Breastfeeding isn't always calm and serene. You can face many challenges including mastitis, a condition we don't often hear enough.
A mom from the U.K., Remi Peers, recently shed light on how mastitis looks in real life on Instagram. Her post underlined the importance of being informed about the all the ins and outs of breastfeeding -- that milk could come in late, that there's such a thing as cluster feeding and a good latch, or that nipples could crack.
In the photo, Remi showed her painful condition looks like and felt compelled to tell her story to mark her one year of breastfeeding her son, Rudy. "I have never felt such pain, I dreaded every feed, but persisted with tears in my eyes until I was healed," the mom shared. "Nobody taught me that breastfeeding could be painful."
According to her post, she developed mastitis because she felt embarrassed to nurse in public (she doesn't feel that way now and has since been able to breastfeed anywhere). It resulted in clogged ducts and engorgement of the breasts.
Her mastitis began 10 months ago when her son Rudy was only 2 months old. She had a high fever and was having chills, all the while still trying to feed her child. "The pain. It was excruciating. I was shaking and sweating but freezing to my bones," Remi described. She developed sepsis overnight since she was not able to recognize the more subtle signs of mastitis.
During her two-day hospital stay, Remi repeatedly asked for a pump to express breast milk so that mastitis would not get worse. It did get worse because the nurses had trouble finding a breast pump; apparently, the hospital she went to did not get many breastfeeding moms as patients. She then continued to lament the lack of breastfeeding information and support in her country.
"Breastfeeding is hard. It needs to be taught, and it needs to be learned. Just like walking, talking, reading and writing -- it may be natural, but it does not always come naturally," she stressed.
Mastitis is a painful condition that occurs when breast tissue gets infected and painfully inflamed due to engorgement and clogged milk ducts. On some cases, cracked or damaged nipples could allow germs to enter the breast which results in the infection. Stress and fatigue are also factors, as it mastitis commonly occurs during the first three months of nursing. Once you notice these signs, consult your doctor right away:
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breast tenderness and/or warmth to the touch
swelling of the breast
pain or burning sensation while breastfeeding
skin redness, often in a wedge-shaped pattern, on the breast
fever at 38.3 degree-Celcius or higher
Feeling ill such as tiredness, and aches and pain
The quickest way to treat mastitis is to fully empty the breasts of milk, by nursing the baby even if it could get excruciatingly painful. Don't worry; it's perfectly safe for the baby. Pumping breast milk could do the trick. Applying warm compress also helps loosen milk ducts. Doctors may prescribe medication for the pain and in some cases, antibiotics, to fight bacteria.
No nursing mother would want to develop the condition. Aside from proper latching, not missing a feed, and having plenty of rest, a nursing mom is also advised to use more than one position when breastfeeding, avoid wearing tight-fitting nursing bra, or applying undue pressure on the breast, and poor nutrition.
"I wanted any women experiencing troubles to know that they weren’t alone, that it is actually very common to find breastfeeding difficult, and I wanted them to know that it is possible to go on to have a very successful and enjoyable breastfeeding relationship despite experiencing problems," Remi told The Huffington Post.
Remi did her research when she was pregnant, but she was still not prepared to handle the breastfeeding challenges. She believes that it's because as a first-time mom, she didn't know the right questions to ask to find useful answers. Remie hopes to raise awareness about the importance of face-to-face education and support for nursing during pregnancy and after giving birth.
"That way, if problems do arise they can seek help quickly -- without shame, or the belief that there is something wrong with their bodies -- and talk about their issues, and ultimately go on to breastfeed successfully for as long as they want to,” Remi says. Or switch to formula, there's no shame in that. "I just want women to feel empowered and supported in their choices," she added.