What is Relactation?

SNS, supplemental nursing system

It is the initiation of milk production after milk production has ceased. This is usually done if a mother initially wasn’t interested in breastfeeding, but then later decides that she does want to breastfeed (sometimes because the baby is experiencing an adverse reaction to the formula given).

Whatever your specific reason may be, bringing back your milk supply will be well worth it.

How Long does it take to Relactate?

It’s almost always possible to get some milk production going; it is more difficult though, if you never had a full milk supply or if it’s been many months since you weaned.

If it’s only been a few weeks since you weaned and you had a full milk supply then it should take only a few weeks to achieve the same supply again.

Baby’s Nutrition during the Relactation Process

Your baby’s intake of supplementation (formula or donor breast milk) should not be decreased during the relactation process. BUT, you can start to feed your baby these supplements at the breast via a supplemental nursing system (SNS), to not only stimulate your own milk supply, but to allow your baby some practice time at the breast. Get your own Starter Supplemental Nursing System with 80ml Bottle on Amazon.

To Restart Milk Production

If your baby is willing to breastfeed without a flow of milk, this can help a lot! But, if your baby will not nurse without a flow of milk, you can stick to the SNS during feeding times and pump in-between feedings. An electrical, hospital grade, a double action breast pump is best for relactation.

Hand expression, breast compression, and breast massage are good at stimulating the breast to produce more milk. I recommend that you click on each one of those links for more information, they are helpful.

When you finally start to produce a few drops of milk, they will be in the form of clear colostrum. Colostrum is potent, fantastic stuff for babies. Then usually three days after seeing colostrum or sooner you will start to produce mature milk.

You can use herbs to help increase milk production if needed, but herbs should only be used if you have been pumping and breastfeeding and still need a boost. 

Getting your Baby to Breastfeed

  • Do not try to force your baby onto the breast. You need to try to entice him/her onto it.
  • Feed your baby with an SNS at the breast if possible.
  • Keep your baby skin to skin most of the day. This will encourage him/her via touch and smell. Take baths together and co-sleep.
  • Use the laidback breastfeeding techniques.
  • You can try to entice him/her by dropping some of your breast milk on and around the nipple.
  • Some babies who are accustomed to artificial nipples will only latch onto their mothers if the mother is wearing a nipple shield. This is something to consider. Once you have got baby to breastfeed with a nipple shield, you can slowly wean from it again.
  • Avoid the use of pacifiers. Allow your baby to satisfy all their sucking needs at your breast.

How to Reduce Supplementation when you are Producing Milk

  • Once your baby is nursing well at the breast and you are producing more milk, you can:
  1. Reduce the supplements by 5 – 15ml with each feeding every few days.
  2. Keep a strict eye on your baby’s wet and soiled diapers so that you know he/she is getting in enough milk. Infant stool and urine output guidelines here.
  3. Look out for hunger signs and excessive fussiness.
  4. Keep an eye on your baby’s weight. Use a breastfed infant weight chart.


  • The womanly art of breastfeeding 8th edition, chapter 17, alternate routes, relactation

Lactation Cookies ;-)

Our healthy lactation cookies

Going Back to Latching on After Bottle Feeding

by Rachel. L


"Hi, I am a first time mum to a seven weeks old baby boy. I was not well prepared enough for breastfeeding.

I did not know that the newborn baby does not need to drink a lot of milk on his first few feeds, but I do know that the colostrum is rich and thick.

Anyhow, I was already determined that I wanted to fully breastfeed my baby. When I was in the hospital, the nurse pushed my baby in 6hrs after delivery; she tried to help me latch on. I feel stressed that the baby was not sucking, as I have flat nipples.

Initially, I wanted to let the baby stay in the room, and I would try again later, but the young nurse insisted that I should feed now. That added to my stress. I had to give in to formula then.

The next few feeding times, I was way too tired and drained after delivering, I gave in to formula.

The next day, I started trying to latch on, again it failed (I thought) I felt even worse. The hospital lent me an electric pump to help stimulate milk production. I saw a few drops of colostrum coming out. Just these few drops gave me hope. So I tried latching on again, it didn't last more than 5 mins of trying - my baby doesn't seem to like my breast.

My milk supply started coming in on the fourth day. I thought the latching on did not work in the hospital, so I expressed. From then, my baby has been fed via a bottle.

I tried latching on with the help of a nipple shield a few times (after 4weeks into bottle feeding), initially it worked, but later on, my nipples started to feel sore and painful. I gave up latching on and went back to bottle feeding breast milk again.

After reading most of the info about breastfeeding from your website, I feel determined to go back to latching on.

Please advise if it is too late to do so and if my nipples will become sore and painful again, and what should I do if my baby is very impatient.

Also, will there be any chance of having more milk supply for storing when I would be going back to work, as now each breast only produces 40-60ml of milk (approx 10min of expressing every 3 hr) Is that enough for one feed?

I would like to know more about successful breastfeeding and am looking forward to your reply."

Re: I had similar issues

by: Tracy

"Hi Rachel, my first breastfeeding experience was a lot like yours, so I can relate to your situation. Here is my story.

It is not too late for you to breastfeed! It does not matter how much milk you are producing now - if you start to breastfeed and pump more to remove more milk from your breasts, your body will start to produce just the right amount of milk for the baby. Yes, your nipples will be sensitive in the beginning, at least for the first week or two.

One of the things you can do before you breastfeed is to pump milk until you feel a "let down." If you give your baby the breast during a fast flow of milk, he is more likely to stay interested (because he is accustomed to a fast-flowing artificial nipple.)

There are so many things you can do to help with this transition - please take the time to read through some information that will help you. (info that I wish I had had before I fell pregnant the first time)

Is my baby drinking enough milk?

Breastfeeding with flat or inverted nipples

Latching on 

Sore, cracked or bleeding nipples.

Nipple confusion and breast refusal.

Lactogenic foods.


Some extra helpful info...

The benefits of breastfeeding.

Immunity of breast milk."

Where to Find Fenugreek/Re-Lactate

by Kimberly (Country club hills, Illinois)

"Where do I find the proper fenugreek to help re-lactating and my milk supply?

What I found is on the Walgreens website as a dietary supplement and what's the best brand to take?

My baby is almost two months old, and I had difficulty with my milk supply and soon after I stopped producing.

I'm trying to re-lactate and am determined, but need a little assistance. So any advice would be greatly appreciated."

Re: Re-lactation with Fenugreek

by: Tracy

"I have found that Fenugreek supplements do not work at all. I took about 8 tablets daily, which is the maximum dose and had absolutely no results.

As soon as I got the organic Fenugreek seeds (found at any herbal shop ~ It's cheap) I used them in a few ways;

I boiled the fenugreek seeds on their own and drank the water, this worked the best - I saw great results within hours. The only downside is the taste.

I also sprout the Fenugreek seeds, ate them and saw an increase in supply, but not as much as the boiled fenugreek water. I did not enjoy eating the fenugreek sprouts.

Finally, I now make my own breast milk tea, which contains a few other ingredients too, namely:

Blessed thistle, milk thistle, Alfalfa, Anise seed and fennel seed. I boil about two heaped tablespoons of this dry mixture in two Litres of water and strain. I drink it hot with lemon juice and honey. This mixture has helped me so many times, it's great. I drink a cup in the mornings and at bedtime, sometimes a third one at noon if my supply is lower than usual. The next morning I will have a lot more milk than usual. You can drink three cups daily.

Hope this helps."

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