My Milk Is Gone. Can I Relactate?

Kathleen Tackett's picture

QUESTION

Dear Lactation Consultant,
My name is Amy and I went to my OB/GYN for my annual and I asked her was there anything I could take to reestablish my milk supply. It's been a 3 ½ month break since I nursed my son (he's 5 ½ months) and she stated once the milk ducts dry up its not possible to relactate. Is this true or not? I just want piece of mind while I start this quest because others say that it is possible but the professional that I'm putting my trust in says no. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

ANSWER

Relactation is definitely possible, but many are unfamiliar with it, even doctors. In one survey of 366 women who relactated, most of the mothers surveyed established a full milk supply within a month. It took another 25% of the mothers more than a month to fully relactate. The remaining 25% both nursed and gave supplements until their baby weaned. Mothers who attempted relactation within two months of childbirth reported greater milk production than those who attempted it later on.

The best way to relactate is to begin putting baby to breast as many times per day as possible. Eight to ten times per day is ideal. Some mothers use a device called a nursing supplementer to provide formula at the breast while they're bringing back their milk, so they don't have to feed their baby again after nursing. This device has a container that holds the formula and thin tubing that the mother tapes to her nipple, so that when the baby latches on he gets the supplement as well as any milk the mothers is producing. Sucking at the breast releases the hormones that stimulate milk supply.

There are also herbal and prescribed medications that can increase milk supply. Taking three capsules of Fenugreek (at least 500 mg) three times per day (nine per day total) is one popular way to boost milk supply. Prescription medications, such as Metoclopramide (Reglan) have also been found to increase milk supply. If you are interested in using a prescribed medication, talk to your doctor (not the baby's doctor).

Relactation can be an intensive process. If you are motivated to do it, I'd suggest you see about the possibility of getting some extra help at home, especially at first. In hindsight, three-quarters of the mothers who were surveyed felt relactation was a positive experience. One mother wrote, "I would suggest a mother decide what she honestly wants and do it and not listen to [those who say] 'wait til your next one.'"For more details, see the article "Can There Be Breastfeeding After Weaning?" on my web site.

-- Nancy, IBCLC