Breastfeeding is typically seen as a beautiful bonding experience between mother and child — but one mom is opening up about a little-known ailment.
Remi Peers is sharing her journey with mastitis — an infection of the breast tissue that results in painful breast swelling, redness and unusual warmth.
After recently hitting her one-year breastfeeding mark, the blogger, known as mamaclog on Instagram, felt compelled to share her story.
“Breastfeeding did NOT come easy for me,” she began her post. “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.”
Peers said that she was the only mother breastfeeding in her ward. One woman tried to breastfeed, but switched to formula after 12 hours because she “had no milk.”
“While the other babies slept with full bellies, my son screamed and cried attached to my breast through the night,” Peers continued. “What was cluster feeding? Nobody told me.”
When she got home, more problems came about — her 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,” she noted, adding that nobody taught her that breastfeeding could be painful and what a good latch looked like.
Peers said that when feeding her son out in public, she would either go to the bathroom or pump at home and feed him with a bottle because she felt “embarrassed” and that she might make others uncomfortable.
This resulted in clogged ducts and engorgement. Then came mastitis.
“I remember waking up at 3 a.m. 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,” she wrote. “At 5 a.m. 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.”
By 7 a.m., Peers said her temperature dropped to 40 C; she had no sleep and began vomiting.
“I had developed sepsis overnight. This was because I was not able to recognize the more subtle signs of mastitis, as I had seen no redness that day,” she said. She was rushed to the emergency room, given morphine, and the strongest antibiotics possible — but she was separated from her baby for two nights.
“I was heartbroken,” she admits. “During my hospital stay, I repeatedly asked for a pump, because if I didn’t drain the breast, my mastitis would get worse. The nurses response was ‘we’re having trouble finding one as we don’t get many breastfeeding mothers here.'”
The mom suggests that the lack of support surrounding breastfeeding is terrible, especially general education about the basics of breastfeeding, cluster feeding, and how to spot and remedy the problems that can arise.
“The peddling of formula in the ’60s/’70s has broken the vital cycle of passing knowledge from one generation to the next,” she continued. “I know formula saves lives and serves a great purpose, but in the past we would have had our mothers, grandmothers, sisters, aunts and friends, all giving their support, their wisdom and their knowledge. But many of our mothers and grandmothers don’t know, as they never breastfed.”
Peers says there also needs to be more support post-birth. “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, concludes Peers, is what she should have known but didn’t. “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.”