There are a lot of positivity posts on breastfeeding and why you should be doing it. But there is also a less glamourous side to breastfeeding that not a lot of women talk about.
Rudy, a new mom, posted a picture of her red, swollen breasts on Instagram to show what mastitis exactly looks like. It is a painful inflammation of breast tissue that is caused due to engorgement and blocked milk ducts.The symptoms can come on gradually or suddenly and it affects only one breast at a time.
She wrote “This is mastitis. After hitting the 1-year breastfeeding mark last Sunday I felt compelled to share my story. Breastfeeding did NOT come easy for me. My milk came in after 5 days. I wasn’t aware that it could take that long, I didn’t even necessarily know what “milk coming in” meant. (Nobody ever taught me.)
I was the only mother breastfeeding on my ward. One woman did try to breastfeed but switched to formula after 12 hours because she “had no milk” (nobody taught her either.) While the other babies slept with full bellies, my son screamed and cried attached to my breast through the night. (What was cluster feeding? Nobody told me)
When I got home, problems started to arise – my nipple literally cracked in half. I have never felt such pain, I dreaded every feed but persisted with tears in my eyes until I was healed. (Nobody taught me that breastfeeding could be painful, nobody taught me what a good latch looked like)
When feeding my son out in public I would either go to the bathroom or pump at home and feed him with a bottle. Because I felt embarrassed and as though I would make others uncomfortable. This resulted in clogged ducts and engorgement. (I feed freely in public now and have done for a long time. Fuck this backwards society!)
Then came mastitis.
I remember waking up at 3 am shivering, putting on my dressing gown and extra blankets and trying to feed my son. The pain. It was excruciating. I was shaking and sweating but freezing to my bones. At 5 am I woke up my boyfriend and told him I thought I needed to go to the hospital. We got my stepdad, a doctor, he took my temperature and said it was slightly high, but to take a paracetamol and try and sleep.
7 am comes, I’ve had no sleep, and now I’m vomiting, he takes my temp again. 40 c. I had developed sepsis overnight. This was because I was not able to recognize the more subtle signs of mastitis (as I had seen no redness that day)
I was rushed to resus, given morphine, anti sickness and the strongest antibiotics they could give, and separated from my baby for two nights.
I was Heartbroken”
Although she refused to give up on breastfeeding because of the pain or the stay in hospital, she realized where the actual problem lies in –
It’s the lack of support and education surrounding breastfeeding. It’s not enough to just talk about the benefits of breastfeeding, it is also necessary to educate the public about the basics of breastfeeding, cluster feeding and what are the problems that breastfeeding can cause and their solutions.
Women have support during birth and labour but they are expected to breastfeed alone and not share their experiences with others. 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.
This is the reality every breastfeeding mom needs to know but doesn’t and maybe everyone would be aware of it if the society didn’t objectify breasts. If new moms understand the difficulties of breastfeeding then they can prepare themselves better for it by reading books, taking classes and so on, instead of feeling that breastfeeding will be as natural as breathing.