Relactation - The Origin Story

Updated: Mar 24

“The success of relactation is directionally proportional to the will of the mother”

– this is what I was told by the maternity hospital lactation consultant when I went into the breastfeeding clinic when my son was 6 weeks old. I remember so vividly sitting in the waiting room with my son who looked like a giant beside the other newborn babies. What was I doing there, was I mad? But no, the midwives sat me down, talked me through the realities, them set out a clear plan on what I needed to do to get my milk supply back. I was just relieved to hear it was possible.

When my son was born, I had no clear plan on how I was going to feed him. I had a vague notion of breastfeeding but I was also terrified of it. In the hospital I gave him a few formula feeds which was advised by the midwives until the lactation consultants were in. Then they came and did some black magic and some body contortions and got him to latch. The moment they left I was back to square one. I went home and gave it a few days but ultimately, I gave up. I thought he wasn’t feeding often enough or for long enough, so I stopped and stuck with the bottle. Its only now I know that he was feeding really well and behaving normally, I wish I had known that then!

The next five weeks were paved with so much pain and anxiety. Don’t let anyone ever tell you that formula feeding is the “easier” option. My son became constipated and was suffering with reflux to the point we had to go to A&E to get help for impacted stool. I agonized over nappies for days, waiting and waiting. He got some relief in the hospital, but the tiny procedure caused a rectal tear which meant he was in pain for days every time he did a poop. We changed formulas a few times to see if we could get any relief, we were officially on the formula train! We had a few more trips to the hospital only to be told he could be on stool softeners until he was 5/6. They would not entertain that the formula was the problem, it was just his system. Everything inside my screamed that this was wrong. My mother’s instinct knew there had to be something else going on.

The next day I found an article online about relactation and something inside clicked. He had no problems pooping when I was feeding him myself those early days, if I could just get some small amounts of breastmilk into him I wondered if that would help. I spent the next few days getting myself researching and getting myself setup. There wasn’t a ton of information online, just bits and pieces here and there. I rang local breastfeeding support groups, went to the breastfeeding clinic in the maternity hospital and rang some friends to see if anyone had heard of it or knew someone who did it. I pieced a plan together and set off.

That lactation consultant in the hospital was right, relactation is not for the faint hearted. It took a lot of time and energy, but it was one of the most rewarding things I have ever done. Within a day or two of my sons getting some small amount of breastmilk his constipation issues were all but resolved, never to come back. I then convinced by GP to give me a prescription for Neocate (a dairy free formula) which was a relief as I knew his little body wasn’t liking the cows milk formula.

I will write another post on the nitty gritty of relactation, it deserves a post in itself but I wanted to go through the background, my why. My son and his early years were my total focus, I was doing it for him. To succeed you need a clear why to get you through those long days and nights but once you get there, there is no better feeling.