Relactation - How to Rebuild or Increase Your Breast Milk Supply

Relactation: How To Rebuild Or Increase Your Breast Milk Supply
It is possible to rebuild and increase a breast milk supply. Image Source/Getty Images

Can You Rebuild Your Breast Milk Supply Once It Has Decreased?

Many women start out breastfeeding exclusively, but as the days and weeks go on they may add bottle feeding and formula to their daily routine. Some women end up breastfeeding less often or weaning earlier than they would like -- sometimes by choice, sometimes not. But then, they may be able to or want to begin breastfeeding again. Is it possible?

When you begin to breastfeed less often or stop breastfeeding altogether, your supply of breast milk decreases. So, if you decide to start breastfeeding again, you have to rebuild your milk supply. Rebuilding or reestablishing your breast milk supply is called relactation. From herbal therapy and prescription medication to nursing and pumping, there are many ways to reestablish your breast milk supply after taking a break from nursing or if you feel that your supply isn't as strong as it once was.

How to Increase Your Breast Milk Supply by Breastfeeding

To achieve the healthiest amount of breast milk possible, it is essential that you:

  • Offer both breasts at every feeding.  Breastfeeding from both sides at each feeding provides stimulation to both breasts about every 3 hours. The more stimulation each breast receives, the greater chance you have of increasing your breast milk supply. 
  • Utilize breast compression.  The breast compression technique can help your breast milk flow better and encourage your baby to continue breastfeeding.
  • Avoid artificial nipples. Any time your child needs a feeding or even simple comfort, the breast should be your first choice.

Using a Nursing Supplementer Device

If your baby seems frustrated with breastfeeding, especially if your breast milk supply is extremely low, a nursing supplementer device or supplemental nursing system can work wonders. With a nursing supplementer, your baby receives either formula or your expressed breast milk at the same time that she breastfeeds. It allows your child to stimulate your milk supply while getting her required nourishment.

How to Make More Breast Milk with a Breast Pump

Sometimes, a baby is not able to or not interested in going back to the breast. If this is the case, you can stimulate your breasts to build your breast milk supply by using a breast pump. Expressing breast milk with a hospital-grade, double (automatic) pump, 8 to 12 times a day would be ideal for reestablishing your supply. Here are some tips for maximizing your breast-pumping capability:

  • Stimulate your let-down reflex first.
  • Only use as much suction as necessary. You shouldn't feel any pain while pumping.
  • Massage your breast in quadrants while you're pumping.
  • Give yourself enough time so you don't feel any stress.
  • Use pump inserts to get the best fit to your breast.
  • Avoid long stretches of constant vacuum.
  • Stop pumping when the flow of breast milk is minimal or nonexistent.

How to Increase Your Breast Milk Supply with Breastfeeding Herbs

There is not that much official research on the use of medicinal breastfeeding herbs (also called galactagogues) to increase breast milk supply. However, many mothers report overwhelmingly positive responses to herbal therapy in addition to frequent stimulation of the breast. Some of the herbal remedies that may boost your breast milk supply include: 

  • Herbal teas
    Try Mother's Milk Tea, which is said to promote "healthy lactation."​
  • Fenugreek capsules
    Fenugreek can be used as follows: take 3 capsules, 3 times a day for the first 10 days; drop to 2 capsules, 3 times a day for the next 10 days; drop to 1 capsule, 3 times a day for another 10 days. Mothers typically see an increase in their breast milk supply within 72 hours. The most common side effects reported are profuse sweating and excretions that smell like maple syrup. Fenugreek is not recommended for women with diabetes (it may lower blood sugar) or asthma (it may aggravate symptoms). Speak with a lactation consultant and your health care provider before using fenugreek - it may lower the blood sugar by slowing the absorption of sugars in the stomach and stimulating insulin. It may also pass to the infant in breast milk. 

See Also: 9 Breastfeeding Herbs Used To Increase The Supply Of Breast Milk

Remember that it is important to drink at least 64 ounces of water a day to maintain a healthy milk supply. Oatmeal has also been known to boost the supply of breast milk slightly. 

Using Prescription Medication to Stimulate or Rebuild a Supply of Breast Milk  

A few prescription medications that, when taken while continuing frequent stimulation of the breast, have been found to raise prolactin levels. A raise in prolactin levels is associated with an increase in milk production and a greater supply of breast milk. 

Reglan (metoclopramide)
In some (but not all) cases, Reglan has been shown to increase the breast milk supply anywhere from 72% to 110%, depending on how many weeks postpartum a mother is. The dosage is usually 10mg, three times a day for 1 to 2 weeks, but your own dosing recommendation should be made by a physician. Once the supply of breast milk is stable, the dosage should drop by 10mg per week. Mothers with a history of depression are cautioned against taking Reglan. Other side effects include headaches and fatigue. Note that the labeling has a box warning risk of tardive dyskinesia when the drug is used for more than 3 months. 

See Also: Medications Used To Create, Reestablish, Or Increase The Supply Of Breast Milk

Stress and Relactation

The process of relactation is intense. It's important for you to take care of yourself. If your stress levels are too high, any attempt to establish a full breast milk supply will be futile. Any kind of help, whether it's physical, psychological (or even domestic!), will aid the process of relactation, and you will be on your way to a healthy supply yet again.


Lawrence, Ruth A., MD, Lawrence, Robert M., MD. Breastfeeding A Guide For The Medical Profession Seventh Edition.  Mosby. 2011.

Riordan, J., and Wambach, K. Breastfeeding and Human Lactation Fourth Edition. Jones and Bartlett Learning. 2014.

The Breastfeeding Answer Book, LLLI, Third Edition.

Edited by Donna Murray

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