ODETTE MILLER, CITY OF TSHWANE, SOUTH AFRICA
Originally published November 2015, republished here with the express permission of the author.
Photo: Smitten Photography
My relactation story
From the minute we found out we were expecting another little miracle (and because I didn’t breastfeed my first baby due to a lack of good information) I decided I would do whatever it takes to breastfeed this time.
Our little princess was born in August weighing a healthy 2.8kg. After spending her first four hours in an incubator, a nurse brought her to me and we immediately put her on my breast. She latched beautifully from the first minute and my breastfeeding journey began.
Everything went well until Princess was a week old. I started getting flu-like symptoms (body sweats, the shivers, and feeling weak) and both my hubby and I started stressing and thought it was an infection in my c-section scar, so we called my gynecologist. We were relieved when she examined my cut and told us it was healing beautifully with no infection. We’d been worrying about what we would do if I had to go back to hospital with a breastfeeding newborn, unsure if she would be able to stay with me.
After examining my breasts, my gynecologist explained that I had mastitis, caused, she said, by my baby not emptying my breasts fully. At the time I was happy I had mastitis, which is treatable at home, rather than an incision infection. Easy fix, or so we thought. I was given antibiotics and advised to pump after every feed to make sure my breasts were well drained: this became my daily routine.
Another week went by and I was back to my old self. However, the next month was absolute hell. Because I pumped after every three-hourly feed I caused an over production of milk and didn’t realize this. My breasts were constantly full and sore so that I dreaded every feed. By week three my body was pulling into spasms during feeds due to the pain and I often cried while Princess was feeding. By week four my body was on the verge of shutting down, I couldn’t help myself out of bed. Painkillers were not helping and when I almost dropped my baby due to so much pain spreading from my breasts into my arms and legs, I realized there was something seriously wrong. I wasn’t functioning properly and hubby had to take time off work just to help me feed my baby.
My emotions were all over the place. I felt like I was neglecting my son, my marriage was falling apart, everything was pushing down on me. Through it all, my loving husband was there for me. At the time it didn’t feel like he was, but now I realize it and appreciate him even more for standing by me. I decided I couldn’t breastfeed any longer. R2000 and another week of pain and tears later, my milk finally dried up. Princess was on formula and I slowly started feeling like my old self again. Three weeks went by and I started regretting my decision. I felt like I had let my daughter down, that I wasn’t doing my best, and that I had made a selfish decision when my kids should always come first. Not telling anyone how I felt, I started researching to see if I could turn back the clock.
I reached out to LLL Leader Naomi Mitchell, what an amazing woman! Without hesitation she “took my hand” (she was in Port Elizabeth and I was in Pretoria) and guided me every step of the way. Relactation wasn’t easy and she told me from day one it wasn’t going to be and that it was going to take A LOT of dedication, but despite the fear of having that pain again, I wanted to breastfeed so badly, I was willing to do anything.
I started pumping again. I was scared of my pump, that’s where all my trouble started. Every hour I pumped five minutes per breast and after a week I was pumping 10ml at a time. I continued pumping for three weeks and slowly my milk supply was increasing. Naomi checked in with me every other day and there were many days I cried and felt like giving up (and honestly there were days when I didn’t pump at all) but by week four I decided to pump every half-hour (also five minutes per breast) and three days later I noticed a huge increase in my supply. Today (October 26th) I woke up with full and engorged breasts, in slight pain but I cried from overwhelming joy! Breast milk leaking all over me, I was in my happy place again, I just had to let Naomi know.
My princess is finally back on the breast and I couldn’t be happier!
Naomi asked me to share my story with you as there are many mommies in my shoes and being there myself, if there is anything I can do to help another mommy I will do so with love! After all I’ve been through, to all the mommies also wanting to relactate, my only advice is 200% dedication, a lot of patience, and a ton of support from LLL, family, and friends. Breastfeeding is anything but easy in the beginning but truly worth every frustrating moment and tear.