Signs Relactation is Working: Top Indicators to Look For

Relactation, or the process of restarting milk production after it has stopped, is a topic that is not often discussed.

However, it is an important subject for mothers who wish to resume breastfeeding their baby after a period of not nursing, or for adoptive and surrogate mothers who want to establish a breastfeeding relationship with their child.

Recognizing the signs that relactation is working can provide reassurance and motivation for those undertaking this journey.

The process of relactation involves understanding the hormones and mechanisms involved in milk production, as well as utilizing various techniques and resources to help increase breast milk supply.

It may be a challenging and time-consuming endeavor, but with patience, realistic expectations, and a strong support system, it is possible for many mothers to successfully relactate.

Key Takeaways

  • Recognizing the signs of successful relactation can motivate and reassure mothers undertaking this process
  • Utilizing various techniques and resources, including lactation consultants, may help increase breast milk supply
  • Patience, realistic expectations, and a strong support system are vital to the success of relactation efforts

Understanding Relactation

Understanding Relactation

Relactation is the process of restarting milk production after a period of interruption or decrease in breastfeeding. It involves stimulating the breast tissue and increasing prolactin levels to promote milk production.

Prolactin is a hormone responsible for milk synthesis and secretion, and its levels are key indicators of successful relactation.

There are various factors that may contribute to the need for relactation, such as medical issues, premature weaning, or physical separation between the mother and baby. Regardless of the reason, relactation requires commitment, patience, and consistent effort from the mother in order to succeed.

In the initial stages, the focus should be on nursing or pumping frequently. This constant stimulation encourages the release of prolactin, which in turn helps increase milk production.

Additionally, skin-to-skin contact between the mother and baby is beneficial as it fosters a strong emotional bond and elicits a natural hormonal response that aids in lactation.

A balanced diet and proper hydration are equally important during this process. Consuming nutrient-rich foods and maintaining adequate fluid intake support overall health and ensure that the body has the necessary resources to produce milk.

It is crucial to remember that achieving relactation takes time, and progress will vary from one individual to another. Some women might observe changes in breast fullness, leaking, or a tingling sensation as early indicators that milk production is improving.

On the other hand, the baby’s increased contentment and weight gain might also serve as reassuring signs.

While the process of relactation may be challenging, it is possible with patience, persistence, and a supportive environment. Therefore, consulting with a lactation specialist or healthcare professional for guidance and monitoring of both the mother and baby’s progress is highly recommended.

The Process of Restarting Milk Production

Initial Preparation

Restarting milk production, or relactation, requires dedication and commitment from the individual. The first step is to prepare mentally and emotionally for the process. Establishing a relaxed and comfortable environment is crucial.

Having a supportive network of family, friends, and healthcare professionals helps ensure success in the journey of relactation.

Stimulation Practices

Various stimulation techniques can be employed to kick-start milk production:

  • Nipple stimulation: Gently massaging and rubbing the nipples and areola can trigger the release of hormones responsible for lactation. It can be done with clean hands, a soft cloth, or a nursing baby, if available.
  • Breast pump: Using a breast pump is a practical and effective way to stimulate milk production. Consistent pumping sessions, at least 8-12 times a day, can help signal the body to produce more milk. Electric pumps are generally preferred over manual pumps, as they are more efficient and easier to use.
  • Hand expression: Hand expression of milk is another useful technique, especially in the early stages of relactation. It can be combined with pumping to increase milk stimulation. This method involves gently massaging the breast tissue to promote milk flow.
  • Power pumping: Power pumping is a practice where individuals pump milk for short bursts, usually 20 minutes, followed by a 10-minute break. This cycle is repeated for an hour, sometimes a few times per day. It is known to simulate cluster feeding and encourage milk production.
  • Cluster feeding: Cluster feeding is when a baby feeds more frequently in a short period. This nursing pattern helps stimulate milk production. Individuals relactating can try to encourage their baby to engage in cluster feeding by offering the breast more often.

Consistent practice and patience are essential in successfully restarting milk production. While progress may be gradual, these techniques can significantly improve the likelihood of relactation.

Techniques to Increase Breast Milk Supply

Techniques to Increase Breast Milk Supply

Using Herbs and Foods

Certain herbs and foods have been known to help boost breast milk supply in some nursing mothers. One popular option is lactation cookies, which often contain ingredients such as oatmeal, flaxseed, and brewer’s yeast that may support milk production.

In addition to lactation cookies, consuming oatmeal has also been associated with increased milk supply, as it’s rich in iron and fiber.

Garlic can be incorporated into one’s diet to potentially enhance milk production. It is believed that the strong smell of garlic may encourage babies to breastfeed longer, which in turn stimulates the production of more milk. However, everyone’s body reacts differently, so it’s important to choose what works best for the individual.

