Have you stopped breastfeeding for a while and are you now looking to start again? This process of resuming breastfeeding after stopping is called relactation. Others may not know this but breastfeeding for some moms doesn’t just stop once babies are weaned off. In fact, some mothers may have had to stop breastfeeding due to a number of reasons aside from early weaning, like illnesses, having to undergo a medical procedure, and even separation from their babies. Whatever the case, time off breastfeeding can cause your milk supply to run low, making it difficult to start feeding again when you want or need to. So, if you find yourself looking to return to breastfeeding, here are some tips to help you bring your milk back!
It’s time to get back to the breastfeeding basics! A huge part of bringing your milk back is re-teaching your baby to practice effective feeding and that all starts with getting in a good latch. Much like the first time you breastfed, your baby may not latch on properly right away. So try nursing when your baby is happy and calm because their readiness to suckle at your breast is the key to stimulating your milk-making hormones.
Watch out for both you and your baby’s positioning too! Make sure that you can still see their eyes and nose even though they’ve got a mouthful of your nipple and that you’re just as comfortable as your baby is.
Depending on how long you stopped breastfeeding, building your milk supply can take time and a lot of effort. Your best bet will be to get your milk flowing by nursing as often as possible and pumping or hand-expressing when you’re not nursing for even more stimulation. Breastfeeding at least ten to 12 times a day and pumping six to eight times daily too will be great for re-training your body to keep up its milk production.
And don’t worry about not making the amount of milk you used to! Just keep going: the more you try to trigger the flow of your milk, the more milk you’re likely to make! And remember to always stay hydrated as well, to keep both your energy and your milk-making nutrients stocked up.
Quality skin-to-skin time can really boost your milk-making hormones and will also give your baby both the chance to get comfortable feeding again and easy access to your breast to encourage feeding. Even when you’re not breastfeeding, staying in close contact with your baby not only stimulates your breast milk, but also helps improve their health and development. So be sure to keep your little one close!
You can keep them in a baby sling if you’re going out or try co-bathing during the day and co-sleeping at night (which can help make night feeds more effective). After all, breastfeeding is about way more than just your milk! It also has a lot to do with keeping a close bond between you and your baby. With relactation, breastfeeding means revisiting and rebuilding that connection too.
As a breastfeeding mom, you already know that some days are more of a struggle than others. So consistently getting your baby to take your breast can be tough. On those days when a good latch just isn’t happening, using things like cups, spoons, or even a syringe can still make for a good feed, while also encouraging suckling only at your breast. Staying away from bottles (and even pacifiers) will also ensure that your baby will be more likely to turn to your breast for yummy meals and comfort.
The road to bringing your milk back is not always an easy one and can really come with its frustrations. So having a group of your loved ones and closest mom friends to lean on for support and advice will definitely motivate you to meet your relactation goals! Joining local mommy support groups as well may even give you that extra boost of inspiration for this whole new breastfeeding journey.
And your support group should also include your trusty doctor or lactation consultant! Their skilled help can provide you with a better idea of what’s happening to your body, as well as bonus herbs, supplements, or therapies that may help you increase your chances of relactation success.
Of course, it’s important to always remember that every mom is different and you may each get different results throughout the process. The real key to relactation is being determined and patient at the same time. So don’t let the imaginary pressures of reaching a certain level of milk production get to you. And don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it too! Any amount of your milk will do wonders for your little one and what really matters is using this time to reconnect and make the most out of this bonding experience.
Pearson-Glaze, Philippa. “Tips for Relactation.” Breastfeeding Support, Last modified April 26, 2017.
“Relactation and Induced Lactation.” Australian Breastfeeding Association, Last modified October 1, 2018.
“Relactation: Restarting Breastfeeding after a Gap.” Association of Breastfeeding Mothers, Last modified June 21, 2019.
“Relactation Tips and Tricks.” Natalac.
“Want to Start Breastfeeding After Stopping? Our Guide to Relactation.” Motherlove Herbal Company. Last modified December 6, 2011.