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Ask an Expert: Relactation

***Ask an Expert is a blog feature hosted by a team of International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLCs). Once a month each IBCLC randomly chooses a question from The Badass Breastfeeder Facebook wall and provides their response on the blog.

By Anne Smith, IBCLC

Fan Question:

“I am currently trying to relactate. I work full time Monday thru Friday from 8-5, and my job doesn’t allow me much time to pump. I hand express whenever I can, and then I try to latch her on as soon as I get home. The problem is that she gets really mad when not much milk comes out and she keeps pulling off the breast. I’m getting very discouraged. What else can I do?”

You don’t say how old your baby is, or why you’re trying to relactate, so it’s difficult to give you any specific advice, but here is some general information that may be helpful.
The younger your baby, the easier it will be to re-establish your milk supply and get her to start nursing again. Mother’s estrogen levels drop quickly after birth, and the time babies are a few weeks old, hormone levels have dropped down close to where they were before pregnancy.
Breast milk is produced by sucking stimulation and supply and demand. The more often you nurse or pump, the more milk you will make.  If you aren’t able to pump for a nine hour stretch while you’re at work, your milk production will slow down significantly. Hand expressing milk won’t give you the same stimulation as a double electric pump, so it’s not surprising that you haven’t been able to build your supply enough to get your baby to take the breast again.
Most babies younger than three months can be convinced to go back to the breast, especially if their attempts to suckle are promptly rewarded.  Many babies will get frustrated when you put them to the breast and little or no milk is coming out, so they will pull off the breast instead of staying on for long enough to stimulate your breasts to produce more milk.
Using a tube feeding device may help by ensuring that the baby’s sucking efforts are rewarded.  Many babies will accept the supplemental feeding systems because they are receiving a steady flow of milk with each suck, much as they would with a bottle.
Babies between three and six months may or may not be willing to nurse, depending on their individual personalities.  Babies older than six months are often set in their ways, and it may be difficult to them to accept the breast at all.
Taking Fenugreek may help increase your milk supply, but it’s doubtful that it will be enough to make a big difference in your situation. There are some prescription medications that can boost milk production, but they are used only after increased nursing and/or pumping has been tried, which is not the case here.
These are general guidelines for relactating, and individual responses will vary. It’s important to remember that you can have very close and rewarding nursing relationship with your baby, regardless of how much milk you produce and whether you feed it by breast or bottle.

Anne Smith, IBCLCAnne has been helping moms reach their breastfeeding goals for over 35 years, as a La Leche League and an IBCLC in private practice since 1990. Breastfeeding six children gives her a unique combination of first hand experience as well as professional expertise. In 1999, she started her website,www.breastfeedingbasics.com, with lots of information on breastfeeding and parenting, and a wonderful group of bloggers, including Abby from The Badass Breastfeeder, Rachelle from Unlatched, and Marie from Anarchy in the Sandbox.

Join the more than six millions of moms who come to Breastfeeding Basics each year for information and support, and visit Anne on Facebook.


  1. Desiree Irvine says

    I don’t feel like this was advice at all. “Here are all the reasons this is going to be very difficult for you!” :(. I’m not an IBCLC by any means, but milk production can vary enough that she may be able to get her body to produce much more in the evening/night and not so much while she is at work, like women who night wean but still produce milk during the day. If she is back to work, baby is at least 6 weeks old.

    Has she tried power pumping in the evenings? 10 minutes on the pump, 10 off, 10 on, for an hour.
    Get a pumping bra to allow you to pump on the commute to and from work (if you travel by private vehicle).
    Even 5 minutes on the pump is better than nothing. Can you break up your lunch time to give yourself 5 minutes to pump several times a shift?
    Make sure you are using the correct kind of pump, that your accessories and sizes are all correct so that you are getting as much out of each pumping session as possible.
    Motherlove more milk plus worked better for me than fenugreek. It’s worth a shot. Also, rub fennel essential oil on your breasts twice a day.
    Whatever your water intake is, double it. Triple it if you can.
    Cosleeping with your baby, and allowing the baby full access to the breast throughout the night will help your milk come in. If your baby is sleeping through the night, add in a couple dream feedings. Often babies will just suckle at the breast for comfort so perhaps she won’t be upset by the lack of milk if she is asleep. The stimulation will still help to increase your supply.

    Keep trying. Keep going!

  2. I am 1 month away from adoption. I breast feed my children and began fenugreek and constant pumping but still nothing. I drink a lot of water but still nothing. Any ideas? I really need help now!

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