Breastfeeding after the fact - my relactation journey
Breastfeeding with my first baby back in 2007 never came easy...in fact it was downright awful. To my horror neither did it with my second and as a result, both rounds only lasted a couple of weeks.
My boy, Matt was born in 2013. I managed 3 months of breastfeeding and pumping for him and ironically gave up on the day before he started symptoms and landed up in hospital with RSV. I stupidly felt guilty at the time, thinking it was my fault that he got sick🙄.
After he was discharged, 3 weeks didn’t pass by where he wasn’t sick, mostly with tonsillitis. Our ENT was at a loss as Matt was too young to have his tonsils removed and all the antibiotics surely weren’t doing his little body any favours. After at least 12 bouts of tonsillitis, I had exhausted all resources, except one. Relactation!
What is relactation?
Relactation is the process by which a mother reestablishes breastfeeding after having stopped for a period of time (weeks or even months)
I didn’t even know back then that there was even a term for it. I just had this ‘crazy’ idea that MAYBE breast milk was the answer. Matt was 15 months old at the time and 12 months had passed since he was last breastfed. Out of desperation, I started searching the internet for information on how to go about producing milk again. Alas, there was nothing related to the information I was searching for. Eventually I contacted La Leche League via their Facebook group, It didn’t appear to be something that was very common but I managed to get some guidance from a lactation consultant.
She suggested I put Matt to the breast again to start stimulating milk production again. Apparently, if you have given birth, regardless of whether you actually breastfed, your body can produce milk even after the fact. To be honest, I never bothered trying the boob route as I thought it would be a waste of time. Instead, I got a script for Eglinol and took 3 tablets a day and started pumping morning and night. I can’t remember exactly how long it took but I do remember that by one month I was expressing 100mls a day! I used a Medella Swing Electric Breast Pump which was fantastic as it has a stimulation setting, but I believe there are loads of other great brands available nowadays.
Of course Matt wouldn’t drink the milk that I had slaved to produce for him but I managed to sneak it into his porridge and down his gullet.
Now I can’t say whether the breast milk was indeed the miracle cure or if my child just coincidently grew out of this sicky phase, but the month after I started the breast milk again marked the end of the tonsillitis. He is now 8 and, touch wood, his tonsils have never given us a problem since. Who knows!
Why consider relactation?
- You might have stopped breastfeeding earlier than you wanted
- You may have bottle fed from the start and changed your mind later on to breastfeed
- You might have been separated from your baby or your baby might have been ill
- You may have adopted another baby and want to re-establish your milk supply in order to breastfeed them.
- It is possible to breastfeed an adopted baby even if they have never breastfed previously or the adopted mom has never been pregnant – this is called ‘induced lactation’.
In conclusion, it is possible to produce milk after the fact if you have given birth at some point. Whether you weren’t able to breastfeed in the early baby stages and want to give it a bash later on...or maybe you had COVID and want to feed the family your antibodies in their morning coffee🤷♀️🤣 Relactation may be something to consider. It requires time, patience, support and a cooperative baby (or a good breast pump in my case)
If you would like to give relactation a try, my advice would be to get support and guidance from the likes of La Leche League.
Love Claire (Bean)