Can Breast Milk Come Back After Drying Up – Breastfeeding Help

By Maria Wilcox •  Updated: 06/06/22 •  16 min read
Hey Mamas and Papas! This site is reader-supported and we earn commissions if you purchase products from retailers after clicking on a link from our site.

Have you ever wondered, “Can breast milk come back after drying up?” Turns out, it can! With a little effort and patience, you may be able to bring back your breast milk enough for full or partial re-lactation. Interested? Join us as we uncover all there is to know about breast milk coming back after it has dried up.

Can You Get Breast Milk Back After Stopping?

You can get breast milk back after stopping in most cases. But doing so will require time, effort, and patience. 

The process of getting your milk to return is often referred to as relactation. Relactation occurs when a mother works to reestablish her breast milk even after days, weeks, or months have gone by since her milk initially dried up.

Sometimes, mothers look into relactation methods because they were unable to breastfeed their babies in the past. Maybe this is due to a health impairment, difficulty getting their baby to latch, low breast milk supply, or a host of other reasons. 

In fact, there’s a study that shows that many women who stop breastfeeding cite sleep deprivation, fatigue, and low milk supply as some of the reasons they decided to officially stop. Over time, these mothers may decide that they want to take a shot at breastfeeding again. But many are concerned that they won’t be able to do so after they’ve dried up.

The truth of the matter is that you can usually get your breast milk to return. But you will have to put in hard work and effort to make it happen.

Note: It is important to remember that although you may believe you have low breast milk supply, your milk supply can be increased by getting your baby to nurse more often. Breast milk is summoned in correlation with “supply and demand”. The more your baby nurses the more your breasts produce milk. It is this concept, in fact, that will help you to relactate. But more on that later.

breastfeeding woman on focus photography

What Can Cause Breast Milk to Come Back?

You can get your breast milk to return in a variety of ways.

These include:

  • Nursing”: We know you can’t technically nurse if you have no milk. But simulating nursing is one of the fastest ways to get your milk back. To do this affix your baby on your breast and allow them to suck as they would if they were nursing. This skin-to-skin contact along with nipple stimulation of the sucking can, eventually, cause your breasts to produce milk over time. 
  • Pumping: If your baby won’t nurse or if you are uncomfortable with the idea of nursing with no milk, you can turn to pumping instead. If you don’t have a breast pump, you may consider purchasing a double-electric breast pump to get you started. Using your breast pump at regular intervals can help you to produce milk over time. The pump works to send signals to your body that breast milk is needed. 
Electric Double Breast Pump, Breastfeeding Pump with 2 Modes & 10 Levels,Ultra-Quiet Rechargeable Milk Pump for Travel&Home
Buy on Amazon
  • Massaging: Massaging can also help you produce milk. When doing so, gently massage your breasts with your hands in circular motions to help get milk started. This can also reduce mastitis, clogs, and general discomfort associated with your milk coming back in. 
  • Professional Guidance: When it comes to bringing your milk back you may benefit from the tailored advice that can be offered by a lactational specialist. They can provide you with accurate and up-to-date information about the latest research on relactation methods so that you can feel confident that you are beginning the lactation process in a way that has been shown to be successful.
  • Support: Apart from professional guidance comes support from friends and family as you embark upon your relactation journey. Nothing about this will be easy, but with love, care, and support from the people close to you, you’re bound to be more successful at achieving and maintaining your goals as it relates to breastfeeding.
  • Supplements: While we recommend that you take the natural route when it comes to reestablishing breast milk, there are medications and supplements you may be able to take to help your breast milk come back in. Products such as milk thistle, fenugreek, and ginger may help stimulate breast milk. However, you’ll want to speak with a professional for information on how to take these supplements safely. Remember, some supplements may work against you and end up drying out your breast milk rather than working to bring it back. Use supplements and medications with caution while working to reestablish your breast milk.
  • Drink Up: It’s a known fact that staying hydrated is good for producing a healthy milk supply, but trends like Body Armor Breastfeeding and Oat Milk For Breast Milk Supply have become all the rage. Though these trends may be helpful for some mamas, it’s important that you take trendy diets meant to increase breast milk supply with a grain of salt and that if you do try them you do so under the supervision of a lactation specialist to be safe.
  • Time and Patience: One of the hardest things about relactation may be the time that it takes to actually re-establish your breastmilk. For some ladies, the reestablishing of breastmilk may take many months. One way to defeat discouragement is to keep a journal and take pictures of your progress. By documenting your efforts, you’ll be more likely to keep at it, especially as you begin to see progress over time. 

