Early one morning around seven months postpartum, I woke up early before my baby and before I had to get ready for work. Quietly, I sat up in my bed, cherishing those early moments before the hustle and bustle of my day started. Scrolling on my phone, catching up on emails, social media, and messages, I noticed a post from a woman in one of my mommy groups. She was asking if she could start breastfeeding again after stopping. I quickly opened up the comments and noticed the word relactation pop up several times.
I’d never heard the word and I quickly searched for it on Google. The words that came up on the screen seemed too good to be true. Relactation was the process of resuming breastfeeding after it had stopped for any amount of time.
My own breastfeeding journey came and went in just three weeks.
Those early days after delivering my daughter were filled with tons of emotions and a lot of unknowns. As a first-time mom and someone who had not personally known any other breastfeeding moms, I’d quickly became discouraged and frustrated with the breastfeeding process.
Most of the sites and forums I found encouraged bringing baby back to the breast and pumping to stimulate milk production. With renewed interest and determination, I excitedly told my husband I wanted to try breastfeeding again. He was very supportive, but my own doubts began to creep in. I asked him. “What if I’m crazy for trying to start this journey and my baby is not a newborn?” He said to me “What is crazy about trying to feed your baby from your own body?” Those words gave me the motivation to start the relactation journey.
I pulled my breast pump out of the closet and just like that, I was ready to begin. I searched for lactation consultants in my area to get some additional support and information. The first result was a woman located very close to me so I sent her an email about trying to relactate. Her reply was unexpectedly dismissive and cold. She simply said not many choose to relactate after six months when their babies have chosen to eat solid foods. I was blown away by her response. Breastmilk does not magically lose its benefits after six months.
I turned to social media again, and this time I was pleasantly surprised to find a few small groups that supported relactation. I joined a few, but the one that helped me the most was the Relactation One Ounce At A Time Group. This is a group filled with women who have relactated or are trying to, and they are extremely supportive.
I felt out of place with most breastfeeding groups because their common concerns were not at all relative to my situation. While they were talking about how much milk they pumped or even weaning their baby, I was desperate to even get a few drops or ounces of milk.
With the help of this group, at 7-months postpartum I began pumping around the clock. I was on a pumping schedule that mimicked newborn feeding. Without the advantage of maternity leave and having flexibility, pumping during work hours and sneaking off to bedrooms was very hard. Sometimes, marking the days off my calendar was the only thing to look forward to. Slowly, the drops began to turn into larger amounts. Around 90 days into the journey, I was up to three or four ounces a day. At nine (almost 10) months postpartum, I was able to supplement my baby’s formula with breastmilk.
While that may not seem like a lot when there are mothers producing 20-30 ounces per DAY, I was able to produce this after being dry for months. This process was achieved all naturally, with no medications.
Breastfeeding is truly a unique experience and is in no way one size fits all. I encourage all mothers to determine their own feeding goals and listen to your instincts and bodies. Your path looks different and that’s OK. I consider my non-traditional breastfeeding journey a success and whatever yours looks like, it’s the best choice for you and your baby.