Hydration and Diet

Hydration plays a crucial role in maintaining overall health and well-being, including the support of lactation. Drinking enough water and staying properly hydrated can help keep milk supply strong and consistent.

It’s vital for breastfeeding mothers to listen to their bodies and drink water whenever they feel thirsty. Some mothers find it helpful to have a glass of water or a bottle nearby while they breastfeed to encourage staying hydrated.

Nutrition is another important factor in supporting the production of breast milk. Nursing mothers should consume a healthy, balanced diet to fuel their bodies and provide the necessary nutrients to create quality milk.

Including healthy snacks in-between meals can help maintain energy levels and ensure optimal nutrition.

Making a conscious effort to maintain a well-balanced diet, with adequate hydration and incorporating certain herbs and foods, can be helpful in increasing breast milk supply for many nursing mothers.

Keep in mind that individual results may vary, and it is essential to find the most effective methods tailored to the unique needs of each breastfeeding mother and baby.

Role of Lactation Consultant

Lactation consultants play a crucial role in supporting mothers and their infants during the process of relactation. These professionals possess specialized knowledge in breastfeeding and lactation, making them invaluable resources for mothers attempting to re-establish their milk supply.

One of the primary responsibilities of lactation consultants is to assess the mother’s current breastfeeding situation. They take into consideration factors such as the mother’s medical history, previous breastfeeding experiences, and the baby’s overall health.

With this information, lactation consultants can provide tailored guidance and assistance to help mothers successfully re-lactate.

Additionally, lactation consultants offer practical support and techniques to aid in the relactation process. They may recommend specific breastfeeding positions, suggest nipple care routines, and provide insights on how to manually or mechanically stimulate milk production.

These suggestions are based on the mother’s unique needs, ensuring that her and her baby’s individual circumstances are addressed.

Lactation consultants also educate mothers on the signs that relactation is working. This includes an increase in milk supply, changes in the baby’s feeding patterns, and weight gain in the infant.

By providing clear and concise information, mothers can better understand the progress they are making and adjust their efforts accordingly.

Furthermore, lactation consultants serve as a source of emotional support during the relactation journey. They offer encouragement, empathy, and reassurance to mothers who may be feeling overwhelmed or defeated.

By establishing a trusting relationship, lactation consultants can help mothers stay confident and motivated throughout the process.

In summary, lactation consultants are essential partners for mothers attempting relactation. Their expertise in breastfeeding and lactation, combined with their practical guidance and emotional support, can make the relactation journey more manageable and ultimately, more successful.

Considerations for Adoptive and Surrogate Mothers

Adoption and Relactation

For adoptive mothers, relactation can be a powerful way to bond with their adopted child. The process allows them to provide breast milk to their adopted baby, promoting both physical and emotional attachment.

It’s important to have realistic expectations and understand that inducing lactation may take time, patience, and persistence.

To begin the process, adoptive mothers can use a combination of manual breast stimulation, pumping, and medications to encourage milk production. It’s crucial to maintain open communication with healthcare professionals to ensure a personalized and safe approach to relactation.

Induced Lactation for Surrogacy

Induced lactation is also an option for surrogate mothers who wish to breastfeed the baby they carried for intended parents. This can provide valuable nutrients and enhance the emotional connection between the surrogate and the baby during the short period before the baby is handed over to the intended parents.

Similar to the relactation process for adoptive mothers, induced lactation in surrogacy involves using breast stimulation, pumping, and, in some cases, medications to encourage milk production. Consulting with healthcare professionals is essential to ensure the wellbeing of both the surrogate and the baby.

In conclusion, both adoptive and surrogate mothers can benefit from relactation or induced lactation. By understanding the process and working with healthcare professionals, they can create a unique and meaningful bond with the child in their care.

Impact of Medication on Relactation

Medication can play a significant role in the success of relactation. Hormone therapy, in particular, has been used to stimulate the production of breast milk. The use of hormonal medication such as prolactin and oxytocin can help mimic the natural hormones required for lactation and aid the relactation process.

Prolactin, often referred to as the “milk-making hormone,” can be administered through medication to increase the supply of breast milk. It is essential for the initiation and maintenance of lactation. Oxytocin, on the other hand, is responsible for the milk let-down reflex and helps in the effective release of milk from the breasts.

However, it is crucial to consult a healthcare professional before starting any hormonal therapy. This is because every individual’s medical situation is different, and using medication without proper guidance may lead to adverse effects.

Additionally, it is essential to monitor progress and adjust the treatment as required under the supervision of a lactation consultant or medical professional.

