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”.
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.
Have a story you’d be willing to share with the FFF audience? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Sharing is caring, as they say.