There are several instances where someone might be considering relactation. Maybe you want to attempt breastfeeding again after your milk has dried up, or if you are adopting a newborn you might want to lactate or relactate.
You might be wondering, is relactation even possible? Today, I want to answer all of the questions you have about breastmilk coming back after drying up and signs that relactation is working.
Let’s jump in!
What is Relactation?
Relactation is when you reestablish your breastmilk after you have dried up previously. Relactation can happen weeks or months after you stopped breastfeeding initially.
Relactation can offer another chance at breastfeeding after you’ve dried up, which is so neat! Women’s bodies are truly remarkable.
Why Would You Want to Relactate?
Why would someone want to relactate? There are a few reasons that someone may want to relactate such as:
- Surrogate birth
- Changing your mind
- Baby cannot tolerate formula
These are just a few reasons that a mother may decide to relactate.
Can Breastmilk Come Back After Drying Up?
Yes, breastmilk can come back after drying up. Although relactation can occur after the breastmilk dries up initially, it can be a bit of a lengthy process that requires patience.
A good support system is important especially when trying to relactate. Encouragement from your partner, friends and even professionals (like a lactation consultant) can increase the success of relactation.
How To Begin the Process of Relactation
Okay, so you’ve decided that relactation is the route you want to go.. I am so proud of you, this is an exciting journey.
Below are my best tips and tricks to induce relactation. These tips and tricks help to prepare your body and stimulate the hormones required for your body to start producing breastmilk once again.
Pacifiers soothe the suckling reflex that babies inherently have. The problem is that the suckling is part of what you need to relactate.
The act of suckling at the breast stimulates the body into producing the hormones required to produce milk.
Maximize Skin to Skin Contact
Skin to skin is amazing for stimulating relactation. This is because skin to skin contact produces the hormone oxytocin or the love hormone.
Oxytocin is released during skin to skin time helps the mama and baby to bond. Skin to skin can also help to stimulate the baby’s natural instinct to breast feed.
If your baby is rooting around during skin to skin time, that means that their natural instincts are kicking in!
Allow Suckling at Your Breast
Even if you are not producing milk quite yet, allow your baby to suckle at your breast. The suckling helps to tell your body to produce milk.
The more often that this can be done, the better. The stimulation that suckling causes will encourage relactation.
Always offer baby the breast first, but when they are done you should pump. Pumping simulates the suckling that your baby does at the breast.
Pumping after offering your baby the breast will help your body to produce milk.
Pro tip: If you are at work and pumping, try looking at a picture of your baby while pumping. The oxytocin hormone will be released and help in relactation.
Drink a LOT of Water
Producing breastmilk requires a lot of water. If you are dehydrated, your body will likely not produce much breastmilk if any at all.
Breastmilk is 80% water, so it is important to hydrate properly so your milk can come in and be as nutritious as possible for your baby!
How Long Does Relactation Take?
Keep in mind that relactation is a process, and can vary from person to person.
The production of milk can begin a few days after consistent stimulation begins. On average, a good relactation supply can take a few weeks or months to build up.
Relactation beginning again can happen more quickly if you recently stopped breastfeeding.
The key to relactation being successful is patience, stimulation and proper hydration.
Signs that Relactation is Working
I am someone that always is on the lookout for signs and symptoms that something is working. These signs can be encouraging so that you keep going and pursuing relactation.
Some signs that relactation is working are:
- Increased amount of milk production during pumping sessions
- Tingling sensation in your breasts and armpits
- Baby swallowing during nursing sessions
- Baby suckling quickly at first, then more slowly
- Full breasts/heavy feeling
Relactation Success Stories
Sometimes hearing success stories can be the key to your own success! Here are some of my favorites!
Jessica’s Relactation Story
Jessica stopped breastfeeding her son Bailey when he was about 3 months old, due to incorrect medical advice from a GP (general practitioner or local doctor), saying she couldn’t breastfeed on anti depressants.
She had stopped feeding for around a month and had begun doing lots of research on relactation as well as seeking information from lactation consultants. With the support of her partner and a lactation consultant, Jessica believes that what helped her to succeed was her determination and refusal to accept that she wasn’t able to breastfeed.
So how did she do it?
“For the first week I was on domperidone (common name of Motillium), taking 2 tablets 3 times a day, dropping 1 tablet per day, while snacking on lactation cookies (the recipe I found on the BellyBelly website which is here). I was pumping for 15 minutes on each side, every hour, as well as drinking lots of water and eating lots of healthy foods. I offered my milk (in a bottle) before formula no matter how little the amount to reintroduce the taste of my milk.