Is It Safe to Relactate?

There is no information as of yet that states that relactation is in any way harmful for you and your baby.

Be advised, however, that your methods for getting your breast milk to return may be harmful if you aren’t following proper protocol. Examples of harmful methods include taking supplements and medications meant to establish breast milk in ways that are improper or taking the supplements despite detrimental side effects that may prove harmful for you and your baby. 

Moreover, pumping on a setting that is too strong or pumping much too often may damage your breast and nipple, causing breastfeeding to become painful and even impossible in severe cases. 

Can Fenugreek Make Breast Milk Come Back After Drying Up?

In some cases fenugreek may help breast milk come back. Speak with a healthcare professional about how much fenugreek should be used to start the process of relactating. Note that the use of fenugreek while pregnant in amounts that are more than what would commonly be found in food is not advised for pregnant women

How Do I Start Relactation?

How to Get Milk Supply Back After Drying Up

To start relactation, you’ll want to have a plan in place. Do your research and know the methods you’ll need to use in order to get the process started. Be diligent, consistent, and patient in order to reestablish your breast milk, especially if your breast milk has been dry for a considerable amount of time.

To relactate, you’ll want to stimulate your nipples by simulating a baby suckling at the breast. This may be done using a pump but it may also be done by your baby. Know that a baby that hasn’t breastfed or that hasn’t breastfed in a while may not want to nurse. In this case, you can use a breast pump to simulate sucking. 

Bellababy Double Electric Breast Feeding Pumps Pain Free Strong Suction Power Touch Panel High Definition Display,Come with 24mm Flanges

Once you’ve decided how you want nipple stimulation and sucking simulation to occur, it is time to document your progress. You’ll likely notice hormonal mood shifts, heavier breasts, and a variety of other symptoms that will let you know your milk is returning. Document these symptoms, and take pictures of any milk you are able to expel. Doing this over time will motivate you to keep going because it helps you to see your own progress. 

During your journey, remember never to underestimate the power of support. Get set up with a lactation specialist either online or in-person to get the information you need and the support you crave. They can help walk you through the process so that you stay successful and motivated. 

Can I Relactate Just By Pumping?

Can I Start Pumping Again After Stopping?

Yes, you can relactate just by pumping, but be sure to pump often. 

If you are able, we’d recommend “power pumping” which is a strategy that simulates “cluster feeding”. Cluster feeding occurs when infants nurse multiple times in an hour. Cluster feeding does well to establish milk supply in new mothers, and simulating this action with a breast pump will do the same thing. 

To power pump, simply strive to pump every ten minutes, or three times within an hour. Even doing this once a day can really boost your relactation efforts, so try not to skip power-pumping sessions if you can get them in daily. 

Medela Breast Pump | Pump in Style with MaxFlow | Electric Breast Pump, Closed System | Portable

Milk Dried Up But Baby Still Wants to Nurse

If you’ve got a baby that wants to nurse but you notice that your milk supply has gone dry, you’ll need to supplement your baby with infant formula until you can re-establish your supply. Remember, however, that your baby is best when it comes to suckling and getting your milk to return. If your baby wants to nurse, allow them to nurse, even though your milk may not be present. 

Because breast milk operates on a supply and demand basis, the baby’s suckling will signal your body to begin producing milk. Therefore, though you will need to feed your baby formula as you work to establish your supply, you’ll also want to use your baby to get the relactation process started most efficiently. 

2pk LK Baby Infinity Nursing Scarf Breastfeeding Cover Ultra Soft (Grey/Navy)

Relactation Tips

  1. Be patient. Reestablishing breast milk can take time, especially if you’ve been dry for a while.
  2. Seek the help of a professional who can help you devise a science-based plan for establishing your milk supply.
  3. Have a strategy in place and stick with it. Consistency is key when establishing breast milk.
  4. Use your baby to help stimulate your breast milk when you can. Because our bodies are wired to produce milk for our children, the skin-to-skin contact and suckling associated with breastfeeding may get you to reproduce breast milk faster than any other method–but again, you’ll need to pair this with patience!
  5. Seek support by speaking with those you know support your efforts when your morale is low and you could use a word of encouragement. 
  6. Use a breast pump to simulate suckling if your baby is unable to or won’t do it. Power pumping is an effective way to use your pump to signal your body to produce more breastmilk.
  7. When using supplements, do so with caution. Some supplements come with side effects, and some of those side effects may include drying up your milk. 

