How to start breastfeeding again after stopping
There are several reasons a mother might want to restart her milk supply, such as an illness in mom or baby or a crisis that limits parents’ access to safe, clean food for their infant. The good news is lactation can be reestablished weeks or even months after a woman’s milk supply has stopped through a process called relactation. Certified lactation consultant Chaka Davis, RN, explained how to start breastfeeding again after stopping and how long the process may take.
How far out after you stop breastfeeding can you relactate?
Relactation is easier for women who recently stopped breastfeeding or who are still breastfeeding occasionally. Typically, it is easier to relactate when the infant is under six months old.
“The younger the infant is, the easier it will be to relactate,” Davis said. “Mothers with infants in the 3-to-4-month range usually have the highest success. The more well established the milk supply was before weaning, the easier it will be to re-establish it. Every effort should be made to start or re-establish breastfeeding for infants under six months when exclusive breastfeeding is especially valuable.”
Previously breastfed infants as old as 12 months can also restart breastfeeding.
“Breastmilk is valuable for these infants, as they tend to drink 15–29 ounces of breast milk per day in addition to eating solid foods,” Davis said.
How do you restart your milk supply?
Lactation is a supply and demand process that requires nipple stimulation and milk extraction. Frequent stimulation of the nipples by pumping, hand expression 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. Lactation consultants are experienced with helping women through these steps.
How long does the relactation process take?
The relactation process can vary depending on the baby’s age and the length of time that has passed since lactation stopped. Milk production can start as early as a few days after beginning nipple stimulation but may take as long as a few weeks to a few months.
“It’s important to have realistic expectations based on your individual circumstances,” Davis said. “Relactation can be a time-consuming process. Many mothers will be able to lactate – partially or fully –with the right support.”
Are there foods that can increase milk supply?
All breastfeeding moms benefit from a nutrient-dense diet that includes a variety of healthy fats and antioxidant-rich foods, including fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
Adding in a variety of the foods below can naturally help boost your milk supply:
- Red/orange root vegetables, like sweet potatoes
- Fennel and fenugreek seeds
- Beans and legumes
- Green, leafy vegetables
- Seeds, such as pumpkin, flaxseed and chia
- Teas designed to support breastmilk production
How do you know if relactation is working?
Sometimes, relactation produces enough breastmilk to supply an infant’s needs. Other times, supplementation may still be needed.
“Each woman’s body reacts differently to attempts at relactation,” Davis said. “However, you can expect to see some initial results within about two weeks of trying.”
If you’re interested in learning more about how to start breastfeeding again after stopping or if you are having difficulty breastfeeding, contact a lactation consultant for guidance and support.
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