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Thursday, September 12, 2013

Guest Post: Essentials for a Successful Relactation

All of the relactation stories I have previously shared refer to anecdotal experiences of the moms, wet nurses or the lactation counselor.  For this guest post, I will be sharing the story of Lan Perez.  As with Donna, Lan successfully transitioned from pure formula feeding to pure breastfeeding.

While Donna shared her own experience, Lan has not only written a step by step guide but she has also painstakingly enumerated the characteristics and traits necessary for a mom to successfully relactate.  Let me emphasize - while relactation is possible, it is not easy and the mom must be willing to throw away that bottle, be humble to accept help and milk from other mothers and be open to to change her lifestyle.

Yes, relactation is a miracle but it is not magic that can be done with a snap of your fingers.  Lan shares with us her journey and I hope this will not only inspire fellow moms but will also clarify questions or doubts about relactation.  Click this link to read more about my previous posts on relactation.

I'm Lan Perez, mother to two wonderful kids. My daughter, Andre, is now 5 years old and was never breastfed. My son, 3-month-old Jaden, was initially mixed-fed then exclusively formula-fed. Now he is exclusively breastfeeding. This is my relactation story.

I was 24 when I gave birth to my eldest. As first time parents, hubby and I were really excited to welcome the first baby in our family (she was, after all, the firstborn and first grandchild). We bought everything we believed she would need when she came out. I thought I was prepared, but I was wrong—I didn’t know a thing about parenting. I was exhausted, and I experienced post-partum depression.

When Andre was two days old, the hospital nurse called me to breastfeed my baby. When I reached the nursery, she handed me my baby and told me to breastfeed. I got scared, really scared. Baby Andre cried and I was clueless on how to comfort her. My first breastfeeding encounter was a disaster. I failed to breastfeed her because of lack of knowledge and support. Formula milk became her source of food from that day until she was 3 years old. I didn't feel any guilt because I thought I was doing the right thing and it didn't harm her.

#TBT - Jaden formula feeding
Five years after, our son Jaden came. I still thought formula milk was the best for him—until I discovered Breastfeeding Pinays, an online support group in Facebook. Reading post after post, I realized that I should not give formula milk to Jaden. But even though I became aware of the consequences of giving formula, I still proceeded with the "common practice" of feeding babies—formula feeding.

Six days after giving birth to Jaden, my breasts got engorged. It was very painful and my husband bought me a pump to relieve me of my engorgement. I was really excited to see "my milk" for the very first time. But then I suffered from severe nipple soreness and blisters because my latch and position were wrong. Due to lack of information and support, I decided to stop and gave in to formula feeding again.

I felt really bad every time I visited and read the FB forum. I envied those moms who exclusively breastfeed their babies. On Jaden's second month, he got colds and flu. I got really scared because he was too young to get sick. Then I remembered reading a post in Breastfeeding Pinays that formula milk does not contain antibodies to help baby fight bacteria and viruses. That was my turning point. That was the day I decided I will breastfeed by all means possible.

Last July 25, 2013, I contacted Ms. Velvet Roxas to help me with my relactation. I was very hesitant at first but I mustered all the courage I had and I did it. I was really determined to breastfeed and I needed an expert to help me in my transition from pure formula feeding to exclusive breastfeeding. I was surprised when she replied and the next day I met with her during one of the Breastfeeding Pinays regular Friday meet-ups. 

cupfeeding Jaden with breastmilk
When I entered Arugaan Daycare/Creche early the next day, I was taken aback when I learned that infant formula and bottles were not allowed inside the premises. I was at a loss on what to do. What will I feed my baby while inside? Jaden cried, demanding for his bottle of formula. I was so clueless that I just handed him to one of the staff, a wet nurse named Nanay Mhelit. He immediately latched on to her without any hesitation. I was so relieved. Though it was the first time I met the Arugaan wet nurses, my purely formula-fed baby didn't have a hard time latching on his “nanay sa suso.” Everyone got very excited since a bottle-fed baby is not used to suckling from the breast. They are usually lazy and wait for the milk to come out from the bottle. They encouraged me and told me “ang galing ng anak mo!” Upon hearing those positive words, I became more inspired and determined that I could do it. I can really breastfeed.

That same day, two-month-old baby Michael (son of wet nurse Rosalie) latched on to me. He didn't cry and so we figured I still got milk. Though I couldn’t see it coming out from my breasts, I was positive I had milk. Breastfeeding is 90% psychological and 10% physical. I told myself “may gatas ako, super dami kong gatas!”

When I entered the door of Arugaan, my baby took pure formula - no breastmilk at all. When I left Arugaan that same day, he was taking pure breastmilk. My relactation journey was difficult and there were so many bumps on the road. But I persevered and continued because I knew that I am doing this for my baby.

If you are thinking of relactating, here are the things you should consider before you can start with your RELACTATION.

