How do I Relactate?

It is possible to get your baby successfully nursing at the breast, and can be well worth the effort in the long run.  I have worked with other moms with babies who came home from the hospital taking only bottles and learned to breastfeed.  Keep in mind that many moms re-lactate and breastfeed their adopted children (and not just newborns, even older infants who have had nothing but bottles for their first months of life).

Will your baby latch on and nurse at all?  If he will, just start putting him to the breast more and more.  Get him to nurse as much as he is willing and supplement as you need to with pumped milk and/or formula.  Gradually over time you can get him transitioned all the way to the breast.

Don't worry about putting your baby to the breast if you have little or no milk. Remember, no one worries about or questions giving a baby a pacifier and that has no milk coming out of it! Comfort nursing is often the first nursing a baby will do so you can start by encouraging that, even if you have little or no milk.

You will want to get him to the breast at least 8-12 times in 24 hours.  Another thing you can do to help increase supply is to pump between feedings.  Pump one hour after feedings as many times a day as you can.  Pick a schedule for pumping, and stick to that schedule.  After several days you should start to see an increase in the amount you are pumping.  Any milk you pump can be used to replace formula in the bottles. The pump you are using can make a huge difference. Some pumps are much more effective at extracting milk than others. An automatic double action pump made by a reputable company is usually needed by mothers who are establishing a milk supply or relactating. The pump should cycle-suction 40 to 60 times per minute.  It may be worth it to rent a hospital grade pump (even just for one month).  See PUMPING TO INCREASE MILK SUPPLY and  POWER PUMPING

Here are some tips that may help him to get back to the breast:

Luring the Resistant Baby to the Breast, Baby Led Latching and the Breast Crawl

Put him to the breast when he is not hungry, encourage "comfort nursing".

Give him most of his feeding by bottle, then try to switch him to the breast. Click here to learn more about the “finish at the breast” method

If he is used to the bottle, and completely refusing the breast, he may be willing to take the breast with a nipple shield.

Pump a little before putting him to the breast to get the milk flowing so that he gets an "immediate reward".

You can eliminate supplemental bottles so that he gets all of his sucking at the breast.  You can get milk into him by cup or syringe if he still needs supplemental milk.

Another way to eliminate bottles is to supplement at the breast.  This has been helpful to some moms and babies transitioning from bottle to breast. For this you will need an At Breast Supplementer . Here is a summary of my experiences with At Breast Supplementers as well.

Medela SNS


If you are only going to do ONE thing, my best advice is to get an at breast supplementer and do all feedings at the breast.

Still struggling to get baby to take the breast? Here is more information on getting an older baby to breastfeed.

Increase skin on skin contact:
Many mothers have found skin-to-skin is the absolute best tool we have for increasing milk supply and getting babies to nurse really well. Spending as much time as you possibly can with you undressed from the waist up and your baby undressed except for a diaper, just letting him sleep in your arms against your skin until he wakes and wants to nurse, will help so much. It organizes baby's suck and it stimulates your milk supply. Skin-to-skin contact also keeps your baby warm and secure and helps him use all his energy to grow.

The two of you can cover up with a blanket when you’re resting together. When you’re up and around, you could carry your baby inside your shirt/jacket (a button up works best) when he is wearing nothing but a diaper. Babies love to be held so I'm sure he would be thrilled! If you have a sling or soft baby carrier you can carry him in that under your shirt/jacket.

Warm baths have been known to help too. There's something not only relaxing about a nice warm bath, but it also help the milk flow. If you bathe with your baby that is even better. The warm water helps baby relax and nurse better while it helps you relax and your milk to flow better. For safety only do this when someone is available to help you in and out of the tub.

If you do give pumped milk or formula with a bottle, offer it to him in only his diaper, holding him against your bare chest, turned in close to “simulate” breastfeeding.  You want him to associate this feeling with feeding. Also see BOTTLE FEEDING METHODS THAT SUPPORT BREASTFEEDING

Try breast compression:
Another tool that mothers have found very helpful for increasing milk supply is breast compression. To do breast compression, put baby to your breast and let him latch on and nurse. You'll see the little fluttery sucks at first while he is waiting for the milk to let down, then his sucking will change to slooooow sucks and you'll be able to hear him swallowing. That's how you know your milk is flowing (also called “letting down”).

When the milk stops flowing quickly, your baby will go back to the quick, fluttery sucks. Then you grasp your breast, with your hand well back away from the nipple, and squeeeeeeze and hold. You'll see that your baby goes back to the sloooow sucks again, as your milk begins flowing quickly and he drinks your milk. Keep holding the squeeze until he goes back to flutter-sucks, then release the squeeze for a few moments, and repeat. You can continue breast compression, followed by releasing the compression, for the whole nursing session. Doing breast compression can really help your baby get a lot more milk in a short time.

You may choose to use herbs or contact your doctor about prescription medication to boost your supply.  Here are some links to more information:

Domperidone is the prescription drug of choice for increasing prolactin and milk supply.

also see Domperidone, getting started

Galactagogues at

Fenugreek is an easy to find, safe herb that is often used to increase milk supply.

THE BREASTFEEDING ANSWER BOOK, 2003 states:  “Many mothers try to boost their milk supply by drinking herbal teas, but the dose cannot be as easily controlled as capsules or tinctures, so the results will be inconsistent.  Fenugreek (three capsules three times per day can be taken alone or with blessed thistle (three capsules three times per day).  Experience indicates that it takes 24-72 hours to see an increase in milk supply once the herbs are started in the correct doses.  Fenugreek is listed in the US as a Generally Recognized as Safe herbal.”

Once you have even a small amount of milk you can begin to gradually eliminate the supplemental milk you have been giving: Increasing Milk Production and Weaning from Formula Supplements
Success Stories:
Breast Nurting: A Re-lactation Story

Relactation 6 weeks after a c-section