Apart from hormone therapy, certain medications called galactagogues can also be prescribed to boost milk production. Common galactagogues include metoclopramide, domperidone, and fenugreek.

These medications work by stimulating prolactin secretion and have been found to be effective in increasing breast milk supply for some women.

It is worth mentioning that patience and perseverance play a vital role in successful relactation, as the process can take time and might not be linear. Supplementary medications can support relactation efforts, but consistent breastfeeding or pumping remains the key to rebuilding and maintaining lactation.

In conclusion, medication and hormone therapy can significantly impact the relactation process, assisting in increasing milk supply. However, it is essential to consult with healthcare professionals and lactation consultants before initiating any form of medication, ensuring an individualized and safe approach.

Relying on a Support System

Relactation is a journey that requires dedication, patience, and a strong support system. Friends and family can play an essential role in providing emotional and practical help during this time.

Involving loved ones in the process can not only make it more manageable but also foster healthier relationships and a sense of community.

A knowledgeable support system can provide encouragement and share experiences that can be incredibly beneficial for those going through relactation. Engaging in conversations with friends who have gone through a similar journey can be reassuring and informative.

In addition, they can often recommend helpful resources, tips, and techniques to enhance the process.

Health professionals should also be part of the support system. They can offer guidance, monitor progress, and provide essential insights to ensure a smooth and successful transition.

Lactation consultants, in particular, are trained to address breastfeeding challenges and can help create a personalized plan for achieving relactation.

Moreover, joining support groups can be advantageous for those seeking camaraderie and understanding during their relactation journey. These groups often have experienced facilitators who can guide members through various challenges, answer questions, and provide useful tips.

Sharing experiences and exchanging ideas with others navigating through similar paths can be empowering and comforting.

In conclusion, building and relying on a robust support system is integral to achieving desired outcomes in the relactation process. A combination of friends, health professionals, and support groups can make a significant difference to those undertaking this challenging but rewarding journey.

Baby’s Role in Relactation

Baby's Role in Relactation

Skin-to-skin Contact and Its Benefits

Skin-to-skin contact between a mother and her baby is a key factor in successful relactation. This bonding time allows the baby to become familiar with the mother’s scent, warmth, and heartbeat, creating a sense of comfort and security.

It also stimulates the production of prolactin and oxytocin, hormones that are essential for milk production and let-down reflex. Research shows that skin-to-skin contact can result in:

  • Improved latch and more effective nursing
  • Higher levels of breastfeeding success
  • Enhanced bonding between mother and baby

Weight Gain in Baby

Monitoring the baby’s weight gain can provide valuable insights into the success of the relactation process. Regular weight checks are crucial to ensure that the baby is getting enough milk to grow and develop.

Steady and appropriate weight gain is a reliable indicator of successful relactation, while inconsistent or inadequate weight gain may signal the need for additional support and resources. It is important to consult with a healthcare provider or lactation consultant to assess the baby’s progress.

Comfort Nursing

Comfort nursing plays a vital role in the relactation journey. This type of nursing allows the baby to suckle at the breast for comfort and bonding, rather than simply for nourishment. Comfort nursing can help to:

  • Encourage the baby to spend more time at the breast
  • Stimulate milk production through increased nipple stimulation
  • Strengthen the nursing relationship between mother and baby

While relactation can be a challenging process, a strong nursing relationship and continued support can help mothers successfully reintroduce breastfeeding, even after supplementing with infant formulas.

Using Supplemental Nursing Systems

Supplemental nursing systems (SNS) can be a valuable tool to help support relactation. These systems include devices such as nursing supplementers that deliver supplemental milk or formula to the baby while they are breastfeeding.

This can help ensure that the baby is receiving enough nutrition while simultaneously encouraging milk production through suckling.

To use a supplemental nursing system, the mother can attach a container filled with either expressed breast milk or formula to her clothing. A thin tube is then connected from the container to the nipple, allowing the baby to receive supplemental nutrition while latched onto the breast.

This method helps to mimic the natural breastfeeding process, allowing the baby’s sucking to stimulate the mother’s milk production.

The use of supplemental nursing systems can be particularly beneficial for mothers who are relactating, as it ensures that the baby is receiving adequate nutrition while the mother’s milk supply is still re-establishing itself.

These systems can also provide an extra sense of security for mothers, as they can see the amount of milk being consumed by their baby, ensuring that they are properly nourished.

There are various factors to consider when choosing a supplemental nursing system. Firstly, the mother should select a device that is easy to clean and maintain.

It is also essential to choose a system that works best for the needs of both mother and baby, as different systems may have different flow rates and tube sizes.

Incorporating a supplemental nursing system into the relactation process can be a helpful and supportive method for many mothers and their babies. By providing the necessary nutrition and stimulation, SNS can play a crucial role in helping mothers to successfully re-establish their milk supply.