For the second week, the lactation consultant and I were happy enough that my milk had come in enough to stop domperidone completely, but I continued snacking on lactation cookies. This week we focused on returning him to the breast. I started the first day by offering the breast between my milk and his formula but this approach wasn’t working for us, so I decided to try spending as much skin on skin time as possible. We turned it into a game, where i’d be on my hands and knees over him hovering my boob over his mouth and if he latched then I let him feed, if he didn’t it was all fun and smiles, we spent maybe 2 days feeding in that hovered position then I was able to get him to latch on our sides then from there we were back to ‘normal’ positions.”
Read the full story(and more success stories) @BellyBelly.com
Baby Center Success Story (Annonymous)
I wanted to write a detailed post about my journey. If you have any questions I would be happy to help as much as I can.
Background info: I am 26 yrs old, have a 2 yr old son and 8 week old son. I am a stay at home mom. Relactated for my. 8 week old son.
Total relactation time: 3 weeks
Total time between breastfeeding:
I breastfed 3 times in the hospital then switched to formula. 5 and 1/2 weeks later I decided to try to relactate.
I met with a lactation consultant at a breastfeeding clinic once a week. There, using a special scale, they could tell how many ounces my lo was getting from my breasts.
I rented a hospital grade pump, took fenugreek 3…3 x a day, ate a lot of whole oats, drank lots of water and made sure I was getting plenty to eat. I ate a bowl of oats in the morning and the small bowls throughout the day for snacks. I don’t think this makes a difference, but since I have a hard time swallowing pills….instead if swallowing the fenugreek whole, I broke the pills open and mixed them with applesauce. just wanted to make sure I included that just in case it did make a difference.
Pumping….in the beginning I pumped every two hours. I started with drops. By day 3 I got about 1/16oz.
End of Week one: I pumped 5 1/2 oz in one day. I pumped 1/4 to 1oz throughout the day.
End of Week two: I was pumping around 10oz a day. 1/2oz to 2 1/2oz throughout the day.
End of week three: I pumped around 16oz in a day. 2oz-7oz at a time depending on time of day.
I supplemented with formula for first two weeks…by third week I produced enough to supplement with pumped milk. I am now nursing completely and giving a bottle now and then with pumped milk.
When I pumped, if I had time, I did power pumping, I pumped 10 mins…stopped 10 mins, then pumped 10 mins and so on for an hour. I did this whenever I could. During those 10 mins, if I had time, I did something I read about, not sure where I read this at but it worked for me. Massage, tickle, jiggle…..I massaged the breasts ( in small circles working way for large part of breast to nipple) then using the tips of my fingers nails I gently brushed my breasts from the bigger part of breast to the nipple. Then using gravity I stood up and gently jiggle my breast back and forth. This whole process was suppose to help my milk letdown and it did work really work for me. What I read said to pump 5 mins, do massage, tickle, jiggle then pump again for 5. I basically did anything I had time for and combined techniques. I also at times ( in evening before bed after 2 yr old asleep )would pump for long periods at a time but I think the power pumping and other technique helped most.
Nursing….in the beginning I pumped more than nursing because my lo was not getting much and getting mad. However I would still put him to breast before or after the pumping sessions. I used a breast shield because he would not latch without it. Once my supply came in I started nursing on one side while pumping on other side and then switching sides. Then one my supply really started coming in I nursed every time before pumping….this really helped my supply come in fast. now I am nursing whener lo is hungry and pumping if breasts still feel full.
Breast feeding clinic:
Week one: 2cc from left, 6 cc from right
Week two: 28cc from left, 30cc from right
Week three: 30cc from left, 38cc from right
Start of week four: 34 from left, 46 from right
Basically I stimulated my breasts whenever I could either by nursing or pumping. Sometimes I pumped every two hrs and nursed between that. I also took baths with my son and lots of skin to skin contact…that really seems to help.
When trying to build supply, I was told its important to pump or nuse at night too. I tried to do every three hours. Now that my supply is good, I go 5 hrs between at night.
After week one, I started recording the times I nursed and pumped so I know I wouldn’t miss the two hour mark. In the start when not producing much, I tried not to pay too much attention to how much I pumped but rather kept thinking to myself, that I was pumping for the future. Once supply started coming, I recorded how many oz I pumped. My lactation consultant was soooo nice and caring and gave me the confidence to keep going. She should write a book 🙂 Also, If you google it, there are foods to avoid when trying to build supply. Mint is one of them. Also lots of foods that help. After talking with my doctor I decided not to do reglan or medications to help because of history of depression in past.
