This mum breastfed against all odds, after agonising mastitis surgery

Jenna Blackley and son Bohdi

Jenna Blackley’s breastfeeding battle is a reminder that parents have – at times – freaky superpowers and will go to incredible lengths to do what they believe is best for their kids.

 

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You look at this and initially just see a boob, and if you're familiar, a breast pump. I look at this and see the survivor of the 6 week battle I just endured. My journey began with Bodhi's poor latch after birth. We had multiple visits to lactation consultants as well as to the pediatrician for weight checks because he was constantly dropping weight. Eventually they put me on a regimen to nurse him, then pump, then syringe feed him. This process would take me 2 hours and they wanted me to do it every 3 hours…so if you can imagine we were barely sleeping, if at all. Even with all of that work, he was still dropping weight so we had to start supplementing with formula when I would syringe feed him. Finally, he started gaining. His weight gain could also be thanks to us finding out he was tongue tied. I had to take him to a specialist in Oakland to have it clipped. Unfortunately his tie was so posterior that the doctor could only clip a small amount otherwise it would be too dangerous. With that being said, she warned me that the small clip wouldn't solve our issues and we would continue to have our latch problems. However, after the clip he started latching on to my left without a nipple shield, which was a huge milestone! Meanwhile, I was diagnosed with mastitis and was on antibiotics. If you don't know anything about mastitis, just know that it is excruciatingly painful, makes your whole body ache, causes horrible headaches and some of the worst fevers and night sweats I've ever had. Two weeks of antibiotics and my mastitis didn't go away, it only got worse. My doctor started me on a different antibiotic and the very next day I had to see a breast specialist. That visit brought upon an exam, an ultrasound, an attempt at an extraction, and then an admittance into the hospital for general surgery. The surgery successfully got out 3 large abscesses from my right breast. The incision went through my nipple but the abscesses were so large she had to use an ultrasound during the surgery. She also had to make another incision on the right side my my breast to get the rest of it. So I'll have a nice scar to remember all this! (Continued…)

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Determined to breastfeed

Not all mums are able to – or choose to – breastfeed, but for the women that do there can be challenges that at times seem insurmountable. Some mums choose to switch to formula when things become health-threatening or overwhelming, while others choose to push on. (Both are usually correct responses, because mum knows best!)

Mum-of-one Jenna Blackley had her heart set on breastfeeding, despite some painful hurdles, and her story is one of persistence and incredible commitment. Jenna explained that breastfeeding is incredibly important to her and she was determined to make it work, despite deteriorating health and eventual hospitalisation.

“I don’t think I’ve ever battled so hard to succeed at something in my life,” she wrote in an Instagram post detailing her road to recovery after an acute case of mastitis landed her in hospital, having surgery to remove three breast abscesses.

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I'm lucky to have had so many people check in on me to see how I'm doing after having surgery for the mastitis abscesses…the truth is, I'm still in a lot of pain and I'm still struggling. I don't think I've ever battled so hard to succeed at something in my life. Breastfeeding is not easy and it's not for the weak minded, but it is important to me. I still have a house nurse come daily to unpack and pack my open wound on my right breast. Being unable to use it has put my left side on overdrive and left me with a cracked and bleeding nipple. I had to take 3 days off from breastfeeding, and gently pump just to heal (all while panicking that Bodhi would get used to the bottle and not want to latch back on.) Today we started nursing again (he latched on fine btw 😉)…but because my milk production has slowed down a bit, I had to use the SNS method to make sure Bodhi was getting enough. It's another challenging thing to add to my list of bumps in the road but it's helping us get back on track- hopefully. Some people have told me I'm crazy and to just give my baby formula, but I'm doing what I feel is best as his mother and that's not giving up. 🍼💪🏼 #breastfeeding #mastitis #sns #supplementalnursingsystem #mominainteasy

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Acute mastitis

Jenna first noticed the symptoms of the breast infection mastitis after she was having difficulty getting her son Bodhi to latch on to the breast correctly. Bodhi was diagnosed with a tongue tie, which was corrected, but meanwhile Jenna became very ill, very quickly. Despite a round of antibiotics her mastitis continued to get worse.

“I had to see a breast specialist,” Jenna wrote. “That visit brought upon an exam, an ultrasound, an attempt at an extraction, and then an admittance into the hospital for general surgery. The surgery successfully got out 3 large abscesses from my right breast. The incision went through my nipple but the abscesses were so large she had to use an ultrasound during the surgery. She also had to make another incision on the right side my my breast to get the rest of it. So I’ll have a nice scar to remember all this!”

Jenna recovered from her surgery, taking 3 days off from breastfeeding, and then began feeding Bodhi from the breast again.

Repeat performance

A month later, she had mastitis once more and was feeling “disheartened and discouraged”. Two weeks on, she was on the mend again, still determined to push on. Jenna explained that breastfeeding her baby was worth the struggle, and incredibly important to her.

“Some people have told me I’m crazy and to just give my baby formula, but I’m doing what I feel is best as his mother and that’s not giving up.”

This mum is very devoted and determined, that’s for sure, and she’s done what made sense to her under trying circumstances. What a great mum she is.

Supporting mums and babies

It’s good to note that breastfeeding is not always problem-packed, and that many women have a totally different experience to this one. So very often it’s a much more positive exchange.

It’s also important to point out that ceasing breastfeeding is never “giving up” – although Jenna had her own very valid feelings about her own situation – and that balancing the physical and mental health of mums and babies is what matters most.

There’s so much pressure on parents to do everything perfectly, partly thanks to very visible, vocal judgement on social media. It’s vital to note that mums’ health really matters and that supporting women – whatever their decisions or circumstances – is super important.

Huge thanks to Jenna for sharing her story and providing her perspective on feeding through mastitis.

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