Relactation Success Stories
After publishing BellyBelly’s article about relactation, it was wonderful to see so many curious and surprised women, who never knew such a thing was possible.
Being in the birth and baby industry myself, I had already seen how possible relactation is. I couldn’t wait to share more information, in the hope that relactation could become common knowledge!
Our bodies are just so clever and sometimes surprising – one BellyBelly fan had this to say about her ‘unexpected’ relactation experience:
“When my daughter was born I was only able to breastfeed her for about 3 months. I felt so guilty that I had given up so soon. One day a neighbour who had a baby around the same time I did was commenting on the fact that she didn’t want the burden of a child latched to her breast and how barbaric the act of breastfeeding was. Here she was, breast full of milk and not appreciating it and there I was with dried up breast. For about a week I felt guilty, wishing I would produce milk once again… so much so that one day when I was in the shower, I began to see milk drip from my breast and was able to breastfeed for another 3 months. The power of the mind is amazing.” — Cindy Villatoro
Most mothers who have been interested in relactation have found that there isn’t a great deal of information available, and they’ve had to do lots of research to find out about how its done. So it was a perfect opportunity for me to interview mothers who had successfully relactated, and asked them to share their stories, explaining how they did it. Here is what they told me.
NOTE: Before you take any herbs, please see a naturopath as some babies may have reactions to some herbs (for example fenugreek). Also, it is so important that you have some good, professional support behind you as you walk the relactation journey. Hire an IBCLC (international board certified lactation consultant) or at the very least, get in touch with a breastfeeding organisation in your country, for example the Australian Breastfeeding Association or La Leche League (US). This will ensure not only the best success, but the best emotional and physical support to help you achieve your goals.
Jessica’s Relactation Story
Jessica stopped breastfeeding her son Bailey when he was about 3 months old, due to incorrect medical advice from a GP (general practitioner or local doctor), saying she couldn’t breastfeed on anti depressants.
She had stopped feeding for around a month, and had began doing lots of research on relactation as well as seeking information from lactation consultants. With the support of her partner and a lactation consultant, Jessica believes that what helped her to succeed was her determination and refusal to accept that she wasn’t able to breastfeed.
So how did she do it?
“For the first week I was on domperidone (common name of Motillium), taking 2 tablets 3 times a day, dropping 1 tablet per day, while snacking on lactation cookies (the recipe I found on the BellyBelly website which is here). I was pumping for 15 minutes on each side, every hour, as well as drinking lots of water and eating lots of healthy foods. I offered my milk (in a bottle) before formula no matter how little the amount to reintroduce the taste of my milk.
For the second week, the lactation consultant and I were happy enough that my milk had come in enough to stop domperidone completely, but I continued snacking on lactation cookies. This week we focused on returning him to the breast. I started the first day by offering the breast between my milk and his formula but this approach wasn’t working for us, so I decided to try spending as much skin on skin time as possible. We turned it into a game, where i’d be on my hands and knees over him hovering my boob over his mouth and if he latched then I let him feed, if he didn’t it was all fun and smiles, we spent maybe 2 days feeding in that hovered position then I was able to get him to latch on our sides then from there we were back to ‘normal’ positions.”
What was the hardest part during the relactation process?
“The hardest part for us was probably the return to the breast… but once I decided it didn’t matter how long it took as long as we got there and turned it into a game he ended up realising what they were for and had no interest in the bottle at all.”
What was the best part of successfully relactating?
“A combination between the shared pride I now share with Bailey, when we help others become aware that its possible… and the confused look on his face when I give him a bottle, haha!!!”
Would Jessica recommend relactation to other mothers?
“Most definitely! Not only because your little one will get the goodness of your breastmilk, or the fact that its so much easier than formula feeding. There are so many indescribable positive emotional benefits that I got from achieving this, that I wish others could share as well.”
“Remember everyone’s experience will be different; the best thing to do is to keep calm and find support, whether its a lactation consultant, family, friend, other mums on the internet or all of the above. It makes a world of difference to have someone to talk to and lift you up when things seem a bit too much. Its also nice to have someone to boast to and spread your story when you relactate successfully, hehe!”
Kat worked really hard to get her supply back too. “I gave up after a week of breastfeeding because getting a good latch was impossible for us to figure out. She was so small, and I am not in the boob department! She was losing weight and I was freaking out, so I had my husband give her a bottle. Unfortunately, after switching, she had really bad reflux and started projectile vomiting. After about six weeks, and about $400 worth of Nutramigen formula, we figured out that my daughter has an allergy to cows milk protein and is sensitive to soy. She was finally gaining weight.”
Kat started researching relactation and decided to give it a try after cutting out all traces of dairy.
How did she do it?
