Relactation and Breastmilk Donation

From: Natalie Strange, Norwich and Outskirts Host

I knew I wanted to breastfeed my first baby, but after a few days it just didn’t feel right; he was big and I had no support, so I switched to formula and never went back. I was jealous of other breastfeeding mums I saw in coffee shops and I became bitter about it. Because of that, when I fell pregnant with my second baby, I decided I’d just bottle feed. He arrived, all 9lb 15.5ozs of him and I instinctively put him to my breast to feed – he latched. I was in awe of him and it felt so right. Day 2 and he wasn’t passing blood sugar tests and I wanted to go home so the midwives suggested giving him formula to get him through the tests. Day 3 and we’re home – I’m back to breastfeeding him but panicking that I can’t do it; he’s bigger than average, what if he’s not getting enough? What if I’m not enough? I persevered and got to week 3. In a wobble I decided to stop breastfeeding him; I couldn’t do it. I cried and cried for days.

We visited some friends a week or so later, she could see I was sad. After much discussion she encouraged me to try again. He would still latch – first hurdle jumped – but my milk had depleted massively. That’s when I knew I was going to have to work for it. Armed with [two] Medela swing breast pumps, I took to expressing every hour during the day and twice at night. The first few days I got barely anything, not even enough to cover the bottom of a bottle. It was disheartening. I spent my every waking moment researching relactation and if it [was] possible. I looked up foods I could eat that would help with supply and even went to my GP and asked him to prescribe me Domperidone to help.

Weeks went by and my milk output was increasing. I was filling 5oz bottles each day and my son wasn’t needing nearly as much formula but I still didn’t have the confidence to leave the house without a bottle and formula. He was being weighed regularly and gaining weight well when I decided to stop bottles all together. It was at that point that I realised I had created an over supply and had a freezer full of milk. I looked into donating my milk and came across Serv. Serv are a local charity who use motorbikes to carry out tasks for the NHS out of hours. They move blood, platelets and breast milk from hospital to hospital and through the[m] I was made aware of the milk bank at The Rosie hospital in Cambridge. After some blood tests I was good to go and started donating 5oz a day which a Serv rider would collect every few weeks to take to Cambridge to be pasteurised ready for babies in the NICU. I did this for 7 months until my son was weaned off the boob, but I knew when I had my next baby that I’d want to donate again. And I have, this time to The Hearts Milk Bank – but again through Serv – who are an incredible charity and one I’m honoured to be associated with. Aside from making my own tiny humans, donating my milk to babies in need is my proudest achievement.