Deciding if you should breastfeed, formula feed or do a bit of both is already one of the most stressful decisions many mamas face. Now with difficulty getting groceries, including formula, due to COVID-19, many mothers are expressing an interest in learning to re-lactate, meaning they would begin to breastfeed again after a period of time not nursing. A recent Washington Post article explored the phenomenon.

Wondering if you can re-lactate to breastfeed your baby?

First, says Diana Spalding, CNM, "consult with a lactation consultant and a doctor who can give you the best information for your specific scenario." Your lactation counselor or doctor can understand your particular situation best and will help determine appropriate next steps.


And remember, if you're facing a formula shortage, you can contact your pediatrician for help accessing emergency supplies—many offices stock free samples of formula. You can read more here about how to get help finding formula, if needed. Feeling intense pressure to breastfeed can be harmful to a mother's mental health, so if you need formula don't be afraid to ask for help getting it. Formula feeding is a valid way to bond with your baby and we respect formula feeding mothers.

If you're committed to attempting relactation, there is a regimen women can follow. La Leche League, an organization that provides breastfeeding research and support for women and babies, recommends the following steps:

  • Hand express or pump at least eight to 12 times per day for 20-30 minutes, including at night
  • Give expressed/pumped milk and supplements in a cup, or use an at-breast supplementer
  • If baby will latch on, put them to your breast before and after each feeding
  • Put baby to your breast for comfort between feedings as often as possible instead of using a dummy/pacifier—it will help build your milk supply
  • Get support from your local LLL group/Leader—find local support here.

LLL also notes that the commitment to re-lactate is a major one—requiring breastfeeding up to six hours a day.

During attempted re-lactation, the World Health Organization recommends looking for signs of good attachment (chin touching beast, mouth wide open, lower lip turned out, more areola visible above than below mouth) and slow deep sucks from baby. You can find relactation support groups on Facebook, including one from La Leche League.

Other researchers have found that relactation works best with babies who are under 6 months old and were recently weaned, although it may be possible to relactate if your child is under 1 year old. Some mothers like to start eating and drinking common galactagogues, or milk-producing foods, when attempting to relactate.

Full relactation may not be possible for all women, and public health experts recommend committing two weeks to this intensive regimen to attempt to fully relactate.

To make sure your baby is getting adequate milk during relactation, count wet diapers (you're aiming for at least six in a 24 hour period), and weigh baby weekly to track weight gain, and/or before and after a feed, to see how many ounces baby is getting. If you don't have an infant scale available, you can hold baby on a scale together, and then alone without baby, and subtract your weight.

Relactation is a common topic during major disasters, where parents who had been using formula for their infants suddenly have trouble accessing an adequate supply of formula, due to displacement, natural disaster, disease, or other factors.

When attempting relactation, says Diana Spalding, CNM, "remember that this isn't going to easy—but it is going to be so worth it."

When I was expecting my first child, I wanted to know everything that could possibly be in store for his first year.

I quizzed my own mom and the friends who ventured into motherhood before I did. I absorbed parenting books and articles like a sponge. I signed up for classes on childbirth, breastfeeding and even baby-led weaning. My philosophy? The more I knew, the better.

Yet, despite my best efforts, I didn't know it all. Not by a long shot. Instead, my firstborn, my husband and I had to figure it out together—day by day, challenge by challenge, triumph by triumph.


The funny thing is that although I wanted to know it all, the surprises—those moments that were unique to us—were what made that first year so beautiful.

Of course, my research provided a helpful outline as I graduated from never having changed a diaper to conquering the newborn haze, my return to work, the milestones and the challenges. But while I did need much of that tactical knowledge, I also learned the value of following my baby's lead and trusting my gut.

I realized the importance of advice from fellow mamas, too. I vividly remember a conversation with a friend who had her first child shortly before I welcomed mine. My friend, who had already returned to work after maternity leave, encouraged me to be patient when introducing a bottle and to help my son get comfortable with taking that bottle from someone else.

Yes, from a logistical standpoint, that's great advice for any working mama. But I also took an incredibly important point from this conversation: This was less about the act of bottle-feeding itself, and more about what it represented for my peace of mind when I was away from my son.

This fellow mama encouraged me to honor my emotions and give myself permission to do what was best for my family—and that really set the tone for my whole approach to parenting. Because honestly, that was just the first of many big transitions during that first year, and each of them came with their own set of mixed emotions.

I felt proud and also strangely nostalgic as my baby seamlessly graduated to a sippy bottle.

I felt my baby's teething pain along with him and also felt confident that we could get through it with the right tools.

I felt relieved as my baby learned to self-soothe by finding his own pacifier and also sad to realize how quickly he was becoming his own person.

As I look back on everything now, some four years and two more kids later, I can't remember the exact day my son crawled, the project I tackled on my first day back at work, or even what his first word was. (It's written somewhere in a baby book!)

But I do remember how I felt with each milestone: the joy, the overwhelming love, the anxiety, the exhaustion and the sense of wonder. That truly was the greatest gift of the first year… and nothing could have prepared me for all those feelings.

This article was sponsored by Dr. Brown's. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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As mamas we want our babies to be safe, and that's what makes what happened to Glee actress Naya Rivera and her 4-year-old son Josey so heartbreaking.

On July 13, the Ventura County Sheriff's Department announced the 33-year-old mother's body was found at Lake Piru, five days after her son was found floating alone on a rented boat. According to Ventura County Sheriff Bill Ayub, Rivera's last action was to save her son.

"We know from speaking with her son that he and Naya swam in the lake together at some point in her journey. It was at that time that her son described being helped into the boat by Naya, who boosted him onto the deck from behind. He told investigators that he looked back and saw her disappear under the surface of the water," Ayub explained, adding that Rivera's son was wearing his life vest, but the adult life vest was left on the unanchored boat.


Ayub says exactly what caused the drowning is still speculation but investigators believe the boat started drifting and that Rivera "mustered enough energy to get her son back onto the boat but not enough to save herself."

Our hearts are breaking for Josey and his dad right now. So much is unknown about what happened on Lake Piru but one thing is crystal clear: Naya Rivera has always loved her son with all her heart.

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