Last week, I touched on the fact that we have all been sick recently. When a 36-hour stomach bug rips through a family of 6, it's pretty miserable. I caught the bug, then got mastitis, then had a reaction to the antibiotics which left my body in really rough shape. I was so sick that I was unable to produce the breast milk that my 4-month-old needed.
Now, I've been nursing for almost 7 years straight between my 4 kids. There were a few months at the end of a pregnancy when I would ween one child before having the next because my breast became too sensitive to nurse, and besides a few cases of mastitis amongst the years, and sore nipples after birth, my breastfeeding journey had been wonderful.
While I was sick with the first bout of illness, I noticed that Porter was having fewer and fewer wet diapers. We decided to try some Pedialyte to make sure he was hydrated. It was clear that my milk supply was decreased, but I expected it to return to normal quickly once I felt better. 24 hours after the 3-day stomach bug cleared, my milk production seemed to be back to normal, and Porter was nursing well and having an increase in his wet diapers so I thought we were through the woods on that illness.
But mere hours after the increase in milk, I had visible mastitis and a high fever. I continued to nurse as normal, starting him on the breast with the infection, taking ibuprofen, using heat to relieve discomfort and trying to use cabbage leaves for 20 minutes 3x a day in hopes that the infection would clear, but it didn't.
I went to the doctor and they prescribed my old friend, clindamycin. I've taken that drug quite a bit for mastitis in the past- 3x a day for 4 months to be exact and my body was not happy to interact with clindamycin again. On rare occasions, the drug can cause an increase in dangerous bacteria in one's gut and wreak havoc on their body, and that's my story in a nutshell.
All the sickness seemed to put an end to my body's ability to make any milk. I would pump and walk away with 0.5 ounces from each side. I knew that Porter needed much more milk than that. He would nurse for seemingly hours on end and still want to keep nursing. Everything in me did not want to get formula, but I knew that we might need to supplement something else in. I tried eating all the foods you're supposed to eat and drank 5 cups of mother’s milk tea a day, but my supply wasn't increasing quickly enough
So we purchased some formula and I cried in the other room while my husband fed my 4-month-old.
I was devastated and felt like this might be the end of my nursing journey. After 7 years of breastfeeding, I couldn't believe that I had only been able to nurse my baby for 4 months and that this illness had caused so much damage, but I wanted to try everything possible to continue breastfeeding.
Porter had a tough time adapting to the bottle and formula at first. It was an entirely new thing for him, but after the first three bottles, he began to get the hang of it and I was thrilled to see his diaper count return to normal and to have a much more content baby once again. I continued to breastfeed on demand the way I had before I was sick, and after each nursing session, if offer him 2 ounces of formula followed by 2 more of he still appeared hungry.
Then, an hour or so later I'd also try to pump even though I was pumping very little milk. Night time was the worst because he was nursing more frequently than when he was a newborn and for longer periods of time, so I got very little sleep, which probably didn’t help my body recover. This was so discouraging, to say the least, but I continued with this for 7 days and gradually began to see Porter drink less formula after nursing. My milk supply began to increase, and I knew we were finally back to a good situation when he began waking up less at night.
I’m so thankful to be back to exclusively breastfeeding, and relieved that I didn’t give up and allow this temporary illness to destroy my nursing journey. I’ve been amazed to learn that people can relactate even after years of not breast feeding. There are even accounts of grandmothers relactating to feed their grandchildren in foreign countries.
Our bodies are truly amazing! Have you ever found yourself in a similar situation? I’d love to hear your story in the comment section!
is a writer & tired homeschooling mom of five.