How I Re-established Breastfeeding
How I Re-established Breastfeeding – You many know that I made the decision not to continue breastfeeding after I was re-admitted to hospital and treated for sepsis when Freddie was a couple of weeks old. I was totally gutted and felt that I’d failed my third and final baby. I made this decision based on the fact that my poor nipples felt and looked like they’d been savaged by a dog, and the only thing that was coming out was blood and pus.
I was seen by a Breastfeeding Consultant whilst on the ward who was prepared to get me back to breastfeeding, but the thought of feeding my baby and possibly passing on a nasty infection was enough for me to shut the door on that completely.
I cried a lot! I cried every time I fed him a bottle. Freddie struggled away from the bottle not knowing how to feed from it. He turned his head in towards my breasts searching and crying for all he’d known. My breasts were engorged and sore, showing no signs of recovery but reacting to my little boys cries by leaking milk that he desparately wanted.
I hated giving him formula milk, not because I’m against formula but because it was a constant reminder of what I hadn’t been able to achieve. I was reassured by people telling me that a fed baby is a happy baby when all I wanted to do was scream at them to shut up. Since starting formula, Freddie had become constipated and was suffering with colic after each feed. It was awful watching him strain knowing that it was the change from breast to formula, and winding him after each feed took forever.
The healing process from the infection was slow going and my breasts remained engorged and sore, but the milk kept on coming. I wanted it to stop so that I didn’t have the constant reminder and hopefully Freddie would stop trying to get to my breasts because he could smell it. I had to have a further course of anti-biotics as again I woke up with extremely engorged breasts and a cold shakiness. My attempts to hand pump enough milk away to be comfortable was impossible. It felt sore and uncomfortable to hold Freddie against my chest which is really hard with a newborn.
When Freddie was six weeks old, I’d just got out of the shower and Freddie was awake in his crib. The sound of his cries left me dripping in milk and my instinct was to put him to my breast and feed him which I did. It was uncomfortable to latch him on and he didn’t quite get it at first but then it clicked and he was away suckling and content.
When he’d fed I felt happy and it got me thinking that as my milk hadn’t completely gone, and now I was healed, could I start to feed him again.
No, because once you’ve stopped you’ve stopped. Finished. Finito!
“He’ll have got used to a bottle and you won’t get him to latch” and my discharging Midwife told me just not to even think about it “what’s done is done”. I know she was only trying to make me feel better about my decision to stop, but it was upsetting all the same.
I wasn’t prepared to accept this. Freddie had fed and although my nipples felt sore again, it felt right. So this is where good old google steps in as the fountain of all knowledge (and a load of crap).
Freddie was still searching for the breast. This little guy wasn’t ready to finish our breastfeeding journey, so if Freddie wasn’t going to give up on me then I had to give it a go.
Did you know that it’s possible to re-start breastfeeding? No me neither but I figured that as I was still needing to use breast pads the milk must still be there even if only a little.
Relactation is the term used for restarting breastfeeding after a period of either stopping completely or very little. It is even possible for adoptive mums to lactate with the right level of support and guidance.
I feel a bit shortchanged that this isn’t common knowledge. I asked a few friends if they knew that you could re-start breastfeeding and none of them had a clue that you could. Why isn’t this information given by Midwives or Health Visitors so that new mums know it’s an option? I wonder how many mums stop breastfeeding and then later regret it, but are unaware that this is a possibility.
I asked my Health Visitor for support as she knew that I wasn’t happy with my decision to stop and when she visited I’d already done some research and had started my relactation journey. She gave me some details on power pumping which essentially you pump a lot as well as feeding and looking after your baby. To make this easier, a double pump is pretty much essential or it will take double the amount of time. I’m using the Lansinoh Double Electric Breast Pump which can be battery powered or plugged into the mains.
After that first feed, I’d been quite sore so decided that I would try expressing the milk so that at least he was getting the breastmilk even if it had to be from a bottle. I knew that feeding and pumping was going to take a lot of patience but I wanted to give it a shot.
I wasn’t sure how Chris would react since he was worried about me getting a further infection, but I felt that I knew what signs to look out for and would get help if I needed it.
After watching Breastfeeding Uncovered it seems that there are a lot of women who are offered very little or no support to enable them to breastfeed which is shocking. The UK has pretty poor breastfeeding rates compared to other countries. Only 34% of babies are still breastfed at six months, and this is an improvement since 2015.
It’s definitely not my place to judge and I don’t think any less or more of other peoples choices. There are loads of reasons why people make the decisions they do and sometimes the decision is taken away from them. Quite frankly it’s none of mine or your business – I really hate that total strangers (other mums mostly) feel like they can ask about your feeding choices, and I always feel that I have to give my full upsetting story as a justification. Us mums really are the most judgemental bunch.
