Relactation means re-establishing (restarting) breastfeeding. It is the best way of providing milk feeds for infants who are not breastfeeding, especially in emergency settings when artificial feeding is dangerous.
If possible it should be done by the infant's mother, but, if she is not available, by a caregiver who is willing to be a wet nurse and undergo the appropriate health checks (see Part 5.7).
Full Assessment Step 2 identifies mothers or caregivers who are interested in relactation, and they should be referred for Further Help with breastfeeding, (see Part 5.1).
Age of mother
Most women can relactate if they want to, and can start producing breastmilk again. They can do this even if they have not breastfeed for several years and even after the menopause. Many women can produce enough milk to breastfeed an infant exclusively, or to feed more than one infant.
However, relactation is easier for women who stopped breastfeeding recently, or who are still breastfeeding occasionally.
Age of infant
Under six months
It is easier to relactate when the infant is under six months old. Every effort should be made to start or re-establish breastfeeding for this age group, when breastfeeding is especially valuable and should be exclusive.
Over six months
Previously breastfed infants as old as 12 months can also restart breastfeeding. Breastmilk is valuable also for these infants, particularly those who are sick, or who cannot tolerate artificial milk feeds.
Prevent the need for relactation by ensuring supportive conditions for all women and Basic Aid for breastfeeding whenever needed.
These are easier to provide than the skilled help needed for relactation.