Breastfeeding is the selfless act of a mother. An act that when performed, isn’t only beneficial to the mother and baby, but also full of obstacles. Although breastfeeding is natural - it is not always easy.
Breastfeeding is the production of milk - lactation.The process is hormonal, emotional, and stressful. As natural, beneficial, and rewarding as breastfeeding can be the downfalls to it can take its toll. The stress, sleeplessness, clogs, milk blebs, infections, and abscesses are all those difficulties that nobody wishes upon anyone… not even their worst enemies!
Learn more about the annoying hindrances at kellymom.com
Clogs and Mastitis
Please welcome my guest blogger Julia!
A first time mom telling her breastfeeding journey this far in hopes to educate and empower others.
March 29, 2017 was a big day for Brooks and I as we celebrated three months into our breastfeeding journey. Although it may not seem like much (compared to those of you who have breastfeed your children for 3 years! Go you!) it's a big deal for us as the past three months have not been easy. I feel it's time to share my story to inspire other mamas that you can breastfeed through anything!
Four weeks after Brooks was born I was diagnosed with Mastitis. I went to the doctor right away and was put on antibiotics. Her answer when I asked if I should stop breastfeeding? Absolutely not, she said, keep going, it’ll make it better. Every feeding was filled with tears as I cried in pain, but knew I had to do what is best and feed by baby boy. I was trying every home remedy out there to try and rid my infection. He didn’t know the difference if mommy was sick or not, he needed to eat, and it’s my job to provide for him.
Ten days later, the infection persisted and I was put on a different antibiotic. My midwife said if I didn't feel better in three days to come back - I wasn’t better. I went back in and they recommended I get an ultrasound to see why antibiotics weren’t working. In the ultrasound, doctors said that the liquid collecting in my ducts was extremely thick and not able to be extracted using a needle. They referred me to a breast surgeon who couldn’t fit me in for another four days.
By now, it’s been almost four weeks, I've been on three different antibiotics, my boob is fire truck red, hard as a rock, swollen, and I'm in extreme pain - but still continuing to breastfeed. The surgeon took one look and said, "Oh, this isn't that bad. I've seen much worse, let the antibiotics work and it should clear up on it's own." Her answer when I asked if I should stop breastfeeding? Absolutely not, she said, keep going, it’ll make it better. I asked her about draining it and possibilities for surgery. She said surgery is extremely rare and not recommended for breastfeeding mothers and to trust that my body will heal on it's own. I took her advice and continued to feed, massage, take my medicine, hot showers, everything, and it just kept getting worse.
About a week after seeing the surgeon my fever spiked to 102.3 and I went back in to see my midwife. My bad case of mastitis had turned into a full blown breast abscess, and we decided it would be best if I was admitted to the hospital so my fever could be managed and I could get IV antibiotics. I stayed in the hospital for three days. I asked the specialist and OB if I should stop breastfeeding - their answer? Absolutely not, keep going, it’ll make you feel better. My husband and son would come during the day so I could feed him, and during the night I pumped and sent home the milk for the following night.
On the last day in the hospital they decided to try and aspirate the fluid using a big needle guided by an ultrasound. I was apprehensive as it didn't sound like a pleasant procedure, but excited because I finally felt that the end of my painful journey was near. They drained 35 cc's (a little over an ounce) and less than 24 hours later fluid had refilled my breast, plus some. Two days later I went back in for another aspiration where they drained 55 cc's of pus-like fluid. I asked the Radiologist if I should stop breastfeeding - his answer? Absolutely not, he said, keep going, it’ll make you feel better.
The Breaking Point
By this point, I'm exhausted. I've been dealing with excruciating pain and sickness for a month, endured a hospital stay, cannot function without pain meds, sobbing during every feeding, and feeling like a horrible mother because I'm so sick, and things are still not getting better - this was the breaking point.
With one more aspiration scheduled, I could not bear the pain anymore. Surgery was always a last resort. I called the surgeon's office and we decided it'd be best to do emergency surgery to drain the abscess out of my breast once and for all. We thought it was the size of a golf ball, but it was the size of a man's fist and covered my entire left chest wall. The surgeon told my husband I was one of the strongest patients he's seen in a long time and cannot believe how long I endured the pain. All the doctors and nurses I saw said it's the worst case of "mastitis gone wrong" they've ever seen. I remember crying in the recovery room sobbing because I thought I would no longer be able to breastfeed my little boy. I asked the surgeon if I should stop to accelerate the healing process - his answer? Absolutely not, righty still works doesn’t it? He said, keep going, it’ll make you feel better.
With the abscess drained, I felt immediate relief. They packed my open wound so it could drain, and sent me home for the night. For three consecutive days following the initial surgery, I had to go back in and be put under anesthetic just so they could clean the wound and repack it.
I asked doctors every step of the way if it would be best to stop breastfeeding so the wound could heal, and repeatedly every single doctor said absolutely not. They said the benefits to my child are too great to stop, and i've already made it this far, I might as well keep going!
A Rough Road with a Happy Ending
While lefty was on the mend, my family and I adapted and found a new normal. For a month after surgery I would lay on the floor while my husband changed the dressing in my open wound. Through sickness and through health could not be more true. Every night he would roll over and tell me i'm the best mom in the world for enduring such a major sickness and so much pain, and continue to put feeding our son first.
Although we are only 3 months into our journey together - March 29, 2017 was a big day for Brooks and I. So many times I could have stopped, dried up, and switched to formula, but I didn't. Looking back I never thought of myself as “strong” or a “super mom”. In fact, I felt pretty weak and like a horrible mom for putting my family and newborn son through such a horrible ordeal (I know, it’s not like I had a choice). Today we have to supplement a little bit with formula, but he is still mostly breastfed, and considering what we've been through - i'd say that's pretty good. It’s amazing what we endure for our children and I only hope I can continue to provide for my son and make him proud for years to come.
Samantha Martin is a professional doula and childbirth educator from Big Lake, MN. She comes from a loving family and is the oldest of six children. Although she has yet to start a family of her how she very much enjoys guiding expectant families through they're journey into parenthood.