Mum’s raw mastitis photo reminds us breastfeeding mums need more support

Remi Peers

File this under “Ouch”: Mum-of-one Remi Peers shared this shot of herself in the midst of a very serious bout of mastitis and it’s sparked a discussion about the challenges of breastfeeding – and the agony and malaise of this particular condition.

Not so natural

Remi blogs on Instagram as MamaClog and she uploaded this image – and wrote a heartfelt post to accompany it – as she marked the anniversary of her baby’s birth and her breastfeeding journey.

Baby Rudy just turned one and to Remi this was not only a milestone for her toddler, it was a significant achievement for her too. As she explained in her post, breastfeeding does not always come naturally and feeding challenges can hit thick and fast for inexperienced new mums. Reaching the one year mark was most definitely something to be celebrated.

While some mums get the help they need in those very early days of parenting, others miss out and are sent home to do the best they can, without the support they need.

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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 women 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 3am 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. 7am 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 recognise 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. Continued in comments…

A post shared by Remi (@mamaclog) on

A hard road

Remi shared these thick and fast challenges as she celebrated her excellent, but hard won, first year of breastfeeding. They included:

Slow supply

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.)

Feeling isolated

I was the only mother breastfeeding on my ward. One women did try to breastfeed, but switched to formula after 12 hours because she “had no milk” (nobody taught her either.)

A VERY hungry baby

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)

Incredibly sore, damaged nipples

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)

Feeling unsupported 

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.

Clogged ducts, engorged boobs

[Limiting feeding due to feeling embarrassed] resulted in clogged ducts and engorgement. (I feed freely in public now, and have done for a long time. F*ck this backwards society!)

Mastitis

I remember waking up at 3am shivering, putting on my dressing gown and extra blankets and trying to feed my son. The pain. It was excruciating.

Mastitis is an inflammation of the breast that can lead to infection – source

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Let's talk about public breastfeeding. (And that includes posting pictures on social media.) Every day on instagram I will see a comment on a breastfeeding mums picture such as "you're just using that baby to attention seek" or "urinating is natural too, but you don't see people doing that in public" This is exactly why we need #normalizebreastfeeding You know there is a real problem when breasts have become so sexualised that women are shamed for using them for their actual purpose. Motherhood should not be censored. Nursing mothers should not be segregated. Women should not feel like they have to put their lives on hold until they've finished breastfeeding. People should not expect them to cover their baby's heads with cloths or hide in bathrooms while the rest of their family eats together. Let's get a discussion going on the subject. Even if you disagree with public breastfeeding. This is a topic that gets such a fire burning inside me. I just don't understand how society has gotten to the point where it's ok to see breasts on billboards yet it makes people uncomfortable when they are used to feed a baby. Ultimately it's all to do with not being able to accept women's duality. As both sexual and nurturing. And that needs to change. Let me know what you think! Even though I have strong opinions, I'm always willing to listen to view points that differ from my own! :) . . . . . #normalizebreastfeeding #breastfeeding #breastfeedwithoutfear #breastfeedingmom #breastfeedinginpublic #publicbreastfeeding #fedisbest #breastisbest #informedisbest #nursinginpublic #extendedbreastfeeding #takebackpostpartum #stopcensoringmotherhood #feministasfuck #feminism #devinefeminine #freethenipple #goddess #sacredfeminine #bodypositive #motherhoodrising #motherhoodunplugged #liquidgold

A post shared by Remi (@mamaclog) on

One thing after another

Remi’s post shows that a number of related circumstances can conspire to create much more serious issues for new mums. Mastitis is one of them and any mum who’s suffered this horrendous condition will know how debilitating and demoralising it can be – and how easily it can sabotage efforts to breastfeed.

In Remi’s case her mastitis led to the very serious infection, sepsis, and she found herself separated from her baby for two nights as doctors worked to get her well again.

“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,” she remembers. “I was rushed to rescus, given morphine, anti sickness and the strongest antibiotics they could give, and separated from my baby for two nights. I was heartbroken,” the young mum wrote.

Knowledge is power

Remi puts her horrible, life-threatening experience with mastitis – and the other difficulties she’s had to push through, mostly alone – down to a lack of support and advice for mums seeking to breastfeed. She points out that the awareness of breastfeeding basics is falling sadly short – and mothers and babies are paying the price. 

“The lack of support and education surrounding breastfeeding is just terrible. And I don’t mean in terms of relaying the benefits of breastmilk and handing out lactation support leaflets. I mean general education, about the basics of breastfeeding, about cluster feeding, about the problems that can arise and what to do, how to spot them and how to remedy them.”

“Breastfeeding is hard”

Remi says we need a more integrated approach to birth and feeding babies – and that mums need to be made aware that breastfeeding can be a real challenge, rather than the serene and natural experience we’re often led to believe it will be. Better preparation and support will ensure much better outcomes for everyone, Remi believes.

“I see many professionals push breast is best almost aggressively in some cases, and yet there is no real support post baby. Breastfeeding is HARD. If new mothers knew just how difficult it can be at first, more would take themselves to prenatal breastfeeding classes, buy books, join forums, and ask more questions – but we don’t, we just assume that it will feel as natural as breathing. Because no one ever told us.”

Does Remi’s story strike a chord with you? Have you ever suffered from mastitis? 


You can find out more about breastfeeding via the Australian Breastfeeding Association.

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