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Friday, July 26, 2013

Guest Post: Relactation is a Journey from the Heart

One of the practices that we are taught during our L.A.T.C.H. peer counselor training is the concept of YIELD. As breastfeeding peer counselors, LATCHers are the first line of breastfeeding support that mothers contact when they get discharged from the hospital. However, we do know that there are other counselors who are more experienced than LATCHers and hence, we are humble to admit our limitations and will yield to the more experienced counselor.

Our job as LATCH peer counselors is to help mothers by encouraging them to breastfeed and helping them prevent common problems. Our goal is to make the mother succeed at breastfeeding and if referring is one way to achieve this goal, we do it. Among the breastfeeding issues that we refer is relactation.

Today's guest post is shared by Velvet Escario-Roxas, Deputy Executive Director of Arugaan. The mom in her story was referred by one of our co-founders, Buding Aquino-Dee, because it involved relactation. From 100% formula feeding, Velvet successfully guided the mom and baby back to the breast - full relactation. Sharing with you Velvet's story and hoping that this will inspire moms who have started to formula feed their baby to still go back to breastfeeding.

Relactation is a Journey from the Heart 
by Velvet Escario-Roxas 

About two years ago, I received a text message from a mother referred by my breastfriend Buding for relactation. I remember receiving the text message at the start of a very busy week. I decided to accept the mom seeking relactation as a counselee, only if she will come to my house - allowing me to multitask with relactation and work on my computer.

They came on a Wednesday with a newborn baby - barely one month old. My initial interview revealed that the baby was taking 27 ounces of infant formula (no breastmilk) in a day. The baby had been bottlefed since birth. Fortunately for the parents (and myself), an Arugaan-trained peer counselor had just given birth 2 months earlier. Happily, the parents wholeheartedly and without any doubt agreed to include a wet nurse in the relactation process. The best asset of a wet nurse and her baby is a fast track relactation process. 

Throughout the entire morning, the baby cried incessantly. The baby was experiencing a very bad case of nipple confusion and totally refused to latch on the breast. We had to spoonfeed and cupfeed the baby with breastmilk so that we would be assured that the baby wasn't hungry. Understandably, during these crying episodes, the mom was very stressed. However, I was thankful that she is one of those mothers who really listens with her heart and allowed me to proceed with the relactation without a single tinge of doubt. 

Thankfully, around lunchtime, the baby latched on the wetnurse and by late afternoon the baby was back on his mom's breast. We practiced drip-drop dripping on the mother when her baby was on her breasts. We also used cross-nursing -- while the baby was on the wet nurse, the wet nurse's baby was constantly suckling on the relactating mom. This was necessary to speed up the relactation process. That night, the parents supplemented with 5 ounces of formula milk because when they got home, they panicked upon hearing their baby's cries. This was a huge progress considering that the baby had been taking 27 ounces of formula milk before we started relactation.

The family came back to my house very early on Thursday morning with the baby feeding a lot better and with much gusto. There were still times that the baby would cry as he re-learned how to feed from the breasts. We also had to cross-nurse or switch nurse between the mom and the wetnurse to really encourage the baby to suckle and also to increase his mom's milk.

The family returned early Friday morning. It was a relief that the baby fully nursed from his mother. We still had our wet nurse but the baby was content just feeding from his mom. I truly admired the willingness and dedication of the mom to provide the best nutrition for her child. She and her husband have devoted so much effort - a lot of hours and tears just so to relactate. They left my house late Friday night.

My experience with this mom and baby dyad led me to this very important realization: the key to successful relactation is the mom's wholehearted decision and commitment to breastfeed her child. That Friday was the last day that I saw the mom and baby. We said our goodbyes and they gave me their thanks. Seeing them happily breastfeed was true fulfillment for me. We parted fondly and at times I still think of them.

Early this week, I saw our wet nurse. I learned that she was in touch with the mom-baby dyad, so I asked how they were. To my utter delight, the wet nurse shared that the baby is almost 2 years old and still breastfeeding. I almost cried! I had been constantly praying for them, hoping for a happy ending. My hopes and prayers were not in vain as the mom was able to go back to full breastfeeding and still nursing - going beyond my expectations. This is my fulfillment - the best thank you I have received from counseling.

Wet nursing is a culturally accepted practice here in the Philippines.  In fact, in the Filipino language, wet nursing is called "nanay sa suso" which literally translates to "breast mother".  You can read more about it in one of my posts for the Milk Mama Diaries carnival.  It is important to remember that when you hire a wet nurse, you are not just paying for the milk that they produce.  When a wet nurse provides milk to your child, they are giving a part of themselves to your child.  Because wet nursing is a very personal experience, it should not be treated simply as a service for hire.  Wet nurses actually become a part of your child's family as well.

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