‘This Is Mastitis,’ Painful Photo Shows What Hard Work Breastfeeding Really Is

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Breastfeeding is beautiful and natural and it’s free and has loads of benefits for mother and baby, but it’s also really, really hard work, and a lot of women aren’t prepared for just how difficult it really is. U.K. mother Remi Peers managed to nurse for more than a year after some really hard starts, and she recently posted a photo of herself suffering from severe mastitis to raise awareness of how tough breastfeeding can be and the fact that women need more support and resources to help them nurse if they want to.

Writing on Instagram as “mamaclog,” Peers wrote that her milk didn’t come in for five days, and she didn’t even know what “milk coming in” meant, because nobody had told her about that, and she’d been so sold on breastfeeding as a natural thing to do that it didn’t occur to her that she’d need help or books or more information.

Like many mothers, Peers assumed that if she wanted to breastfeed, she just had to put the baby on her boob and everything would start working.

Peers’ hospital doesn’t seem to have helped much, either. She says she was the only woman on her ward even attempting to breastfeed. One other mother tried at first, but after 12 hours stopped and switched to formula because she “had no milk,” because she didn’t know what “milk coming in” meant either.

Lack of breastfeeding education was a serious problem for Peers, because, for example, she didn’t know what a good latch looked like. Nursing with the baby latched on well is great. Nursing with a bad latch is painful and can lead to cracked nipples, bleeding and pus, and basically feeling like your adorable little baby is a giant hamster trying to gnaw your nipples off. Nobody had even told Peers that breastfeeding can hurt. She just heard that it was natural, so she figured it’d be easy and painless, and when it hurt she didn’t know if she was doing anything wrong or what to do about it.

Like many mothers, Peers was nervous about nursing in public and afraid of being confronted or shamed for public breastfeeding–which is not an unreasonable fear, because it happens all the time. But her reticence to nurse in public meant that she would nurse in bathrooms or pump at home and use a bottle in public, which lead to engorgement and clogged milk ducts, which in turn led to mastitis.

Mastitis is what happens when a blocked milk duct gets infected, and it’s excruciatingly painful.  Peers’ mastitis was so bad she developed sepsis, and she was rushed to the hospital and given morphine and the strongest antibiotics they had.  She had to spend two nights away from her baby, and it was terrible.

Peers says she’s sharing the photo to help spread the word that breastfeeding can be very difficult, in the hopes that it will encourage women to seek out help, either from books, Internet fora, or prenatal breastfeeding classes. Because breastfeeding is natural, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy, and a little help can go a long way.

Did you have trouble with breastfeeding? Let us know in the comments.

(Image: Instagram / Mamaclog)