I love breastfeeding! It feels great to provide my lo with the best I can. It has given me confidence to know I’ve accomplished something. Your hard work will pay off…..
Original Article can be found @babycenter.com
Reddit Relactation Success Journey
I never got my first baby to latch at all so I exclusively pumped for two months and then switched to formula. No regrets. My second latched great in the hospital. I really wanted breastfeeding to work this time so I made sure to have the lactation consultant come multiple times plus I asked the nurses for advice. They all said baby’s latch was good and everything seemed to be going well. I was also supplementing with formula in order to have a happy, full baby before my milk came in. When my milk came in, baby was struggling to latch when I was engorged and we were both getting frustrated but we worked through it (or so I thought) and he was exclusively breastfed for a few days. Then he just refused to latch all together. I’m not sure what happened but I decided to switch to formula (I have horrible D-MER when pumping and didn’t want to go through that again). About a week later, I was feeling regret about ending breastfeeding and tried to start again but encountered the same struggle. Once I was engorged, baby refused to latch. So I went back to exclusively formula feeding for good.
When baby was six weeks old, I was still feeling a lot of regret about my decision to stop breastfeeding. I was so sad that our few sweet nursing moments were over. At this point, it had been four weeks since I had last pumped or nursed. I realized that it didn’t have to be all formula and maybe I could continue formula feeding and comfort nurse. Baby latched on great and seemed to really enjoy comfort nursing and I liked the cozy snuggles too.
At first, I would just have him nurse on one side for 10 minutes and then give him a bottle. After two days, I decided I wanted to increase my supply so that he was actually getting breast milk but I wanted to do it without pumping. I have D-MER and nursing aversion feelings of rage when pumping that I don’t have when nursing. I started nursing for 30 minutes before each bottle and then for 10 minutes after a bottle.
This made feedings take over an hour which was rough especially since there was no sign that he was really getting anything from me (he was still taking a 4 oz bottle). I made a lactation consultant appointment for when baby was 8 weeks old. I ended up getting a stomach bug the day the appointment was supposed to be. I didn’t want to touch baby and get him sick so I had my husband feed him his bottles while I holed up in the guest room. I figured this was a sign to quit trying to relactate. I had to cancel my lactation consultant appointment, I knew my supply was low, and I figured with getting sick that it was the perfect time to quit.
However, after 24 hours of not nursing, I was ridiculously engorged and showing starting signs of mastitis. While this was obviously bad, I was pretty happy that it meant my supply had increased. I nursed baby (at this point my husband also had the stomach bug so someone sick had to feed the baby) and he was able to nurse even though I was engorged! Also, since I was so full, he nursed and didn’t need a top off bottle. It was an amazing feeling and I decided to keep going. I continued 30 minutes of nursing before bottle (trying to switch sides every 10 or so minutes), feed bottle, and then nurse again for 10 minutes (5 minutes on each side).
I was trying to maximize the number of letdowns. When baby turned 9 weeks, he started spitting up a ton after these feeding sessions. I ended up getting a lactation appointment in the afternoon and found out he was getting 1.5 oz from me so I could reduce what he was getting in the bottle to 3 oz which helped with the spit up. A week later, I realized he was making more and more swallowing sounds at the breast so I decided to pay more attention when he was drinking the bottle afterward. I noticed that he was comfort sucking (only sucking 2-3 times then resting) after about an ounce of bottle. So I would cut him off the bottle when he did this. In the past week (almost 11 weeks old), he does not need a bottle top off in the morning or early afternoon. He will take a 1-2 ounce top off in the early evening when my supply is lower.
He also has been getting a bottle of formula once a day so my husband can feed him and I want him to continue to take formula in some capacity daily just for my peace of mind, but as of now he is majority breastfed. I am thinking about taking supplements to increase supply but I am prone to oversupply (a major issue with my first) and I already see that baby is getting upset by fast flow in the morning nursing sessions so I am going to hold off a bit. I would love to not have to do any formula top offs but we will see.
TL;DR After exclusively formula feeding from week 2- week 6, I decided to try to relactate without pumping or supplements. I nursed for 30 minutes before each bottle (switching sides every 10 or so minutes) and 10 minutes after each bottle (switching sides after 5 minutes). It has taken 5 weeks but appears to be mostly successful as baby only needs a formula top off of 1-2 ounces after the last two feeds of the day when supply is lowest. It’s worth noting that I’m prone to oversupply so your experience may differ. Feel free to PM for more details if you’re trying to relactate.
Original Posting found @Reddit/BeyondtheBump
Relactation Tips for Success
It is important to have lots of tips and tricks in your back pocket when it comes to pretty much anything in parenthood, and the same applies to relactation.
