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One U.K. Mom Is Speaking Out About Mastitis

Jenn is perhaps best known as the author of the popular parenting blog Breed ‘Em and Weep (2005-2012). She’s written for many magazines, newspapers and websites, including Brain, Child Magazine, Literary Mama, and The Boston Globe. Jenn’...

Every nursing mom needs to know about this breastfeeding complication

Breastfeeding is not for the faint of heart. When it all comes together, it can be a beautiful thing; when it doesn't, there can be discomfort or even all-out pain — and much worse.

One mother in the U.K. is hoping to spread awareness of the dangers of mastitis, a breast infection and complication of nursing that can, in rare cases, become fatal. Remi Peers' son, Rudy, was only 2 months old when Peers was hospitalized with sepsis — a systemic blood infection caused by mastitis.

Luckily, doctors were able to control Peers' sepsis and end her bout of mastitis with strong antibiotics, but if she hadn't taken it seriously, the consequences could have been dire. So Peers posted a photograph of herself from the hospital, taken 10 months ago, on Instagram. The photo is hard to look at, but her hope is that the image will send a strong message in the U.K. — that nursing moms aren't getting the support they need there. And we're guessing that's a message that could stand to find a home here in the U.S. too.

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...

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More: How to heal from a breast infection naturally

Peers struggled with breastfeeding from the beginning. Her milk didn't come in for a full five days after Rudy's birth, and the pain from her bloody, fissured nipples was excruciating. She didn't know how to help Rudy into a good latch, and no one had talked to her about the dangers (or signs) of blocked milk ducts or symptoms of early mastitis.

Peers wrote compellingly about her experience in her Instagram post:

“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. And this is what I should have known but didn’t, this is what I might have known if breastfeeding rates were higher, if this society didn’t objectify breasts," she said.

"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," she added.

Peers (quite amazingly) breastfed her son for more than a year — despite her painful, scary experience. But she doesn't want her rough journey to put off other moms; rather, she's hoping her photo and words will help other nursing moms feel less alone and empower them to reach out for support.

“My intention with the post was most definitely not to deter or frighten women away from breastfeeding but rather to raise awareness around the importance of face-to-face education both pre- and post-pregnancy,” Peers told BabyCenter. “I want women to be aware about the potential problems that can arise and to be prepared, so that they can then go on to successfully breastfeed for as long as they want to.”

More: Weird breastfeeding problems no one ever talks about

Although Peers doesn't regret her choice to breastfeed one bit, she also advocates a no-shame approach for moms (we agree wholeheartedly — a fed baby is a happy baby, period). “I’d also like to add that although I am a huge breastfeeding advocate, sometimes for some women breastfeeding just doesn’t work out, and that’s OK, and there is NO shame in supplementing or switching to formula,” she said. “I just want women to feel empowered and supported in their choices.”

Can't argue with that.

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