Can You Make Breast Milk Come Back After Drying Up?

Relactation After 1 Month

After one month of not breastfeeding, you may have stopped producing milk altogether. If you are completely dried up, try having your baby suckle at the breast a few times a day to signal your body to begin producing milk again. You can also simulate this suckling by using a breast pump. 

Medela Breast Milk Collection and Storage Bottles, 6 Pack, 5 Ounce Breastmilk Container, Compatible with Medela Breast Pumps and Made Without BPA

Can I Get My Breast Milk Supply Back After 3 Months?

Can I Relactate After 4 Months?

After a three or four-month stint of not breastfeeding, it is still very possible to get your breast milk flowing again. Use manual stimulation, a pump, or best yet, your baby to encourage relactation.

Relactation After 6 Months

After having stopped breastfeeding, some mothers notice that they still have somewhat of a milk flow, even a few months after they’ve stopped nursing. Nevertheless, most women will be completely dried up by the 6-month mark. Because of this, it may be slightly harder to re-establish your breast milk. But as we’ve already stressed, it is indeed possible. Try to stay consistent when it comes to your approach and be patient. With persistence, you should establish a full or partial return of your breast milk.

Relactation After 1 Year

After a whole year has gone by, you’ll definitely want to take a professional with you on your journey to re-establishing breast milk. While reestablishing breast milk a year out is still possible, we recommend you go about doing so with expert advice. This way, you can quickly, safely, and efficiently relactate.

How Do I Know If My Milk Is Drying Up?

Breast Milk Drying Up Symptoms

Suspect that your breast milk is drying up before you want it to? Look for the following signs for confirmation:

  • Your baby is fussy or irritable after feeds
  • Your baby starts to lose weight
  • Your baby wakes frequently at night (though this isn’t always an indicator of low supply)
  • Your breasts simply don’t “feel” full of milk
  • Manually squeeze your breasts to see how much milk comes out
  • If pumping, compare the amount of breast milk you produce now to the amount of breast milk you made a month ago
TwinGo Nurse & Lounge Pillow (Grey) - Breastfeeding Pillow for Twins or Two Lounge Pillows || 8 uses || XS to Plus Size Woman || Preemie 0-12+ mo Babies

Breast Milk Coming Back After Dried Up

Sometimes, certain hormones, such as prolactin, can cause lactation to occur, even after you’ve dried up. Also, certain medications can cause you to lactate, even if you weren’t recently pregnant or nursing. If you notice these symptoms and they concern you, be sure to see a doctor for advice.

FAQs

How long can I go without pumping before my milk dries up?

How long you can go without pumping until your breast milk dries will differ from person to person. Some women dry up within a few days but for other women, it might take up to a year or more for breast milk to dry completely. Remember that the longer you breastfeed, the longer you may lactate. Therefore, if you’ve nursed your child into toddlerhood, it may be the case that your breastmilk will take much longer to dry up than it would for someone who hasn’t nursed as long. 

I Haven’t Breastfed in a Week. Can I Start Again?

You can absolutely start breastfeeding again after you’ve stopped breastfeeding for a week. A week isn’t much time in the grand scheme of things, as some women have regained their milk supply even after a year of not breastfeeding. Therefore, if you’ve stopped breastfeeding and want to start again, simply implement the tips detailed above and get back at it! 

How Long Does It Take to Relactate?

The relactation process can begin anywhere from a few days to several months. It really depends on your body, how long it’s been since your milk initially dried up, and your methods for summoning your breast milk. Therefore the answer to this question won’t be standard across the board.

Can Breast Milk Come Back After Drying Up? Sure Can!

Breast milk can certainly be reestablished after drying up. However, it will take time, patience, and determination to make this happen.

When attempting to establish milk supply again, be sure to use your baby, if you can, to suckle on your breast to get the milk flowing. Your baby’s suckling signals your body to produce more milk, and therefore, is the most productive way to re-establish milk.

If your baby can’t or won’t nurse, consider using a breast pump instead. Power pumping can certainly help. But consistent daily pumping of any kind can eventually establish your supply as long as you stay consistent. 

Remember that you’ll need to supplement your baby’s feedings with formula or a breast milk donor until your breast milk supply is reestablished.

Good luck! 

Maria Wilcox

Former instructor with an M.A. in Education turned grateful stay-at-home mama to one, I look to share helpful insights related to babies, toddlers, kids, and families for the benefit of real people just like you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.