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Can I Restart Milk Supply After Stopping Breastfeeding?

By: Kathryn Senior PhD - Updated: 16 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
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Q.I always said that when I had a baby I would breastfeed. When I had my 1st child 6 weeks ago, I tried for 3 days without success to breast feed him. After 2 days his blood sugar was very low and he had to be given a bottle. I decided that I would express feed him, but because he had the same latching on problems with bottles, I found that I didn't have the time to express feed him as he was feeding every 3 hours but it was taking 2 hours for him to drink 2oz.

After 2 weeks of mixed feeding breast milk and formula from a bottle, I concentrated more on him drinking and gave up expressing. Well he now feeds well from the new bottles but 3 weeks on I feel guilty and a failure for not trying harder when he was born. All I want to do is breast feed him again for his sake as well as mine, I tried today to see if he would now latch on and he did so I left him on there for 15 mins on each side before giving him the bottle because obviously my milk has dried up in 3 weeks. Is there anything I can do to re-start my body producing milk or are all hopes of ever being able to breast feed him out the window?

(C.B, 19 May 2009)


If you start straight away and you are determined to persevere for the next few weeks, you should have a good chance of producing milk again to feed your baby. If you can get your baby to latch onto the breast now, take time to do this as often as possible through the day. You may need to supplement using bottle feeds but try to continue to nurse as the suckling sensation on your nipples is a trigger for the hormone production that you need to get your milk production up again.

This is going to be difficult to do without support. Can you ask your health visitor for help? Do you have a local branch of the La Leche league? People there have experience in getting women to relactate – sometimes weeks or months after their milk has dried up. They recommend expressing milk using a breast pump if the baby gets distressed latching on. Check out their UK website (google la leche UK). They have a very good case study of a woman who successfully relactated after she had stopped breast feeding for a couple of months. With medication, it is even possible for a woman who is adopting a baby to start producing enough milk to breast feed, so you do already have a big head start.

You will also need to take good care of yourself and you need the support of your partner – relatives can also help with mundane things like a bit of shopping and cleaning. You need to concentrate on eating well, drinking lots and lots of water, getting regular sleep (sleep when your baby sleeps), relaxing and just feeding and nursing your baby. Forget trying to be up and dressed and ready to go to the shops at 10am – if you want to re-establish breast feeding, it will be a 24/7 job for a while but the rewards will be fantastic. You will create such a close bond between you and your baby and you will have the satisfaction of knowing you didn’t give up.

Even if, after all your efforts, you cannot fully breast feed, you can still be very proud that you did try everything. Above all, you must stop thinking of yourself as a failure – the problems with breast feeding that you had were not your fault. Sometimes babies just can’t get the hang of breast feeding. If there was no alternative, your baby could have been seriously ill, but that didn’t happen. Bottle feeding solved the problem quickly, and he is now thriving.

If you now decide to carry on with bottle feeding, there is still no reason to feel that you have done the wrong thing. If your baby is healthy, you are doing the right thing. If you want to try again with breast feeding, go for it... No matter what anyone else might say, being a mother is not an exact science and there are many ways to do it well.

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