Estimated reading time: 3 minutes
Vicky Groombridge, Coventry, UK
My relactation story: a second chance to breastfeed.
My baby, Toby, was born four months ago. Although I attended an antenatal clinic while I was pregnant I never really thought much about breastfeeding. I had heard it was common for women to find it difficult, but I assumed it would come naturally to me and never really considered alternatives.
I was induced at 37 weeks due to health concerns and, although my baby was perfectly fine and healthy when he was born, he was taken to the neonatal unit to be kept under observation for a couple of days. He had breastfed immediately after delivery, but then I didn’t get to feed him for a day and he was fed through a tube. By this stage I was starting to get a little anxious about breastfeeding. He was slightly jaundiced, but I was told to feed him regularly and we went home after a few days.
Within a week Toby had lost 15% of his birth weight and I was becoming increasingly concerned about the feeding. I didn’t experience the engorgement that you hear about when the milk comes in. I tried expressing and would only get a few milliliters at a time. We went back into hospital, where my baby was treated for jaundice with phototherapy and put on a drip to rehydrate him.
I continued to express with a hospital-grade pump with very little success. After a couple of days we were able to go home again and my baby seemed much more alert and started to breastfeed well. However, after another few days all he was doing was sleeping and he was not waking for food. Although the midwife visited us and said everything was fine I was not convinced and went back to the Accident & Emergency department at the hospital. He had developed an infection, which we were told could be meningitis and he required a number of blood, urine, and spinal fluid tests. We were terrified and, with the stress and exhaustion, I continued to try to breastfeed but my baby wasn’t interested, so again he was given formula.
We spent five more days in hospital and I continued to express milk, still only getting a few milliliters. By this time my baby was three weeks old and I was convinced I had no milk and that I would not be able to feed my baby. I talked it through with a breastfeeding counselor at the hospital and we decided that the best thing for everyone would be to give up breastfeeding to ensure my baby recovered from the infection and started to put on weight. At the time I felt sad and guilty but also slightly relieved.
Back home we settled into a routine of bottle-feeding, but day by day I became more and more upset by my decision. My baby would turn to me to try to breastfeed and I couldn’t believe that I couldn’t do it.
Back home we settled into a routine of bottle-feeding, but day by day I became more and more upset by my decision.
After a week of not breastfeeding I deeply regretted my decision and contacted La Leche League, where I was offered the support and encouragement I needed. At the time I had no ￼idea it was possible to restart breastfeeding once you had given up. I started by putting my baby to the breast as often as possible and before every formula feed. It was only a couple of days before I felt the milk coming in and my breasts started to feel full before feeds.
I am so pleased that I made the decision to give it another go. It has been hard work but never a chore. Every day I continue to feed Toby I feel amazed at what I’ve achieved.
He’s now four months old and is a big, healthy baby. The feeds are much quicker and I can express enough for a feed in one go rather than it taking three or four sessions to get enough. I’m really grateful to La Leche League for giving me a second chance, the support to enable me to persevere, and along with my mother and husband for being a part of my incredible support network.