When you are pregnant with your second child, you expect everything to go much smoother than with your first. Well, at least that is what my expectation was.
With Christelle, my firstborn, I breastfed for about 6 months and was adamant to breastfeed longer with my second child, Hendré. Two weeks after he was born, I developed mastitis. Something that most moms experience somewhere down the line of their breastfeeding journey. The doctor who assisted me, made me feel so guilty and told me it was because I didn’t wake him at night to feed him more often. #momguilt
Long story short, she told me I would have to stop breastfeeding him, and pump and dump while being on the medication. So, my husband would feed him formula during the night while I would sit and pump, so I could still keep my milk supply going. I was in the bath 2-3 times a day to release the extreme pain of engorged breasts. I would have rather gone through natural labour again than the pain I was experiencing.
A week went by and the pain was worse than ever before. I decided to visit another doctor.
I can still remember how he told me he will just prescribe some new meds, and that’s when I told him that he will have to take a look, because something is wrong, and I am not just going to continue with meds without a proper examination. As soon as he saw my breast, he said I have a massive abscess and that he will have to drain it immediately. At that time, I did not even feel the injection to numb the area. He made a small incision on the side of my areola, and the abscess started to drain. I felt instant relief. With an abscess you can’t close the wound because it will just start all over again, so there I was with an open wound that would have to heal from the inside.
The next day, I had to go to the wound care clinic to clean the open wound. The sister said that she is not 100% happy and that it might have to be drained in theatre. Obviously, by this time, I was tired, and I felt like I was failing, but I was adamant to continue breastfeeding. I was admitted to the hospital while my husband was juggling 2 kids at home.
They made the incision bigger and did a complete flush of the abscesses. For the next week I was still pumping – Take note – with a major cut on the side of my areola. Jip, every time I saw the breast pump I cringed. If you have ever experienced mastitis, it’s like the moment you start feeding your baby, and they start that enthusiastic sucking action and you just want to jump through the roof with pain but it’s the only way to get it better. When my milk let down came, the milk literally flowed out of my wound. It was both terrible and amazing because that milk kept the wound clean. All the milk from that breast had to be dumped because it contained puss and blood. The milk from the other breast was not enough to meet my son’s demands so we had to supplement feeds with formula.
I was at the wound clinic every day, cleaning the “inside” of my wound. Finally, this big open wound was starting to close, but then the next challenge arose. I got feverish again, I got goosebumps all over and I just started crying uncontrollably in my husband’s arms. I knew the mastitis was back. I was feeling so depressed, and I felt like giving up!
At this time, I had the surgeon’s personal number on my phone. Asking and checking in about what is normal and when I should worry. Then he told me the words that I did not want to hear: “You should stop breastfeeding!” In my head I was screaming….all of this pain, effort, no sleep, pumping and dumping just to stop breastfeeding?? Are you kidding me?!
The next day I went in to see the surgeon, and he explained everything to me and what was happening in my body. The reality of this was that the milk ducts around my areola were cut to drain the abscess and while the wound was starting to heal the milk ducts were closing.
This meant that while the milk supply was there, the milk could not come out of those ducts. OBVIOUSLY leading to mastitis all over again. Devastated by this I knew that I had tried my best and that unfortunately my body, my family and my sanity has been through hell in the last 3 weeks. I was admitted again to stop my milk supply, and so they could keep an eye that it does not turn into an abscess again.
Unfortunately, when I fell pregnant with my third the doctor recommended that I don’t even try, the chances of getting mastitis would have been 99%. Those ducts have closed and healed with the wound the previous time.
Something I came to realize is the judgement around breastfeeding. People assume you just decided not to even try breastfeeding, and in the meantime, I went through A LOT to try, but it just didn’t work out. So please never judge a person for not succeeding!!
Feeding your baby is not just about what your baby needs. Don’t get me wrong, breastfeeding is an amazing experience, the bond is something you can’t explain to someone unless you have done it, but if you tried, and you failed I take my hat off to you!
Sometimes you have to put your body, your needs, your sleep and your sanity first, as difficult as it may be.
“YOU WEREN’T FAILING, YOU WERE TRYING”