If you follow my social media or Youtube channel then you may have seen me talking a bit lately about my decision to try relactation. If you don’t know what this is, it basically means to start producing breastmilk again, whether it be breastfeeding or expressing. My breastfeeding journey this time around came to a bit of an abrupt halt – We had a stressful end to 2016 and amongst all of the madness my supply pretty much stopped. Jenson lost weight and the decision was made to supplement him with formula which in the end took over till he was solely formula fed. Although at the time I was very much in the mindset of ‘what will be will be’; I’ve since started to feel as though I’m not quite ready to close the door on breastfeeding. I didn’t choose to stop and I didn’t stop because of something obvious like mastitis; it just kind of happened so I don’t feel like it was a chapter that ended, more like I popped the bookmark in until I was ready to start again …how very philosophical of me haha
Well it’s been 6 weeks since I last breastfed or expressed and the little glimmer of hope that got me thinking about relatation was that if I try to hand express, I can still get a teeny amount of breastmilk out. When I say teeny, I mean it. I get a few drops amounting to half of an ounce between both boobs; but milk is milk and that’s enough for me to try. What also got me thinking about it is that Jensons eczema has gotten quite bad, he seems to always have a cough and a cold and he’s gone from sleeping through the night to being a bit of a party animal. Now I know this may all be a coincidence and most likely is just that, but I can’t help but have that (maybe irrational) feeling in the back of my mind that this is down to him not having my breastmilk anymore. I’m also feeling less stressed now and more like I can give feeding my all so we shall see.
I don’t have any major aims; I’m not expecting my supply to flood back in and Jenson magically want to latch back on. My minimal aim is to be able to express enough for one bottle a day whether that be a 7oz bottle to replace one of his formula feeds or maybe a smaller amount to mix in with one of his formula bottles. That I would be happy with. Of course it would be wonderful to be able to produce more than that but you know, aim low and avoid disappointment right?
I’m also very aware that it may not have been the stress that shut down my supply. Some women simply aren’t able to breastfeed and my supply could have just gone coincidentally and if that was the case then this very well may not work so I’m not pinning my hopes on my milk coming back just because I’m no longer as stressed.
Well after doing a fair bit of research I found so many amazing success stories on relactation. There were even women who adopted and managed to build their own supply – truly incredible! I then took to good old Instagram and asked for any advice/success stories from you lovely lot and I got so much encouragement that I decided to just go for it!
On Monday I called my local lactation consultant. Everyone says that they’re worth their weight in gold so I was expecting a pricey meeting but she had broken her ankle meaning she wasn’t taking bookings and instead gave me half an hour of telephone gold! She really filled me with encouragement and was completely non judgemental which was great. I was worried that she may be so pro-breast and anti-formula that I’d end up putting a load of pressure on myself and worry that it wouldn’t work. I was expecting seemingly harmless comments like ‘well you’ve done the right thing starting again’ and ‘ah well 5 weeks of formula won’t have done too much damage’ … harmless but to a vulnerable muma full of post baby hormones , extremely harmful. She didn’t say anything like that though; she was supportive and lovely and open and that’s just what I needed.
If I’m honest I expected Pete to think it was weird. In fact I thought everyone would. I’ll admit the first time I went to put Jenson back on the boob I might as well have been trying to put Jasper on there. It’s not that it didn’t seem right, it just didn’t feel natural after so long. It almost felt as though he was too big and too old for it which of course I know isn’t true but I guess where I breastfed Jasper until he was 3 months and then Jenson until he was 4 months I’ve never fed an older baby and it seemed a little odd. That feeling of doubt went away straight away and was replaced by me trying to keep a straight face as Jenson screwed his face up at me … ‘where’s the bottle mum!?’. Anyway Pete was great, really encouraging. In fact everyone has been. No one has said anything negative about it even if they have secretly disagreed and no one has been overly supportive which as I’ve mentioned would have made me feel all kinds of pressure.
Everyone seems to have the same attitude as me ‘you go mama, if it works it works but if it doesn’t no bother. Jenson is healthy and happy and as much as I worry his eczema and sudden all night partying is down to formula it most likely isn’t. He’s content and he’s him and that’s because of my breastmilk for the first 4 months and it’s down to formula for the past 6 weeks and for that I’m so grateful. When my supply dropped it was low enough for Jenson to loose weight and my ultimate priority here is his health and wellbeing; I would never want to put him at risk purely because I want to breastfeed so I need to remind myself that this is for his benefit, not my need to feel ‘done’ and in control of my breastfeeding journey.
So with this all in mind I’m giving myself a week to try and boost my supply and whatever will be will be. If by the end of the week I don’t produce any more than I am now then I’ll walk away knowing I tried my best to breastfeed Jenson. If I manage to boost it then wonderful, I’ll hopefully be content with however much I produce and however long that continues for.
Based on all of the advice from the lactation consultant and some wonderful friends on Instagram here is how I plan to do it:
*Power pump using a double electric pump. I have the Lansinoh one but I’ve been recommended a hospital grade one (any suggestions?). Do this 8-10 times in 24 hours for 5 minutes each time, at least one of these sessions should be throughout the night. Massage breasts for a minute beforehand to prepare them. Have a ‘pumping station’ where you can leave the pump all day and simply go back to it every time you express. It’s fine to leave the milk in the bottle for up to 7 hours (not that I’ve gotten any yet) and cover over the pump with a towel between expressing so that takes the pressure off sterilising after each session. Cluster pump in the morning and evening – express for 5 minutes and then an hour later do the same and then a third time an hour after that.
*Put baby to the breast as much as possible; this is easier at night when they’re sleeping as they’re not as aware
*Drink fennel tea
*Take fenugreek tablets, choline & inositol caplets and drink fennel tea
*Talk to GP about domperidone (meant for gas but a side effect is increased milk supply)
*Start baby on food once they’re over 16lbs in weight, this will lessen their need for formula
I’ve also started doing lots of skin on skin and having Jenson near me when I express to get those hormones going!
Well this is my plan; I put all of this in place last night and have since had no joy. I’m already feeling the pressure of trying to look after Jenson and Jasper whilst expressing so frequently, especially as I’m not yet seeing the benefits. It’s also hard when I look at a happy and chubby baby and wonder why I’m really doing this but I’m going to keep going for the week and see how it goes.
If you’ve had any experience of this I’d love to know,
Thanks for reading,