My Relactation story
On January 16, 2010 I decided to Re-lactate! What prompted me to do this? A very good friend of mine – the best of friends really - had gently encouraged me. She had the faith and belief in me that I didn’t have at that time and guided me back into a wonderful and fulfilling breastfeeding relationship with my son. I talked to her about wishing I had been able to breastfeed and about she informed of a process called – RELACTATION. Much to my surprise, I learned that although I hadn’t breastfed in about 7 weeks, and I was completely dry now, that I could bring my milk back. And so with her support, I started the process. My story goes like this: I had stopped the breastfeeding process early into my son’s birth – not because I didn’t want to breastfeed – but because of an array on issues that both he and I had. My son, Braeden was 6 weeks premature and was born via C-Section. Braeden spent more than 2 weeks in a NICU, during which time I worked with a lactation consultant and pumped rigoursly so that I could bring my milk into the NICU and have it put in Braeden’s feeding tube. I spent long, 12 hour days at the NICU with my son, pumped by the side of his incubator and woke every 3 hours during the night to ensure I was sending my body all the right signals – to keep making milk! The problem was that I wasn’t getting much milk. After a 25-30 minute pump sometimes I would only get about 15-20 mls. The lactation consultant had said that maybe my body had not caught up with the birth of my son, since he was so early and to give it time and continue pumping every 3 hours. I did exactly this. My milk supply did not increase. The lactation consultant then suggested I meet with my obstetrician and request a prescription for Domperidone. I did this as well. I began the Domperidone about a week into Braeden’s NICU stay and continued the pumping every 3 hours. My milk supply did increase with this medication, but I was still only getting about 1-2 oz for every 25 minute pumping session. I was feeling very discouraged by this. Also during this time frame, I began having difficulty with my C-Section incision. It had opened in two different areas and subsequently became infected. This initiated a process of home care. Well initially, I was having to attend a clinic at the end of my 12 hour days at the NICU and have my incision packed. For those of you who do not know what this means, I will explain. The obstetrician discovered that my incision had begun opening from the inside out and advised that the only way to heal this was to place a piece of gauze inside it every day with tweezers and try to dry out the incision. Every day the gauze would be removed and new gauze would be inserted. I was also to take antibiotics to cure the infection. I continued my long days at the NICU with my stomach bandaged and so sore that I could barley walk, as I could not stand to have my son there alone. Eventually the nurse started coming to my home in the evenings after I had returned from the NICU. This packing process lasted for 6 weeks before the incision healed. I had become so overwhelmed with the issues I was having with my incision as well as my milk supply, combined with the fact that my baby was in a NICU that after about 12 days I gave up pumping and asked the nurse to start bottle feeding Braeden. I think it’s important to note that I also knew that the faster Braeden was eating on his own, the faster he would come home. And I was exhausted from the long days at the NICU and my battle with infection and the healing of my incision. The point had come when he no longer required any oxygen, IV, etc and he was just there to learn how to eat. I wanted my baby to come home! Afterall…. Isn’t it so very wrong to give birth to your baby, and then leave the hospital without him?? Braeden learned slowly to feed from a bottle and was finally discharged on November 23rd and had been born on November 8th. When he was discharged from the NICU, my home care continued, but I did not continue to pump. My milk supply still didn’t appear adequate after all the pumping I had done and the medication I had taken. I had become so overwhelmed and exhausted that I had decided to give up. This was a mistake. When my friend mentioned the process of relactating she sparked my interest and I thought that just maybe there was still an opportunity to breastfeed my baby. But I was so tired and worn out from the NICU experience and issues with the incision – did I have the energy?? I thought long and hard and decided given my baby was premature and had so many struggles in his first days here on earth, I wanted him to have the very best he could have and that meant my breast milk – not formula. So with my friend’s support I began latching Braeden again and pumping. To my surprise, he latched on just like he had always been at the breast! I had been advised that sometimes after a baby had been bottle fed, it may be a learning process for the baby to learn how to suck at the breast. But he did it without any trouble at all. This was the first step to a beautiful nursing relationship with my son. I continued latching and pumping, I began the Domperidone again and this time supplemented with herbal anecdotes as well – Fenugreek and Blessed Thistle - and my milk came back! At first it was small amounts, but gradually started to increase. Braeden initially used my breast for soothing himself to sleep – I think I was a human pacifier But it didn’t matter because any amount of suckling at the breast stimulated milk production so as often as I could I put my son to the breast and he would suckle like a champ! I also tried a SNS (supplementary nursing system). I didn’t have a lot of luck with this system, but I have heard of women who do. I found Braeden realized there was something else in his mouth besides my nipple and he would try to suck at it. My friend informed me of a support group called La Leche League and advised me to seek the support of a local breast feeding clinic as well. I googled and found the La Leche League in my area and called a group leader. I found great support in her and continued to utilize my friend as much as I could. She made herself available to me almost constantly and I felt never judged. What a true friend!! I also found a breast feeding clinic and connected my self to a fantastic nurse/lactation consultant. This nurse, Shawna worked with me for several months and provided the strong encouragement and positive reinforcement that I needed. Shawna is truly fantastic at her job, always going the extra mile to make sure I felt supported, encouraged, but not pushed or judged. I met with her once weekly, sought support through my friend and started attending the monthly La Leche League meetings. I had surrounded myself with a network of supports and looking back, I truly could not have done it without each and every one of them. Over the course of my time at the breast feeding clinic, my milk supply increased almost of being able to exclusively breast feed my son. I had to supplement every other day with about 3 ounces of formula and the rest of Braeden’s diet was breast milk!!I couldn’t believe the progress I had made and was thrilled that my son could reap the benefits. I loved the close and nurturing relationship Braeden and I have and I love being his sole source of food and comfort. There truly is nothing like the bond of a nursing relationship with your little one ladies. I wanted to write my story for all those woman struggling with their supply or who were contemplating relactation. It is a lot of work, I won’t deny that, but it is a truly rewarding experience. This story is a tribute to my friend Jenn, my nurse Shawna and the Durham La Leche League Chapter. And of course let’s not forget Braeden who also did a lot of work to bring mommy’s milk back. Thank you SO much to everyone who has supported me through my relactation process! And of course a special thanks to Jen, and Shawna. I couldn’t have done it without either of you. You both are amazing people!
Braeden is 6 months old now and I plan to continue to breast feed for as long as I can. I hope my story encourages other momma’s to surge forward – even through challenging times – because both you and babes will reap so many benefits.
This process is definately a challenging one and requires alot of committment, but I am living proof that it can be done ladies!!