Remember to consult with a lactation consultant or healthcare provider for personalized guidance and support when using a supplemental nursing system during relactation.

Effects of Illness and Surgery on Relactation

Relactation can be influenced by various factors, including illness and surgery. In some cases, these conditions can present challenges for the process of relactation.

It is essential for the mother to understand how these factors may affect her ability to restart lactation.


Certain illnesses, such as infections or fever, can temporarily affect a woman’s milk supply. However, it is crucial to maintain nursing or pumping during the illness to ensure a steady supply of milk. In some cases, prescribed medications may interfere with relactation.

It is important to discuss any medications being taken with a healthcare professional, as they can suggest alternatives if necessary.


Surgical procedures can also impact relactation, especially if the surgery is directly related to the breasts. For instance, breast surgeries, such as breast augmentation or reduction, may result in temporary or permanent disruption of milk production.

Similarly, mastectomies for cancer treatment can also affect relactation. Depending on the type and extent of the surgery, milk production may be limited or not possible. Consultation with a healthcare provider beforehand can help in understanding the potential impact on relactation.

In some cases, surgeries unrelated to the breasts can also impact relactation due to factors such as stress, anesthesia, and physical recovery. It is vital for the mother to prioritize self-care and seek support from a lactation consultant if needed.


A woman undergoing cancer treatment may face various challenges in relactation. Treatments like chemotherapy can temporarily reduce milk production or make it difficult to nurse due to side effects like fatigue and nausea.

It is crucial to communicate with the healthcare team about the desire to relactate, as they may provide guidance on managing this process during treatment.

In conclusion, illness, surgery, and cancer treatments can all have potential effects on relactation. Understanding these factors and seeking guidance from healthcare professionals can help a mother navigate these challenges and support a successful relactation journey.

Importance of Patience and Realistic Expectations

Practicing patience and setting realistic expectations are crucial aspects of successfully relactating. Relactation is a process that requires determination, dedication, and understanding that results may vary from one individual to another.

Patience plays a significant role in relactation as it can take time for the body to respond and produce milk again. Some individuals may start seeing results within days, while others may take weeks or even months.

Being patient and staying dedicated to the process contributes to the chances of successful relactation. It is essential to be consistent with the techniques and methods implemented and allow the body the time it needs to readjust and stimulate milk production.

Having realistic expectations is equally important for relactation success. While many mothers may have experienced successful lactation with their previous children, it is crucial to understand that the relactation process can differ.

Factors such as the length of time since the last lactation, age, and individual body responses contribute to each person’s unique journey with relactation.

By setting realistic goals and being prepared for challenges that may arise, mothers can approach relactation with confidence and a clear understanding of their circumstances.

Celebrating small victories along the way, such as increased skin-to-skin contact or minor improvements in milk supply, can motivate and encourage continued dedication to the process.

In conclusion, practicing patience and having realistic expectations greatly contribute to the likelihood of success in relactation. Embodying determination and dedication throughout the process leads to a more positive and fruitful relactation journey.

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Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take to see relactation results?

The time it takes to see relactation results varies for each individual. Some may notice changes within days, while others may take several weeks or longer. Factors influencing the timeframe include the lactation gap, hormone levels, and adherence to breast stimulation techniques.

What are common relactation success stories?

Many people experience successful relactation, with stories ranging from mothers reestablishing their milk supply after temporary weaning to adoptive mothers inducing lactation for their adopted children.

These success stories typically involve perseverance, dedication to frequent breast stimulation, and a supportive network of healthcare professionals and peers.

Is it possible to relactate after a year?

Yes, it is possible to relactate after a year or more, although it may be more challenging. An individual’s success depends on various factors, including hormone levels, medical history, and commitment to a relactation plan.

Consulting a lactation consultant and centralizing the focus on the baby’s needs can improve success rate.

What are the reasons for relactation not working?

Several reasons may contribute to relactation not working, such as inadequate breast stimulation frequency, hormonal imbalances, certain medications, or pre-existing medical conditions.

A lactation consultant’s guidance can help identify and address these potential obstacles to improve the probability of relactation success.

Can breast milk return after drying up?

Yes, breast milk can return after drying up. The human body has an incredible capacity to adapt, and with consistent breast stimulation, hormonal support, and sufficient demand, it is possible to reestablish a milk supply.

How often should one pump for successful relactation?

For successful relactation, it is advisable to pump or breastfeed every 2-3 hours during the day and at least once at night. Maintaining a consistent schedule and focusing on frequent stimulation are essential factors in supporting the milk production process.

Working with a lactation consultant can help to develop a personalized plan for optimal results.

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