Wish you hadn’t stopped breastfeeding? Getting your milk to come back is a process called relactation and it can be done.
Common Reasons Moms Might Want to Get Their Milk Back:
- Some moms get overwhelmed during the first days of motherhood and just give up
- Some babies have a hard time latching at first and mom gets frustrated and decides just to give formula
- Some moms have a very hard birth, post-partum depression or other medical issues that make breastfeeding difficult to start so they wonder if they are just too late.
- Some babies are premature or have medical issues that prevent them from being able to nurse right away.
No matter what the reason that you may have had a rough start breastfeeding, it may be possible to get your milk back and breastfeed that baby after-all.
The Relactation Process Involves Two Things:
1. Getting your baby to latch on and nurse from your breast, and
2. Developing or re-developing a breast milk supply.
Relactating is easier if your little one is less than 4 months old an/or you had a good milk supply previously (during the first 4-6 weeks after your baby was born.) However, even an adoptive parent can successfully breastfeed…so it is possible for almost anyone to do it.
How to Get Started
If your little one is willing to latch, then breastfeed at least every two to three hours…even before you are actually producing milk. (Yes…you will be like a human pacifier for a while–even offering your breasts as comfort any time you see a chance!)
Try this toward the end of a feeding when your baby is not really hungry, whenever he needs comfort, or as she drifts to sleep. It is not important at this point to worry about how much milk there is, you are simply signaling your breasts to start producing breast milk for baby.
If he or she won’t latch on, try using a supplemental feeding method like the Lact Aid nurser that helps promote sucking skills in reluctant nursers.
Also try pumping your breasts regularly. Again, it does not matter how much milk (if any) that you are getting. It is simply helping your body learn that it needs to make milk.
How Long Does It Take to Rebuild Milk Supply?
How long does relactation take? If you have stopped breastfeeding completely and want to relactate, it is best to see a doctor and get as much help with the process as possible. The amount of time it takes to establish your milk supply depends on so many factors, including but not limited to: the food you eat, what you drink, herbs and medication, amount of breast stimulation and more… There is no ONE answer to how long it takes, but the sooner that you get started, the less time it will take to be successful. The relactation success rate is much higher for those who start early.
Signs Relactation is Working
How do you know if your milk is flowing and relactation is working? Generally you will notice that your baby is sucking less rapidly and seems more satisfied at the breast. You may also notice that you will leak out of the breast that is not currently feeding your baby. Both are good signs!
Get Some Help
Some moms use herbal supplements like fenugreek or medications like domperidone to stimulate their breast milk supply. This will only help if it is combined with frequent breastfeeding and/or pumping of your breasts.
If possible, try to find a La Leche League leader, lactation consultant, or doctor who supports your relactation efforts. There is nothing like one-on-one support to get you on the right track!
It can be done and is worth a try!
Some Relactation Questions and Answers Submitted by Visitors:
Question: My milk has dried up, can i get it to come back?
Response: There are ways to get your milk back. The sooner you start the process, the more successful that you will be.
Question: I’m not breastfeeding, but would like to start. My baby is five weeks old. Is it too late to start breastfeeding?
Response: It is never too late to breastfeed, it just may require a little more work to get started!
The process of getting your milk back is called relactation which involves teaching your baby to nurse and getting your body to produce milk.
Just remember – One of the most important parts is to find some support from your doctor, a Le Leche league leader or a good lactation consultant. They can help you through the process. Good luck!
Question: My daughter started out on breast milk when she was born we stopped for a month and now I am trying to get her to latch on again. she is 2 months old. how can i help her latch on?
Response: There is a very good chance that your relactation efforts will be successful.
Try offering your breasts to her often before she has been given her her bottle or you may want to help her by using a Lact-Aid Nursing Trainer System to make sure that she gets milk as she feeds from your breast.
Since the hormone levels are the highest for the first three months following her birth, there is a good chance with stimulation from your child, you can reestablish a good milk supply and no longer will need the help of the nursing trainer after a while.
Question: I breast fed for about a month. I stopped and now my daughter is 6 months. If I started stimulating my breast and pumping and get her back to sucking, will my milk come back in?
Response: It is usually easier to re-establish a milk supply if your child is less than 4 months old, but since you did breastfeed for a month, there is a very good chance that through the right steps that you COULD get your milk back.
Also, if possible, try to find a doctor or lactation consultant who supports your relactation efforts. This kind of support can help increase your chances of success! Good luck!
