By Sarah Edstrom
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your baby – why did you stop breastfeeding and what made you decide to start again when your baby was 9 months old?
I met Sarah on Twitter – I can’t remember how it came up, but I learned that she had relactated so that she could provide her baby with breastmilk. I just had to know more, so Sarah agreed to share her story on my blog. Below is my interview with her.
I stopped because the drugs I was on made my baby, Clive, very sleepy. He was only 5lb 15oz when he was born and had dropped down to 5lb 4oz by a week post-partum and his weight wasn’t stabilizing or going up so we knew something wasn’t working. I started again after Clive tried to latch on one night I sat in the bath with him. The decision to stop had not ever sat well and I said to my husband that I wanted to try again. I didn’t know a lot about relactation but knew that I wanted to give it a try anyway.
Was this your first baby?
Yes and he came after I’d been told I wouldn’t be able to get pregnant and if I did I wouldn’t be able to carry a baby to term. After my husband and I decided to try and have a baby I was pregnant my first cycle and Clive was born on exactly his due date.
Had you breastfed another baby?
No and there was nobody around me who had for more than a month.How long did you breastfeed before stopping and how much time passed in between stopping and relactating?
About a week. I pumped for 3 days after that but my mental illness (bipolar) was becoming very out of control so we switched to formula. So almost exactly 9 months passed between the time I stopped breastfeeding and when I started to relactate.
How did you know relactation was possible?
I’m not too sure where I’d heard about it. I think I’d read a relactation story on the LLL website.
Tell us about what you had to do to be able to relactate. Did you take supplements?
I got a prescription for domperidone.
Did you eat special foods?
I started to eat more oats and avoided peppermint.
How often did you pump?
Every 2 hours through the day, so I’d only have 1.5 hours in between as I’d pump for half an hour at a time with a double pump. Through the night I usually stretched it to 3-4 hours apart. I pumped for 3 months and occasionally afterward if I felt my supply wasn’t keeping up. I rented a hospital grade pump for a month while we waited for my personal pump to arrive.
Were you able to breastfeed exclusively or did you need to supplement?
By the time I’d relactated Clive had already been eating solids for a couple of months and I continued with formula until he was a little over a year old, then he was switched to cow’s milk.
How long did it take for your milk supply to come back?
I was able to express my first drops after 5 days. My doctor had told me it would take 4-6 weeks. I really believed in my body the whole time and kept the mantra of “I’ve made milk before I can do it again.”How long did it take to get clive back to the breast and did you use a nipple shield to help with that?
To get him fully back to the breast was probably a month. I basically let him have access from the moment I relactated until he was able to articulate that he wanted milk. I didn’t use nipple shields, though I did try a SNS a couple of times. Clive hated that, though.
What was easier than you thought it would be?
Finding the time to pump and actually getting Clive back to the breast.
What was harder than you thought it would be?
Finding the time to pump while Clive was awake.
Did people make comments?
Yes! People asked why I was bothering when he was fine with the formula. People also asked how long I intended to nurse him for.
Who was your biggest supporter?
Clive! Seeing him latch on and relax into me was amazing and definitely made the whole journey easier. My husband was also truly amazing through the whole thing even though he didn’t really understand why I was doing it, either. Now he is my biggest cheerleader and vehemently defends my nursing relationship with Clive.
Do you recommend this for other moms?
Yes. I think that it can be a much more difficult thing to make happen than what I’ve experienced, though.
Is it ever too late to relactate?
I don’t think so. Given the correct type/amount of stimulation even men can lactate. I know that the sooner you try to relactate after stopping the easier it is, though.
What about a mom who hasn’t had a baby – what would she need to do that is different from what you did?
I imagine that it would take a longer amount of time to lactate but with lots of pumping, supplementing, water, healthy food and rest I really believe that it’s possible for anybody.
Is there anything else that you would like to add?
I’m still nursing my son 2 years later. He nurses to fall asleep, he nurses when he’s upset, he nurses when he’s not feeling well and he nurses when he is feeling disconnected from me. I think it is one of the best decisions that I have made as a parent. It hasn’t been easy but I am now at peace with stopping breastfeeding when Clive was a
newborn. I used to beat myself up because I’d stopped so soon. I think that I have become a better parent to Clive without having the distraction of feeling like I’d let him down.
Sarah is 26, married to her best friend and she lives in Halifax NS. She run her own business and hopes to one day become a doula. She believes in natural birth, baby wearing and breastfeeding, amongst other things. Sarah feels that children really are our future so the better we are to and for them, the better our future will be.
Did you ever relactate? Do you know someone who did? Please share your story or leave any questions that you have for Sarah in the comments section