I feel lucky that my Health Visitor had a lot of information for me, but it was through me seeking and asking for help and support. I know that I needed help to check my latch which I think was the downfall and decline into infection in the first place.
As I had been discharged from the midwife team, I no longer had access to the Breastfeeding Consultant at my local hospital, but the Health Visitors have various support they could offer me.
Latch and Attach – This is a pilot scheme and is a one-off session offered to mums where you go along and essentially check your babies latch is correct. They offered advice on different positions which can work for both you and your baby. I attended this and Freddie behaved beautifully (as he did whenever anyone else was looking) but as I was re-establishing feeding it was felt that I would benefit from one to one sessions which I was booked in for.
Infant Feeding Clinic – This was an hour one to one session and is offered to all mums, breastfed, express fed and bottle fed. Each of these groups of mums are offered support and guidance. We discussed and checked the latch and any issues that I had. I felt that Freddie wasn’t opening his mouth wide enough to get the best latch since he had become used to a teat so we worked out the optimum placement of his bottom lip as a guide. It was nice to air all my concerns which were specific to both Freddie and I, and we are to receive ongoing support whilst we need it.
Local Facebook Groups – These are a godsend since you can access and ask questions around the clock, and theres always another mum there who has been in your shoes willing to offer advice on anything from supply issues, cluster feeding or if you’re just feeling a bit meh. These definitely give you a mental boost in the middle of the night when you feel basically alone.
Breastfeeding Groups – I think these are on the decline due to funding cuts which is a shame. Look for locally run groups which you may find via word of mouth or via locally run Facebook Mum’s Groups. We’re lucky in Exeter that we have an independently funded Baby Room which is run by trained Breast Peer Support Workers where you can gain great advice on all things breastfeeding, washable nappies, slings and everything else baby related.
Online Support Forums – There are numerous forums and online support which can be both helpful and overwhelming. Find a couple that you like and stick with them.
Social Media – As a blogger this is and has been my support network for a lot of things. My relactation journey started in the midst of World Breastfeeding Week so it was a more than a hot topic than usual. There were loads of positive and negative issues. It seems to cause a huge Breast V Bottle divide so lots of controversial debates shall we word it were had.
Increasing my supply
I did some research on increasing my supply and it seems that there are various foods that can help increase your milk supply including oats, fennel, brewers yeast and fenugreek. I’ve started drinking fennel tea which thankfully does taste really nice and am having a predominantly oat based granola and yoghurt every day for breakfast.
There are loads of recipes for lactation flapjacks, cookies and smoothies which I have added to a Breastfeeding Pinterest board which I will continue to add to as I find useful things.
Hydration is also key to making sure you’re producing a good supply of milk. I keep a water bottle filled all the time so that I have no excuse to make sure that I’m drinking enough.
Having done that first feed since stopping and seeing how content Freddie was, I knew that I had to pursue it further. The first week that I started I attempted to breastfeed him once a day and express and feed for the remainder of the feeds. Pumping started off well, but then the amount that I was getting declined and was barely enough for a feed so I had to persevere with this.
Turning to social media and you tube is pretty much standard these days, and started to follow the progress of a fellow blogger and mum, Through Ami’s Eyes who is documenting her journey of combination feeding her baby boy which also gave me hope during the really hopeless feeling moments. It’s nice to know that you’re not alone even when it feels like you are.
Power Pumping was recommended which is essentially pumping for 20 minutes, rest for 10 minutes, pump for 10 minutes, rest for 10 minutes and then pump for another 10 minutes alongside pumping after every feed.
Massaging the breasts also helps to clear the milk ducts and causes the milk to flow more freely which will help to empty the breasts and trigger higher milk production.
Using hot and cold compresses as and when needed and lots of skin to skin which is no hardship with a new baby.
After the first week I increased it to a couple of breastfeeds a day. This was kind of forced on me by Freddie who would refuse a bottle sometimes and search for the boob until I gave it to him.
At week three he was breastfeeding three times a day with expressed/formula milk for the remainder of the time.
We’re now at week four and I’m offering him the breast before each bottle feed since breastfeeding alone doesn’t seem to satisfy him completely as a top-up.
He also prefers the breast if he is tired or grumpy which I think is part hunger and part comfort.
I’m also pleased to report that he no longers suffers from constipation and the colic has gone completely, he winds perfectly fine these days. So far so good and both Freddie and I are happy with how things are going.
I will keep you updated with how we’re getting on over the coming weeks.
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