From bottle to breastfeeding: a hard journey to contentment

If breastfeeding doesn’t work out at first, it is possible to relactate and try again at a later stage

Tue, Sep 30, 2014, 17:38

Most people are unaware that it is possible to relactate and breastfeed a baby who has been formula-fed. In fact, I found out about it only by chance, so I thought that telling my story would help others, and even be beneficial to adoptive mothers who would like to breastfeed their babies.

I formula-fed my baby girl, Aoife, after unsuccessfully trying to breastfeed her in the first few days. I was convinced that I couldn’t breastfeed so when she was five days old, I was persuaded to use formula in the hospital.

I had had an emergency Caesarean section so it was difficult to find a good feeding position, and Aoife also had difficulty latching on. I was never happy with the decision and got really upset whenever I saw anyone breastfeeding her baby.

When Aoife was about four weeks old, my pregnancy yoga teacher mentioned that I could relactate and try breastfeeding again. I had assumed that once Aoife was on formula that that was that and also that once my milk was gone, it wouldn’t come back.

My wife, Sue Kelly, and I arranged to see a lactation consultant privately. She diagnosed Aoife with posterior tongue tie, which can’t be seen easily but should have been checked for in the hospital.

We made an appointment with the lactation consultant at the hospital to have Aoife’s tongue tie snipped the following week.

We also brought Aoife to see a cranial osteopath, who helped her move her head more freely. Babies born by Caesarean section sometimes need this because they haven’t had the experience of coming through the birth canal.


Meanwhile, as I had no milk, I hired a double electric pump and started expressing around the clock, including during the night.

At first, I was getting nothing at all, but I kept going and gradually started producing milk in very small amounts. I took domperidone (Motilium), an over-the-counter anti-nausea/heartburn medication, which has the side effect of encouraging lactation. I took the Indian spice fenugreek, which is renowned for increasing milk, and ate and drank lots.

We also did a lot of skin-to-skin contact with Aoife to help bring on my milk and give her positive associations with my breasts.

I started going to a breastfeeding support group, which was a great help once I got over my initial fears of being the only one there bottlefeeding my baby.

When Aoife had the tongue-tie snip at six weeks, she was able to latch on immediately with the help of nipple shields, which was the most amazing feeling.

She was also a noticeably happier baby after the snip, and the colic that had plagued her for the first six weeks vanished overnight.

Syringe of milk

However, I still didn’t have much milk and it was slower to come through than she was used to on the bottle, so she needed to be enticed on to the breast with a little syringe of milk at the nipple.

She wouldn’t stay on for long so I also had to use a supplementation nursing device, which is basically a tube going from a bottle of formula or expressed milk to your nipple. When the baby suckles, they get milk from the tube but their suckling also stimulates your breasts to produce more milk.