Relactation: (re)initiating breastfeeding

During pregnancy, the body prepares for milk production. Just after delivery, milk production starts. If the baby is not put to the breast, or you stop breastfeeding after some time, milk production will stop. Many women stop breastfeeding earlier than planned: stress, sore nipples, work. However, after some time you may regret your choice and want to restart breastfeeding. Which can! This process is called relactation. To start with, it is very important that you are motivated, that you have sufficient information, and that those around you support you. In the near future you will mainly focus on initiating breastfeeding.

The act of relactating itself

You can stimulate milk production by:

  • Latching the baby
  • Emptying the breast by expressing with a pump device or expressing by hand
  • Physical contact


Latching the baby

To restart breastfeeding, it is important that the breasts are stimulated as much as possible. You do this by getting your baby to latch on as much as possible. This is one of the most difficult factors, and sometimes requires a lot of perseverance and patience. The younger the baby is, the easier it will be to get him or her back to the breast. Babies younger than three months are more likely to accept the breast immediately. Once the baby is used to pacifiers for comfort, you can try not offering the pacifier anymore. Then try to put him to the breast. If the baby does not want to accept the breast, it is best to seek the help of an experienced lactation expert. They can give you tips to make the installation successful.


Pumping is a good way to stimulate your breasts if your baby is not yet accepting the breast. There are different methods of expressing: expressing with a manual pump, with an electric or by hand. If possible, opt for a double-sided electric one.

Induce the let-down reflex

Whether you express with a pumping device or by hand, pumping always starts by generating a let-down reflex.
Some tips for this are:

  • Warm the breasts with a cherry stone pillow or a warm compress.
  • Massage the breasts with circular movements.
  • Gently shake the breasts as you lean forward.
  • Sigh deeply a few times.


Cluster flasks

During relactation, it may take a while before milk production returns. Cluster pumping is intended to increase low milk production and imitates the baby’s behavior during regular days when he needs more milk. Cluster pumping is not about the number of millimeters pumped at that moment, but about sending signals to the body to produce more milk. There are different techniques:

Technique 1

  • A pumping session takes about 5 to 10 minutes each time you visit the pump.
  • Do not express more often than every 45 minutes.
  • Stop pumping if it starts to irritate you.
  • Try to schedule at least 10 pumping sessions per day.


Technique 2

  • Express for 10 to 20 minutes.
  • Rest 10 minutes.
  • Express for 10 minutes.
  • Rest 10 minutes.
  • Express again for 10 minutes.

The Cluster pumping session lasts 1 hour per day. At other times during the day, pumping is done the same way you always do it.

Technique 3

  • Within a period of 3 hours, you will pump for a few minutes every 20 to 30 minutes.
  • Induce a let-down reflex and stop pumping when the milk flow decreases.
  • Repeat the Cluster Pumping session every day until milk production increases.


Physical contact

To encourage the baby to drink from the breast, it is important to ensure plenty of physical contact.
Take your baby with you in the bath or shower. Or place your baby, who is only wearing his diaper, on your bare upper body. That way he might start looking for your nipple himself.

Supplementary feeding

As long as milk production has not yet fully started, the baby must be fed additionally. This preferably does not happen with the bottle. Once the baby accepts the breast, you can consider supplementing with a breastfeeding aid. If he does not accept the breast, you can supplement him with a cup.

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