Relactation

Topic Overview

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 breast-fed before.
  • Stopped breast-feeding her baby and now has changed her mind and wants to resume breast-feeding.

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 breast-fed 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 breast-fed 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 breast-feeding.

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.

Related Information

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine
Mary Robbins, RNC, IBCLC - Lactation Consultant
Last Revised April 3, 2013

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