Relactation is a process, and having good tips and tricks can help improve your success rate and make the process less frustrating.
Some of my best tips and tricks for relactation are:
Having support from your partner, family, friends, and even professionals is important. Whether they are helping to bring you things, lending a hand or simply encouraging you it’s important.
By sharing your journey on social media (if you’re comfortable with that), you may have support from moms going through the same thing or moms that have been in your shoes before.
Community is important when it comes to relactation!
Lots of Skin to Skin
As we talked about above skin to skin is so important. Skin-to-skin helps you bond with your baby and encourage the love hormone oxytocin.
Fun fact, skin-to-skin helps your baby not only in bonding but in their development as well!
Use a Breast Pump
Breast pumps are great for stimulating the nipple to simulate breastfeeding. Just like the baby suckling at your breast, the breast pump draws the milk out of the breast signaling to your body to produce more milk.
I really love the Medela Sonata and Lansinoh Signature Pro breast pumps for home. The Mom Cozy breast pump is great for work or on the go!
Have you ever heard of power pumping, but aren’t sure what it is?
Power pumping is a pumping schedule designed to mimic cluster feeding. You know, the type of feeding where your babe seems to be on the boob all day?
Power pumping is an amazing technique to induce relactation because it is signaling your body to produce milk.
A power pumping schedule can look something like this:
Record Your Journey
Recording your journey can be something so sweet and inspirational to look back on. Your journey may also be something that you can share with other moms and offer support or encouragement with.
Some of my favorite ways to record the journey is through journaling. Some of my favorite breastfeeding journals are found on Amazon!
I Make Milk What’s Your Superpower?
This journal features 111 dual-sided pages with lined paper. It includes space for recording the time, breast, duration, baby’s mood and also a notes section!
This journal has it all with a waterproof, flexible poly cover, diaper log, sleep logs, breastfeeding logs, and more. There is also plenty of space for notes so you can keep track of anything interesting in your journey you might want to share.
I am a reminder type of gal! I often get so busy I forget, and in relactation it is important to keep a consistent schedule.
Setting reminders or alarms on your phone is your best bet in remembering to offer the breast or pump regularly.
Supplements like Morninga for Milk, Fenugreek and Milk Aplenty are great for inducing relactation. These supplements help your body to have the nutrients required to produce breast milk.
Stress and anxiety have no place when it comes to relactation. These emotions can and will negatively impact your relacation journey.
When your body goes into fight or flight mode, you will lose the ability to produce breastmilk.
One of the best things that you can do is to stay hydrated. Hydration is key in relactating.
Something that helps me is having a water cup or bottle that I love!
When is it too late to try to breastfeed?
Interestingly enough, it is never too late to breastfeed! Even moms that have never breastfed can induce lactation!
I have a friend who recently successfully relactated for an adopted infant. The female body is absolutely incredible!
Our Favorite Supplies for Relactation
Having the right supplies in your relactation toolbox are important for improving your success!
Keep scrolling for my favorite pumps, supplements, journals, and other necessary supplies!
The Sonata’s powerful vacuum with responsive technology provides a comfortable, high-capacity suction that naturally adjusts for a more consistent pumping experience.
The rechargeable battery makes it ultra-convenient to pump on the go with 1.5 hours of battery life and weighs less than 2.5 lbs with a built-in handle making it easy to transport.
Lansinoh Signature Pro
The breast pump flanges are soft with flexible rims that hug your curves for ideal fit and suction. I love that the hospital strength suction maximizes milk flow with 8 adjustable suction levels.
3 customizable settings are great for mimicking baby’s feeding patterns plus 2-phase technology with let down and expression modes for more breastmilk in less time
Medela Pump in Style
The Medela Pump in Style is clinically proven technology to increase milk volume by 11.8% in less time. You will love the automatic letdown and massage mode cycles and an intuitive control panel.
It weighs in at only 1.18 lbs. with a battery pack and single- and double-pumping options. The oval-shaped breast shields are shaped around you for more comfortable pumping.
Philips Avent Manual Breast Pump
Philips Avent manual pump is both gentle and portable. The small compact pump is easy to take with you wherever you might need to pump, both at home or away.
This pumps Natural Motion technology is inspired by the baby’s suckling and massage during breastfeeding for quick milk flow during pumping… The soft silicone cushion adapts to fit both the size and shape of the breast comfortably.
Momcozy hands-free breast pump is a small, discreet unit that sits entirely inside your bra. It is lightweight and requires no wires or outlets to work, totally free for pumping anytime anywhere, even when driving, traveling, etc.
