant who will still latch readily and won’t get frustrated with a slower flow.
However, if your baby isn’t interested in latching right now – or if you plan to pump exclusively – you will probably need to pump to boost your milk supply to a point where you are able to produce more milk.
The two keys to building up a milk supply are:
- Stimulation of your nipples/breast– this can be any mix of pumping, your infant nursing, or hand expression. This may or may not produce much milk at first.
- Removing milk from your breasts when you have some to remove.
When you are going through this process, here is what I recommend doing:
- Do lots of skin to skin as frequently as you can
- If you are wanting to get the baby back to nursing at the breast, offer the breast at the beginning of every feed, even if most of it is done with a bottle
- Consider avoiding pacifiers for comfort – offer the breast instead
- Come up with a plan for stimulation for the breast – I would aim for 8-12 times a day for 20-30 minutes for best results. However, you need to find a plan that will work well for you
- Consider using an at the breast supplementer
- Use a variety of tools – nursing at the breast, stimulation with a breast pump (electric and/or manual), and hand expression
- Be patient with yourself and your baby
At the Breast Supplementer
If your goal is to get your baby back to the breast and not exclusively pump, you will want to allow them frequent access to the breast.
Some babies will happily suckle away at the breast, even if there’s nothing coming out. However, other babies won’t be as patient. If you are falling in this camp, an at the breast supplementer is a great way to stimulate the breast and ensure your baby is getting milk/formula.
A supplemental nursing system (SNS) can be a great option. You can put previously expressed milk or formula in the bottle, you attach it to your shirt, and a thin tube goes into your baby’s mouth. As they nurse, milk flows into their mouth. This can allow them to stimualte the breast while have a positive experience, as they are getting milk while doing so.
SNS tools can be wonderful, though some find them difficult to use. Definitely work with an IBCLC for instruction on how to use one effectively.
Sample Relactation Plans
As mentioned previously, for best results, you will want to nurse, pump, or hand express eight to twelve times per day for 20-30 minutes, with 1-2 times during the night. Breast milk production is a supply and demand system – the more your breasts are being stimulated, the most milk that will be produced.
This can be a little overwhelming for some people – especially when they are first starting out and if they are juggling feeding their infant and all their other responsibilities. For this purpose, I’ve created various sample relactation plans. You need to find what works best for you!
Again, working with an IBCLC is going to be your best option for coming up with a plan that works for your situation.
You can use pumping, nursing, or hand expression (or a combination of any of these options) with any of these plans. Some moms find that using power pumping at night can be helpful.
You may also find that you mix a few of these plans together. Just remember – more stimulation typically equals more milk.
If you want these in printable form, including a “make your own” option, you can purchase this with the link below for $3.
Relactation Plan #1
This one might be the most effective most quickly, but it’s also most overwhelming and difficult for most mothers to commit to.
Relactation Plan #2
Relactation Plan #3
If you can, nurse, pump, or hand express at some point in the night
Relactation Plan #3
Relactation Plan #4
Power Pump at 8:00 AM, 3:00 PM, and 10:00 PM
Hand Express or Nurse at least 3 of the times below: 11:00 AM, 1:00 PM, and 6:00 PM
Relactation Plan #5
Nurse, pump, or hand express when you can throughout the day. Aim for 8-12 “hits”in 24 hours for as much time as you can.
Will I be able to make a full milk supply?
This is one of those situations where I wish I had a magic crystal ball – I really can’t say! If you’ve been able to produce enough milk at one point, and there hasn’t been a huge gap since you stopped breastfeeding, it is very possible that you will be able to produce enough milk.
Some moms, regardless of what they do, won’t be able to produce all the milk their baby needs. And that’s okay. My advice is to go forward with a an open mind and celebrate every drop that you are able to get.
Other Tips for Relactating Successfully
Some other things that may be useful in relactating are:
Monitor baby closely. It is really important to monitor your child’s intake and weight gain carefully when relactating. While it would be great to just put the baby back to the breast and have them nurse, often your supply isn’t to a point (yet!) where you can adequately sustain them. During the relactation process, it’s important to ensure that they are getting adequate nutrition and hydration.
Do Breast Compressions. After you begin having some breast milk, do breast compressions when you pump. Breast compressions help push the milk out of your milk ducts, and the more milk you can remove, the more achievement you’ll have at building a milk supply.
Try Hand Expression. Many ladies don’t react well to a breast pump yet have accomplishment with hand expression. Watch a couple of tutorials online to get the idea and afterward check if it works for you.
Try Warm Packs. Warmth appears to get breast milk streaming, so a warm pack like a warm washcloth can be of great help.
Consider Galactagogue Use. For some, galactagogues are an option to consider – foods, vitamins, or even medication. If this is something you are interested in, please work with a medical professional determine the best course of action. Learn more here – 30+ Galactagogues for Increasing Milk Supply
Contingent upon how long it’s been since you quit breastfeeding, you may find it difficult to recover an entire milk supply. Have confidence that even if you just wind up creating a little, your infant will benefit from any breast milk you can give, as well as the time you’re going to spend in close contact with each other.
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Katie Clark is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). She has helped thousands of mothers and families around the globe navigate breastfeeding challenges and questions since 2015. She has a passion for creating research-based, helpful breastfeeding education and helping parents find a way to make breastfeeding work for them. Katie is a mom of three little boys and lives in the great state of Colorado. She also has a degree in Communications with an emphasis in print journalism.