“I took fenugreek, blessed thistle, goat’s rue, and reglan to get the supply up. We also rented a Medela Symphony and I pumped religiously every two hours. We put her to the breast at any and every opportunity. I was her binky! After about three weeks, I am very proud to say that we’ve been exclusively breastfeeding ever since! She doesn’t have reflux anymore and hasn’t projectile vomited since! I really want every mother who is interested in lactation to know that it is possible and very worth it.”
“I had every intention of breast feeding my daughter from day one, that notion went hand in hand with my natural birthing and parenting plans that I created months before her arrival. Being quite a strategic thinker in my professional life, I assumed that with great planning, I would and could execute my natural parenting plan with ease… I was terribly mistaken.
Gracious was born into the world at 10:30pm, and latched on perfectly minutes after taking her first breath of the world. Our breast feeding relationship was great, and I was truly in baby moon bliss, until we got home from the hospital 2 days later.
The first week at home was rough. I discovered that Gracious was not latching on as well as she had in hospital, and it got to the point where one breast was so sore, that I refused to allow her to touch it. So I started pumping from that breast in the hope that I could keep the supply going whilst the skin was healing. I had a midwife come and see me every day for 3 weeks, and despite her help, we just couldn’t make it work.
Because I was so stressed from this situation, I found that I was not producing enough milk from the other breast to compensate the breast that was ‘out of order’, which after a few weeks of heartbreak, resulted in me ceasing breastfeeding and moving Gracious onto formula, when she was about a month old. To friends I would say I made this decision because I didn’t want her to be hungry, but the honest answer is, I couldn’t handle the pain and the hard work that went in to breastfeeding.
For over a year Gracious was formula fed. But being surrounded by many natural parenting friends, the guilt had set in, seeing them breastfeed their children with such ease. How could I connect with my daughter in such a way that would allow us to make breast feeding work? This was a question I asked myself daily. Being a co-sleeping mother, you can imagine that our bond was so beautiful already, but my guilt in not trying hard enough with breast feeding was definitely taking its toll on me.
When Gracious was 13 months old, I took her all the way from Melbourne (Australia) to New York to spend time with family. We spent every moment together, and our bond was stronger than ever. One night whilst we were sleeping, she attempted to latch onto my breast. I couldn’t believe how nice and foreign this felt all at the same time. Not knowing what to do, I simply let her continue trying to latch on. Night after night she did this for the remainder of the trip.
When we got back to Melbourne, I asked the advice of some wise natural parenting women in relation to relactation after a year. There were no real case studies at the time to read from the Australian Breastfeeding Association, and no one had really been through this themselves. A friend linked me with another friend of hers in the UK who had successfully relactated, and that allowed me someone to talk to about what I was going through.
Whilst I was investigating the possibility of breast feeding again, I would let Gracious to try to latch on when she wanted too, which became nightly, and this made me determined, with the support of a new friend and my GP to see if this could work.
When I stated talking to my non-parent friends about the possibility of relactating again, I was met with a lot of strange faces and non-understanding. I would often hear comments such as, “Why would you do that to your body again”, and “Yuck, why would you breastfeed a toddler”. This made me really sad to hear. It’s taken me a long time to realise and appreciate how amazing our bodies really are, and the fact that we are made to meet our children’s needs. Knowing that I not only had the battle of physically going through with this, I also now had that battle of being judged for this. I guess this was the beginning of me proving to my child and I that I could do this!
I saw my GP and talked through what I knew about relactating, and together we created a plan to try this. My GP prescribed me Motilium tablets to assist with milk production (40mg/3 times a day for a month). I didn’t want to use these tablets in isolation as my goal was to establish my milk supply then use natural ways of sustaining it. In addition to the tablets I made lactation cookies and massaged my breasts often to further help the supply. It was hard work, and it was painful at times, particularly as my daughter had teeth by this stage, so again learning a new way of latching and maintaining suction was required.
It took a good month of hard work to properly relactate. I can’t put into words how amazing it felt for my daughter to be lying in bed with me, breast feeding for 20 minutes. The gaze of pure love in her eyes, the warmth of her tiny hands on my breast, and the satisfaction I felt knowing that I could do this and I succeeded.
Gracious was 14 months old at the time of relactation, and she made the choice to wean just before her 2nd birthday. She is now about to turn 3, and if she tried to breast feed again, in a heartbeat I would begin the process again.
To the people who say breast feeding is easy ” its not! Its hard work, it needs to be supported, and it should not be taken lightly.
To the people who think relcactating is impossible ” its not! You need to be supported, educated, and most of all, want it in your heart, for you to succeed.
To the people who think breast feeding a toddler is weird ” its not! Society needs to remember that breast is best, and if we can, we will provide the nourishment needed for our children for as long as they want it.”
Would You Like To Include Your Relactation Story?
We’d like to create a big page full of success stories and spread the word that relactation can be done – if you’d like your story to be included on this page, please email [email protected], and feel free to include a photo feeding your baby or toddler.