Elvie Hands Free Pump
The Elvie wearable breast pump is one of the smallest, most slimline all-in-bra breast pump for ultimate discretion while pumping hands-free. Feel confident pumping anywhere you please— with your feet up or at a football game!
Milk Aplenty Lactation Supplement
Clinically proven lactation supplement for abundant milk supply. Faster letdowns (milk release). Feed and nourish your baby with confidence! Breastfeeding should be something you look forward to, not something you’re worried about. Trust yourself and trust your body. Experience this magical time without the added stress or anxiety!
Brewer’s Yeast is high in protein and iron which support milk production. I love that this brewers yeast powder contains Folate, the natural form of folic acid. Folate (Vitamin B9) helps bodies make new proteins, support red blood cell growth, and more. It’s a popular supplement during pregnancy and breastfeeding!
Morninga for Milk
Moringa is an incredible gift from Mother Nature & one of the most nutrient-rich plants on Earth. It’s rich in essential vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and antioxidants.
With twice-daily organic moringa capsules, you’re not just increasing your breastmilk supply, you’re taking in some of the best nutrients & optimizing your baby’s development.
Fenugreek seeds have been used to help with breastfeeding for hundreds of years. This brand of Fenugreek capsules may help to stimulate the hormones responsible for milk production, significantly increasing your milk supply.
It may also help improve milk flow for a smoother let-down.
Lactation+ encourages your system to produce more breast milk. Gentle and safe for mothers with clinically studied, trusted ingredients.
This supplement is packed with organic herbs clinically studied for their ability to enhance lactation, milk volume & quality. Including Moringa, Milk Thistle, Fenugreek Seed & Fennel Seed.
Liquid Gold contains a powerful blend of organic ingredients designed to optimize breast milk production.
Goat’s rue has a long-standing reputation for supporting a healthy milk supply in dairy animals and humans while milk thistle and Shatavari are also traditionally used for added lactation support.
Additional Relactation Supplies
Pumps and supplements are great, but there are a few more supplies I’d like to share with you that can make relactation easier!
Greater Than Lactation Tea
Greater Than is a hydration supplement that comes in different flavors! This supplement is great for moms that need an extra boost of hydration!
Majka Lactation Booster is a great lactation supplement with an organic proprietary formula that helps improve the quality and quantity of breast milk, along with providing strong antioxidants to help prevent swollen breast tissue and clogged milk ducts.
Certified Organic high-quality ingredients are safe and effective for mom and baby!
Lactation Cookie Bites
These lactation consultant recommended lactation cookies are made with Oats, Brewer’s Yeast, and Flaxseed – key ingredients traditionally used to support breast milk supply!
This 2-in-1 postnatal supplement supports breast milk supply and healthy ducts with sunflower lecithin and traditional galactagogues like Fennel, Goat’s Rue, Shatavari Root, and Milk Thistle.
Mom’s Story Journal
Mom’s Story is a guided journal thoughtfully designed to help moms of all ages write down memories that they want to preserve and share with their children and family.
Simple Modern 40 oz Tumbler
I have and love this cup! It is cupholder friendly, and the tapered shape with handle makes it the ideal cup. It is also leak resistant!
Frequently Asked Questions about Signs Relactation Is Working
You may have lots of questions about relactation. Relactation isn’t often talked about, so I wanted to answer some of the most frequently asked or searched questions when it comes to relactation and signs that relactation is working!
How long does it take for milk supply to come back after drying up?
It can take weeks or months for your milk supply to come back after drying up. This all depends on your body, how long it’s been since you have nursed, and how consistent you are with nursing, pumping, skin to skin and hydration.
You can start seeing milk come back just a few days after starting relactation efforts, which is super encouraging!
Can I relactate just by pumping?
While relactation just by pumping is possible, adding in all of the other tips and tricks I listed above can improve your success rate!
Often, your body needs all of the pieces to the relactation puzzle in order to start producing milk again.
How do you get breastmilk back after losing it?
You can get your breastmilk back after losing it by:
- Offering the breast to baby and letting them suckle
- Pumping and power pumping
- Avoiding a pacifier
- Avoiding tight fitting bras
- Skin to skin
- Using supplements
- Having a good support system
Can you relactate after 3 months?
Yes! It is entirely possible to relactate after 3 months of not nursing! The sooner you start trying to relactate after you’ve dried up, the faster your milk will come back!
The journey to relactation may not be easy, but it is entirely possible! I hope that you were able to find encouragement, tips and tricks on your journey to relactation!
Have you ever relacated? I would love if you shared your journey, tips, and tricks in the comments below!
Happy relactating, friends!