1. Determination 
101% determination is the key. The relactation process is not easy. It takes a lot of guts. Hindi pwede dito ang "Try Lang." If you think this way, think again because it would be difficult to succeed. The effort and time of the mentors, supporters, breastmilk donors, wet nurses and counselors who are willing to help you will just be put to waste. Give the precious opportunity to other mothers who are more determined and more willing.
A visit from fellow BFP Arianne and Nanay Rich
2. Dedication 
There will be lots of changes once you start the relactation process. It will not be as easy as 123 or ABC. Your patience will also be tested. Your character will be tested. Be ready for the challenges ahead.
3. Faith 
During my struggle while still establishing my milk supply, I held on to God. I remember crying so hard while praying, asking God to bless my breasts with overflowing milk. Breastmilk is a gift from God. It's the natural form of nurturing our little ones. Don't ever doubt yourself and your milk. Be positive at all times. I saw two grandmothers who relactated for their apo and they succeeded. I even heard about an adoptive mom who breastfeeds. Tayo pa kaya na nanganak! You may also chant...”May Gatas ako, Maraming akong Gatas!

If you think you have the determination, the dedication and the faith, then you may proceed with relactation. 

The following are the steps I took to go from pure formula to pure breastmilk in one minute. Direct exclusive breastfeeding may be achieved within 14 days. Some moms may take shorter or longer—I hope my list will be a big help to them.

1. Ask HELP from a reliable and experienced resource person with expertise in breastfeeding.
My relactation mentors were Ms. Velvet Roxas and Nanay Ines Fernandez of Arugaan. These two moms are the best people to consult because they are the "Mothers of Breastfeeding" in the country. I feel so blessed and lucky that I was under their motherly care.

2. Listen and follow your mentors’ instructions, no ifs and no buts. 
All instructions must be followed to the last detail. Put aside your stubbornness. Bawal ang matigas ulo, kapag hindi ka sumunod, lagot ka sa mentors for sure. Instead na mapabilis ang relactation mo, baka lalo pang tumagal. I had to spend time in Arugaan to learn how to carry a breastfed baby. This was the first step because holding a bottle-fed baby is stiff compared to the intimacy of holding a breastfeeding baby.

3. Ditch the formula and feeding bottles or teats.
Yes, simply throw it. If you don't have formula milk or baby bottles, you won't have any choice but to breastfeed. I know it's nerve-wracking but it's one of the critical steps. Bottle-fed babies are nipple confused and prefer the fast flow of the teats. During those days when baby Jaden was still learning to latch and I was still waiting to stabilize my milk supply, we practiced drip drop feeding and cup-feeding at home. No bottles and teats were used as soon as I started with my mentoring. We never had formula, too. I had a steady supply of donor's breastmilk and the wet nurses helped me.

4. Consult a pedia/lactation consultant. 
It would be great if you can see a doctor/pedia/lactation consultant once you start relactating. Ms. Velvet advised me to see a pedia/lactation consultant because minimal weight loss is usually expected. If I go to an unsupportive doctor then that doctor might tell me that my milk is not sufficient. I went to see the pedia a week after I started my relactation process. She prescribed me some medications and advised me to hand-express or to pump to help increase my milk production.

5. Hire a wet nurse. 
The best thing to do is do “switch nursing.” I am so very grateful to the wet nurses of Arugaan. They practically saved my life during my journey. Since my milk was not yet stable then, I needed their help to feed my baby. Switch/cross nursing did wonders for my supply too. I breastfed the wet nurse's baby and the wet nurse fed my baby Jaden. Through this, my breasts were triggered to produce milk. Since the wet nurse's baby was a breastfed baby from day 1, his sucking skills were incredible.

6. Lactation Massage 
I have had three lactation massages already and I assure you that those felt really good! Nanay Rich played a very important role to my success—not only through her hands but also through her prayers. The massage will help clear clogged ducts and make us more relaxed so we can produce more milk. Happy thoughts will also help a lot.

7. Balanced Diet and Lactation Supplements
Malunggay is a galactagogue, the fresher the better. Gata, spinach and saluyot are also effective in boosting my milk supply. And for my indulgence, I love brownies from Mommy Treats and assorted pastries of Mama Chow. To help me relax, I take Sacred Nursing Tea of Breastfeeding and Beyond. But most importantly, I keep myself hydrated at all times.
Learning more about breastfeeding
8. Find Support. 
Relactation is difficult but it is possible. I am a testament to that. It's best that you have support from your family, most especially your husband. During the first few days, my husband was not supportive at all because he lacked the knowledge. But I told him, "pinagbigyan kita ng formula noon, ngayon naman pagbigyan mo ako sa breastfeeding." I was deaf to his pleas to succumb to bottle-feeding. Jaden is my baby too and I will breastfeed whether he liked it or not. I literally dragged him to a breastfeeding class with LATCH. Instantly, he became an advocate. He is now more supportive than ever. He told me that our baby now smells like a ‘real’ baby.

I remember feeling so down that I almost gave up on the second week of my relactation. I was successful because I had one barangayful of supporters: Arugaan, Breastfeeding Pinays Friday Meet-up Group, Donna (who also relactated), and yaya Emma.

I am now back to work. I am still expressing milk for my baby. My baby is cup-fed with my breastmilk when I am in the office. He breastfeeds directly whenever I am around. In my small way I want to pay it forward. And may my story inspire a mom out there.
I'm a proud Breastfeeding Pinay!

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