I never get tired of hearing relactation stories.  Because we live in a formula feeding culture, I have met moms who “chose” to formula feed their babies but end up regretting this choice after a month or so.   Is that the end of their breastfeeding journey?  Happily, I can confidently answer NO!  If adopted moms and grandmothers can breastfeed babies then moms can successfully undergo relactation.  However, it is not easy and it will take a lot of hard work and determination.

Metro Manila moms are lucky that there is a center – Arugan Creche – where moms can successfully learn how to relactate from experts in the breastfeeding field – Velvet Escario-Roxas with lactation masseuse Rechilda Talle.  The relactating mom also needs support from other moms in the form of donated breastmilk, to ensure that the baby will not go hungry while the mom builds up her supply.
For this guest post, I would like to share the story of Donna Marie Bondoc who painstakingly chronicled her relactation journey in hopes of inspiring other formula feeding moms that breastfeeding is not a lost cause.

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From 40oz. of formula milk to none!
A Relactation Story by Donna Marie Bondoc
as shared by Velvet-Escario Roxas

Let me start my story by sharing that because I knew about the benefits of breastmilk, even though I was having issues with my supply, I plodded on and was mixed feeding my second child, baby Brandon for almost 2 months. However, when one is mixed feeding, one would usually end up on pure formula feeding. True enough, I ended up giving pure formula milk for 1 months and 2 days.

However, when I saw my friend Michi’s baby – Mateo – exclusively breastfeed, I began to wonder if it would still be possible for me to go back to exclusive breastfeeding.  Michi added me to an online Facebook support group Breastfeeding Pinays and encouraged me to relactate. I decided I wanted to do it!

I wanted to breastfeed baby Brandon since I know that it is the best milk that I can give my child. I also want him to be healthy and I know that formula fed babies will have a higher chance of diabetes later in life. I was formula-fed as an infant and I have some health issues. Because of my health issues, my husband and I decided to ligate. It will be dangerous for me and for the next baby if I get pregnant again. This is somehow my last chance to breastfeed my last child. It is now or never!

I started my relactation journey with 40 oz pure infant formula and in 3 weeks I was exclusive breastfeeding baby Brandon with the help of donors milks from Rowena and Ann Marie.   I am hoping to share this journey to fellow 100% pure formula feeding moms in my hope that they will realize that nothing is impossible if you are willing to work hard for it.

Relactation steps I took:

1) I contacted Ms. Velvet who gave me instructions on what to do first and she mentored me – taught me every step of the way to reach my goal. She told me that she will only handle my relactation ONLY if I do it wholeheartedly.  “I will try” is not good enough.  I emphasized to her that I am very decided and dedicated to do this. If I start this, there is no turning back.

2) Ms. Velvet encouraged to me to Nanay Rich for a full body lactation massage to help me in my relactation. Nanay Rich wasn’t free at that time and she gave me Riah’s number for a lactation massage.

3) I also visited a pedia/IBCLC Dr. Cristina Bernardo to give me more tips and techniques for relactation.

4) I joined the Friday Meet-ups of Velvet in Arugaan. The slots are few and it always gets sold out. I felt like winning the lottery when I was able to get one of the slots. During the meet-up, one of the wetnurse in Arugaan was able to let baby Brandon latch on to her. Ms. Velvet said that baby Brandon could be easily taught and can easily get back to the breast. But all her instructions are very crucial. There are no ifs and no buts, just follow her. Since all of her instructions were for the sake of my son Brandon, I followed all her instructions to the letter.

learning how to breastfeed and cupfeed

5) Ms. Velvet is very strict in ditching the bottle. I also learned spoonfeeding and cupfeeding. Because my baby was bottle-fed, he was already “nipple confused” and that is why he never wanted to latch on my breast. To make the situation worse, I also have flat nipples. The biggest hurdle I had was to throw the bottles and I did without second thoughts.  It was going to be difficult and would entail a lot of patience, hard work and determination.  I believed in myself and knew that I could overcome the challenges.

6) I decided to have another full body lactation massage with Ms. Riah because I wanted to be relaxed and empowered.

7) I started drip drop feeding my baby (it’s low-tech, low-cost SNS that Arugaan uses.  See a photo here.). I also didn’t want to give baby Brandon formula anymore so I asked for breastmilk donors to use on my transitional period.

8) I started looking for a wetnurse to help me with my relactation. Ms. Velvet advised that it will be very good to find a wetnurse to expedite the relactation process. I was able to find our former practicumer Rowena who recently gave birth. Her baby is exclusively breastfed and fortunately she was very supportive and agreed. We cross/switched nursed. Baby Brandon breastfed on Rowena. Baby Amiere breastfed on me. We had to do drip drop feeding on me and baby Amiere to stimulate her to suckle on my breast. She was very good on suckling unto my breasts that my flat nipples became protruded. Baby Brandon had to be taught to latch and breastfeed. I had to learn to hold a baby the breastfeeding way. All of us were learning together.

9) I breastfed both babies football position. I did this position to increase my milk production as per Ms. Velvet’s instructions. My progress was so fast because I have two babies to feed.

10) I did self-breast massage that Ms. Riah and Arugaan taught me. I latched, hand expressed, pumped every 2 hours. For stay-at-home moms I highly recommend hand expression because it can draw out milk from the breast better than any pump.

supply slowly increased

11) I ate lots of clams with malunggay, masasabaw na food tried fenugreek, moringana, natalac, life oil, food cooked in coconut milk as shared by Mommy Mec, lactation cookies, guyabano tea and fruits.

12) A journal is a MUST! I needed to have a journal or diary to monitor the amount of formula or donor’s breastmilk that my baby was taking. Take notes of baby’s output through urine and poop to avoid dehydration to the baby.

 13) I needed to remove any supplement until one reaches exclusive breastfeeding. Some moms who are mixed feeding can do it in a week’s time. Slowly decreasing the amount of supplement per day. My relactation is a bit difficult because I was on pure formula for a long time. I had to teach my baby to latch properly and most importantly build my supply. So my relactation took a bit longer than the usual mixed feeding moms.

14) My pediatrician had to monitor my son’s weight regularly. He changed from a “tabang-hangin” (chubby marshmallow) to a “tabang-siksik” (chubby and healthy).

15) My paediatrician had to nip my son’s tongue tie. If I did not undergo relactation, I would not have known that Brandon was tongue-tied.  Perhaps if I had addressed this problem early in my breastfeeding relationship, I wouldn’t have had supply issues which led me to give up.

Baby Brandon now perfectly latches and suckles on my breasts. Currently I am exclusively breastfeeding and also expressing my milk when I am at the office. My second son at 3 years old also drinks my expressed breastmilk. I now have two children on my breastmilk.

enough for Brandon’s needs!

I am Donna, a formula feeding mom who prayed and pushed herself to exclusively breastfeed. This is my relactation victory.    This is one victory I will never forget!

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