Relactation is the attempt to start producing breast milk at a time when your body normally would not. A woman may try relactation when she:
- Adopts a baby and has breastfed before.
- Stopped breastfeeding her baby and now has changed her mind and wants to resume breastfeeding.
Relactation is a difficult and complex process and does not always work. It usually involves breast and nipple stimulation (by hand or electric breast pump). Your doctor may also prescribe a medicine to stimulate milk production.
You are more likely to produce milk if you have ever carried a baby to term and breastfed before. This is because the milk glands in the breast are not fully developed until the end of pregnancy. Also, feeding your baby at the breast may help start and increase milk production.
You may start to produce milk within several weeks, although it could take longer if you have never breastfed before. Even if you are successful at producing milk, you and your baby need continual monitoring.
Sometimes you produce breast milk but your baby needs additional nourishment. In these cases, you can use a supplemental nursing system, which is a device worn around your neck and has a tube positioned next to the nipple. Your baby is nourished with both your breast milk and a formula supplement while breastfeeding.
If you wish to try relactation, get help from a lactation consultant experienced with the process. Talk to your doctor or call a local hospital for recommendations.
Current as of: February 23, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
Sarah Marshall MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Kirtly Jones MD - Obstetrics and Gynecology