Question by Rasha (Cairo, Egypt): My baby is 6 weeks old I tried to breastfeed him but there wasn’t enough milk so I gave him formula milk and pumped for him 60 ml every day. Is it to late to try breastfeed him now that he has got used to the bottle?
Response: There are two things that you will need to do to be able to breastfeed your child:
- Teach your baby to latch on and nurse from your breast again, and
- Increase your breast milk supply.
Since you have been pumping, you do not need to re-establish your breast milk supply, but you will need to increase it to compensate for the formula that you give him each day.
The more difficult thing, however, will be to teach your baby to take the breast again. Some children learn quickly, while others will continue to refuse anything but the bottle that they are used to eating from.
Try offering your breast frequently and always BEFORE offering a bottle. Even offer “snacks” of breast milk from your breasts throughout the day to give many opportunities for you baby to ‘practice.’ This stimulation will also help signal your body to make more milk.
Question: This might sound kind of weird but I had a difficult time breastfeeding my little girl at birth and there after…
However I was wondering if I can try again now. She is 5 months old and I still have milk.
It will leak out when I have no bra on. I really want to know. It was my hearts desire to be able to breastfeed.
Response: There is a very good chance that you may be able to breastfeed even after this long because you still have some milk present.
Try getting your baby to suckle at the breast as often as she will and follow the guidelines offered in the article above. Good luck!
Question: Can I stop breastfeeding and return to it after a few days? Is it healthy for the baby?
Response: You can stop breastfeeding for a few days for a small vacation or getaway, but it is important that you pump enough milk to keep your breast milk supply up.
A mother’s milk supply is based on demand. If there is no demand for the milk, it will go away.
If you are planning some time away, here are some tips to make it go smoothly for you and baby:
1. For a little while before you go, start pumping after each time that you breastfeed to increase your supply and to store up some breast milk for your baby to eat while you are away.
2. Get baby used to eating expressed milk from a bottle that is comfortable for breastfeeding babies.
3. Make sure you are comfortable with pumping. To keep up your supply, you should try to pump at the times that baby would usually eat while you are away.
Moms can get away once in a while and baby will do just fine…you just need to plan ahead a bit!
Question by Meg (Corpus Christi): My son Zachary was born 6 days ago, and has been formula-fed since birth. I did not want to breastfeed, but have changed my mind after doing some research. I want to pump and feed him breast milk from the bottle now, but since I haven’t done any pumping or tried to breastfeed him yet, will this work? I will have to go to a local WIC office to obtain a pump, and I’m afraid that it is too late.
My breasts are not as engorged as they were yesterday, or the day before that. Am I still producing milk? Can I still do the right thing for my baby?
Response: Congratulations on your new baby!
It is probably not to late to try to breastfeed, but you will need to start stimulating your breasts and pumping as soon as possible.
You should probably also try to get an herb called fenugreek to help restart your breast milk supply.
Question by Brenda (Greensburg, PA ): I was nursing my baby and we both got thrush. My nipples cracked and were bleeding. I could not pump because it hurt so bad.
Now that we are cleared up I want to breast feed again and so does he. I see some milk coming out but not a lot. Is there a way that I can get my milk to come back good enough to breastfeed again? I also still leak but not a lot.
Response: If it has only been a short time since you stopped breastfeeding, your milk will probably come back rather quickly as long as you encourage your body to produce milk.
Since breast milk is produced by supply and demand, it is important to encourage your baby to nurse often in order to signal your body to start producing more milk again.
Here are some tips to help:
- Always offer your breasts first, before supplementing with anything else.
- Offer your breasts as often as possible to encourage your milk to come in.
- Try fenugreek to stimulate production.
If this does not seem to work, you may need to try some of the above tips for more help on getting your milk back and may want to consult your doctor for some additional help or medication. Good luck!
Question by by Amy (Fremont Ne): I just wondered if I could start breastfeeding my son now. He is 2 months old. He was premature and couldn’t suck and I didn’t pump so my milk is dried up. If I start to breastfeed him now will my body start to make milk again or is it too late? – AMY
Response: The process of “getting your milk back” is called relactation.
The process involves two things:
- Teaching your baby to latch on and nurse from your breast, and
- Developing a breast milk supply.
Use the tips in the above article and give it a try! Good luck!
The sooner that you start…the easier it is.
More Articles You Might Enjoy:
- Breastfeeding an Adopted Baby
- 20 Ways to Increase Your Milk Production
- Benefits of Breastfeeding Beyond One Year