Relactation: What is it and how can you achieve it?

What is Relactation?

Relactation is the process by which a parent reestablishes lactation after having stopped for some time (weeks or months). Relactation can also apply to a parent who previously breastfed (or chestfed) a biological child and now wishes to make milk for an adopted child, a partner’s child, or a child birthed by a surrogate. - Centre for Disease Control and Prevention

Re-establishing your breastmilk supply after a period of not stimulating the breast

A lot of reasons can contribute to a mom's milk drying up ranging from traveling without pumping, insufficient demand, nursing strike on the part of the baby, a mom in the process of introducing solids to her baby etc. Whatever your reason may be, you can always get your milk back.

Relactation is possible.

Why would a parent want to relactate?

  • Breastfeeding was not successfully established in the hospital after birth.
  • Separation due to an illness or medical procedure led to earlier than desired weaning.
  • A parent who lactated for a previous child wants to nurse an adopted infant or infant born to a surrogate mother.
  • A non-birth parent who lactated previously wants to build a milk supply to feed to another infant, such as parents in a same-sex relationship or transgender parents.
  • Infant does not tolerate formula.
  • Desire to have a safe way to feed an infant during uncertain times, such as emergencies from natural disasters or disease outbreaks.
Consistency is important

Relactation can be a time consuming process. Many parents will be able to partially or fully lactate with the right support. Success will depend in part on parental motivation and dedication to the process and access to skilled assistance from a lactation support provider.

So, let's get to it.........

Lactation is a supply and demand process that requires 1) nipple stimulation and 2) milk extraction. Frequent stimulation of the nipples by pumping, hand expression, and/or an infant nursing is required to re-establish milk production. Once milk production has begun, frequent and complete removal of the milk helps to develop a milk supply. A lactation support provider can provide specific guidance on relactation practices by assessing each family’s individual situation.


If baby is no longer drinking on his own or drinking is slowing down, compressions can be used to “turn sucks or nibbling into drinks”, and keep baby receiving milk. Breast compressions simulate a milk ejection reflex (let-down reflex) and stimulate a milk ejection reflex.

Your doctor may prescribe medicine to help you lactate. They are more likely to do this if you’ve adopted a baby and haven’t nursed before.

It’s so important to have an emotional support system as you try to relactate for your baby. You can reach out to a volunteer breastfeeding organization for support and to possibly connect with other local moms who have relactated. You may also be able to find moms online who have done this.

These days, there are so many opportunities to connect with people who are in the same boat as you. They can encourage you and make you feel less alone.

Relactating can be an isolating experience, and it’s easy to doubt yourself if you don’t see results right away. Have faith in your body and your baby as you move through the process, be kind with yourself, and remember that breastfeeding isn’t all or nothing. Every drop counts.