Relactation: What Is It and How to Become Successful At It

At 5 weeks postpartum with D, I decided to wean from breastfeeding. However, the guilt and grief I experienced was unlike no other. I wanted to (re)educate myself and trust my body to feed my baby all over again. At 10 weeks postpartum, I started the relactation process. I’m going to share what relactation is and how you can become successful if you decide to relactate.

Relactation, baby 10 weeks postpartum relactating

Know that this is an informational blog, written and edited by me, based on my personal breastfeeding experience. This blog post is not a substitute for medical or professional advice. For health concerns, please contact your medical provider.

What is Relactation?

According to the CDC, “Relactation is the process by which a parent reestablishes lactation after having stopped for some time (weeks or months).”

I never knew that women can produce milk again even after years of having a baby. I come from an understanding that once your milk “se seca”, or it dries out completely, you are done breastfeeding. In fact, you can always produce milk by training your body all over again after previously having a child.

Why Do People Stop Breastfeeding Then Decide to Relactate?

There are so many reasons for this question. Many are forced to stop while others make the decision to stop breastfeeding. Regardless of the reasons for weaning, people decide to relactate once again to give it another shot.

For me, I ended my breastfeeding journey at 5 weeks postpartum because I didn’t receive the adequate education to understand the nuances of breastfeeding. I wanted to breastfeed again as this was always a personal goal of mine. However, I also had a lot of pressure (I mostly put it toward myself) as I wanted to offer some level of protection to D from the antibodies received after taking the COVID vaccine

Because of this goal and somehow feeling the pressure to breastfeed, I (re)educated myself and learned about relactation.

How Can You Become Successful at Relactating?

This was the big question I had to ask myself. After all, I completely dried up after about a week when I decided to fully stop. 

The good answer to this is that anyone who previously had a baby can relactate, however, as far as what success looks like may vary from person to person. The following are some indicators of this success, whatever that means to you!

The Younger The Child, The Faster You’ll Relactate

Depending on the baby’s age, you may or may not relactate fast. For example, if you decide to relactate when baby is less than 3 months old, you have a higher chance of relactating sooner compared to someone who is 6 months postpartum.

After I decided to relactate, it took me about two days to start seeing milk coming in. Now, these were only a few drops but it is remarkable how you get to train your body to do this process! Regardless of when you initiate relactation – that is weeks or months after having a baby – your body is going to adapt toward producing milk.

Seek a Professional, Like a Lactation Consultant

I cannot stress this enough but if you want to relactate, seeking support from a lactation consultant would help immensely in your journey. It is very important to seek help from a professional who would provide you with an individualized plan and for you to get the support you need.

As mentioned in my previous blog post, I was very reluctant to get the support from an IBCLC but if I wanted a level of expertise to relactate effectively, I had to make the investment. Now, this is me coming from a position of privilege because I have health insurance and I was able to afford an IBCLC consultation at my home.

If you are not able to afford a lactation consultant, know that there are many support groups available for parents who want to relactate. Two that I am a part of and that I highly recommend, are La Leche League – Inducing Lactation & Motivation and Relactation Motivation groups on Facebook.

Consistency Creates Results

Just like you would train for a marathon, you would have to train your body to relactate. Consistency is key if you want to be successful in it.

If you want to relactate, you are going to have to put the time and effort. Sorry amiga, but I’m not going to sugarcoat this – relactating is super hard!! There were moments when I wanted to quit all over again but as I kept training my body to produce milk, I kept seeing positive results. If this is your goal to do it, then know that you’ll have to stick to a schedule in the beginning until you meet your goals.

I will write another blog post about how to start the relactation process, where I will include a relactation schedule, so stay tuned!

Any Little Bit of Breastmilk Counts

As far as with measuring success, there is no magic number that will prove what success looks like. Each parent has their own unique goals and I cannot say that you should achieve X goal or produce X amount of breastmilk. You will define your own success.

For me, my goal was to put D back to the breast (which he did immediately) and to feed at least half of the amount of breastmilk and the other half of formula a day. Not only was I able to achieve this personal goal of mine but D is now 19 months and I am still breastfeeding him twice a day, so this has certainly exceeded my expectations!

Regardless of what your relactation goals are, any little bit of breastmilk counts. Even with a couple of drops, your baby will receive all of the benefits of breastmilk.

10-week-old baby breastfeeding after relactation

Although I define my relactation story a success, your relactation story may be different. I’ve heard of many moms who decided to stop after trying to relactate for various reasons. Know that at least you gave it a shot and that your baby is not going to hate you for stopping.

Relactation is not a litmus test to prove how much of a great mom you are. Only you can define your breastfeeding journey and measure your own success. Regardless if you do become successful at relactation (again, whatever success means to you) or not, know that you are doing an amazing job!

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