FFF Friday: “I just thought, go for it!”

This week’s FFF Friday tackles a subject that is not often discussed – relactation. I found Malika’s story so inspiring, a true testament to the fact that there is no one-size fits all recipe for infant feeding, and that there can be such a thing as a “second chance”.

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Feeding my child has been a long haul.

I had my baby March 8, 2010 via c-section. I was worried about whether or not I could breastfeed because I wasn’t knowledgeable about c-sections, and I heard horror stories about them. I was very happy when the nurse told me I could. She latched right on, no problems, just like my first daughter, who is now 12 years old.

I never had problems breastfeeding my first daughter. I didn’t prepare for any other options for this child (bottlefeeding and formula) because I knew I would breastfeed. I didn’t even buy any bottles, for what? I was breastfeeding, just like I did with my first.

Back to my youngest daughter. In the hospital, the lactation consultant would come in every day and check my baby’s latch. She was doing great! All was good with the world, which was exactly what I’d expected. I read the stories of moms who didn’t make enough milk, whose milk never came in, went through pain, etc. I knew I wasn’t going to be one of those moms because my first daughter was so easy, and this one was starting out easy too.

Then, we got thrush.

When I say that pain was indescribable, I mean it! We both would cry every time it was time to feed her. The skin on my nipples was literally ripped off. I was already on major painkillers for the c-section, but they weren’t touching this pain. Still, I kept at it for as long as I could.

Then, my oldest daughter and husband begged me to stop trying to breastfeed because they could see the pain I was in. They also saw the way my youngest was crying. I finally gave in and let my husband give my daughter a bottle. I couldn’t even watch. It broke my heart. Now, I wasn’t crying from the physical pain, but from the pain of feeling like I was a failure.

So, I said to myself, it’ll just be a couple of bottles until my nipples heal and we get rid of the thrush.

Then, I got mastitis.

I felt feverish, achy, hot spells, cold spells, the works. It was horrible! I didn’t know enough (because breastfeeding had come so easy before) to know that if I breastfed on the side that was infected, that could actually help. I also had degenerating fibroids, which left me very nauseous. I couldn’t keep down any food for a few days. I was only eating toast and tea. Dealing first with thrush, mastitis, degenerating fibroids, and a depressed mood while recovering from a c-section proved to be too much for me. At this point, I thought about giving up breastfeeding. I was down on myself and felt like even more of a failure then I did before. I NEVER went through these problems with my first daughter, and I didn’t understand why I was going through them now.

It especially hurt when I fiinally did watch my daughter take the bottle. She took it with such ease and seemed so content. This is when I made the final decision to give up breastfeeding.

So, for about 2 months, I formula fed. I would agrue online with breastfeeding advocates who tried to make formula feeders feel bad (of course this isn’t true of most breastfeeding advocates, I know). To me, they couldn’t understand the heartache a mom goes through who wants to breastfeed but can’t. I would know, I used to be one of those moms to whom breastfeeding came easy.

Two months went by and I went back to work. I felt better both physically and emotionally and read up on formula feeding and breastfeeding. I thought about relactation, but wasn’t quite sure if I should try. Then I just thought, go for it! I feel better, so I don’t have any illness that would hinder me.

And so I did. I got a prescription of Reglan from my doctor, I looked into herbs, I rented a hospital grade pump, and I reserached relactation. I tried to latch my baby on, but she would only latch for a few minutes and become frustrated. Teaching her to latch is still a work in progress, so I pump my milk. I started out with only a couple of drops of breastmilk a day. Six weeks or so later, I’m up to 8 oz. a day.

Of course, 8 oz. isn’t enough to feed my baby, so I supplement with formula, and I am very satisfied with this. I am grateful that I don’t look down on formula, I am grateful that I’m able to give her 2 bottles of breastmilk a day, and I’m especially grateful that I no longer carry around the guilt of not being able to exclusively breastfeed. I can say now that I know the heartache of a woman who wants to breastfeed but can’t. We all do the best we can for our babies, breast or bottle fed. I just wish everyone would recognize the plight of a woman who has struggled.

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Have a story you’d be willing to share with the FFF audience? Email me at formulafeeders@gmail.com. Sharing is caring, as they say.

Suzanne Barston is a blogger and author of BOTTLED UP. Fearless Formula Feeder is a blog – and community – dedicated to infant feeding choice, and committed to providing non-judgmental support for all new parents. It exists to protect women from misleading or misrepresented “facts”; essentialist ideals about what mothers should think, feel, or do; government and health authorities who form policy statements based on ambivalent research; and the insidious beast known as Internetus Trolliamus, Mommy Blog Varietal.

Suzanne Barston – who has written posts on Fearless Formula Feeder.


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13 thoughts on “FFF Friday: “I just thought, go for it!”

  1. It's so nice to read a successful relactation story!

    I looked into doing that for awhile with my son, but the cost for herbs wasn't something I could afford and our insurance would only cover a hospital grade pump if my son were in the NICU.

  2. What an awesome story! I wish I would have been able to do this with my daughter! I'm so glad you've found a happy medium, though I'm sorry it didn't go as easily the second time around. Thanks for sharing your experience!

  3. Love this story. LOVE! Actually, I wish I had tried this, or at least continued to pump after I stopped breastfeeding my daughter. But at the time I was still dealing with so much guilt and loss that I didn't feel up to it.

    Thank you Malika for such an inspiring story!

  4. Wow, great for you! I had thrush and I remember how horrible the pain was. I cried while taking a shower because even the water touching me hurt so badly. I cannot even imagine having the rest of those issues. Sometimes you need to heal yourself and I think you did the right thing. And I think your relactation is great – after I weaned my first I went through a stage where I considered it but didn't have the commitment to try, so I admire yours!

  5. Thanks you guys for your warm responses. I'm glad that my story enlightened and/or inspired you! If you are considering relactating, one thing I can tell you is to have patience. Your milk may not come right away, and when it does come, it increases only a little at a time (at least in my experience). My milk has increased a bit even after writing this story, so it's definitely a long process. If any of you need some advice or a cheerleader in your corner, I'm here! malikarbrown@gmail.com

  6. That is so great! Is reglan used only if you've breastfed initially or is that also used if you've never lactated (for example if an adoptive parent wanted to lactate)?

  7. @Brooke, Reglan can be used for initiating lactation too. I've heard more on Domperidone for that though. You can get Domperidone without a prescription too, so I think it's more common for relactating and initiating lactation.

  8. Your story gives me hope that if one breastfeeding experience is horrible, it doesn't mean others will be. It was nice to hear that the first time around was easy. Sorry you had to go through so much with the second! I am glad you have made peace with yourself, combo feeding is perfectly wonderful too. 🙂

  9. Good for you for your success in relactation! I am so glad to hear how you overcame these significant challenges.

    I do want to caution readers, though, that Reglan is not FDA approved for relactation or for increasing breastmilk production in any case. In fact, Reglan is a very dangerous drug for women who have any history of or genetic predisposition to depression or anxiety. Reglan can cause severe, debilitating depression and anxiety that may take years to treat and recover from. I suggest alternate methods be explored for those who want to encourage or increase breastmilk production…many exist.

  10. @ Amber

    Thank you very much for pointing that out. I'm staring to think again about my Reglan prescription and considering alternatives because of that reason.

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