This Woman’s Painful Mastitis Photo Reminds Everyone that Breastfeeding Isn’t Sunshine and Roses

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A lot of breastfeeding literature makes it sound like nursing a baby is a magical fairyland full of unicorns and rainbows and cute babies all day, but breastfeeding can be hard. Blocked ducts, swollen glands, bleeding nipples, and engorged breasts are just a few of the unpleasant things that can happen while a person is trying to breastfeed, and one of the nastiest ailments is mastitis, a painful breast inflamation caused by infection. New York mother and doula Lindsey Bliss posted a mastitis photo to Instagram showing just how painful an episode can be.

Bliss looks pained and exhausted as she nurses her baby with a painfully engorged, bright red breast. (Her eyeliner still looks fantastic, though.) She wrote that this is not her first episode of mastitis, and this time it got so bad she wantd to go to the emergency room because of the side effects, including headaches, an enormously engorged breast, and “full-body shakes.”

Bliss is no newbie, either. She’s a doula with seven children, including two sets of twins whom she breastfed in tandem. She knows what she’s doing, and mastitis isn’t a punishment or a mistake. It can genuinely happen to anyone.

Mastitis is an infection, and it can cause fevers and shaking and flu-like symptoms. Antibiotics can help treat the infection, but one of the worst things about mastitis is that the best way to make it feel better is to keep emptying the breast, and nursing with mastitis is extraordinarily painful. But nursing through it really is one of the main ways to get rid of it quickly. Applying heat can help, as can using a pump or hand-expressing in a hot bath or shower to clear a blocked duct, especially because you can target the specific swollen duct and try to massage it out.

Mastitis is a common ailment for breastfeeding parents. According to Redbook, it affects approximately 20 percent of nursing parents. Bliss is going to keep breastfeeding, she just posted this as a reminder that breastfeeding isn’t always beautiful goddess photos on Instagram. Sometimes it’s rough. But mastitis can happen to anyone and it’s not a sign of nursing failure or doing anything wrong.