“I was the only mother breastfeeding in 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 nipples literally cracked in half.”
Remi goes on to admit that she did not enjoy breastfeeding AT ALL, at the start. “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 pubic I would either go to the bathroom or pump at home and feed him with a bottle,” she says.
“Because I felt embarrassed and as though I would make others uncomfortable. This resulted in clogged ducts and engorgement.”
But Remi, says things then got worse, as she realised she was suffering from mastitis.
“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,” Remi says.
“We got my stepdad, a doctor, he took my temperature and said it as 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 [blood poisoning] overnight.”
Sepsis is a life-threatening illness caused when the body fights an infection, says Health Line. And this is what had happened with Remi, as the bacteria that had caused the mastitis had spread to her bloodstream.
Remi says: “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 [emergency ward], given morphine, anti sickness and the strongest antibiotics they could give. I was heartbroken.”
Fortunately, Remi was treated in time and has made a full recovery. But she says women need to be educated on breastfeeding like they are with childbirth.
“This is why so many breastfeeding relationships end before they’ve even really started,” she says.
“I see many professionals push ‘breast is best’ almost aggressively in some cases, and yet there is no real support post baby. 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.
“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.”
We agree with Remi, that there needs to be more awareness and education when it comes to breastfeeding.
Remi tells The Healthy Mummy the reason why she decided to share her story.
“I wanted women who encounter troubles with breastfeeding to know that they aren’t alone, that it is actually very common to find breastfeeding difficult, and that it DOES get easier and it is possible to have a successful breastfeeding relationship despite the troubles,” she tells us.
“I researched a lot during my pregnancy about a huge range of parenting subjects, including breastfeeding, but I still was not prepared for the struggles I faced, and that’s why I believe there needs to be more face to face education and support.
“I have had an amazing response to my post, lots of women have thanked me and shared their own stories. And I have had quite a few messages from women actually suffering at the moment asking for advise on how to get through and other breastfeeding tips. As a huge breastfeeding advocate myself (who is still breastfeeding my 1 year old) I want to empower mothers, share my knowledge, and help them succeed.”
While Remi’s breastfeeding drama is far less common – it is important that women are educated early on about breastfeeding side effects, what to look out for and what to expect. After all, every breastfeeding story is different.
This is why The Healthy Mummy dedicates a lot of time connecting with researchers and working with specialists to shed light on some of these concerns. If you are expecting and/or are a new mum – make sure you have a chat with your healthcare practitioner about all things breastfeeding. Breastfeeding can be a truly special time for mum and baby – it’s just important for mums to know that they are not alone – and help is available – if things become a little tricky.
Thank you Remi, for giving us permission to share your story. We’re so glad you’re okay after such a scary situation.
What is mastitis?
Mastitis causes an inflammation in the breast and is often a result of a blocked milk duct.
It’s very common among breastfeeding mothers and can be very unpleasant if left untreated. It’s important to recognise the symptoms as early on as possible.
Around 15-20 per cent of breastfeeding mums experience mastitis, and the highest risk of it occurring is in the second and third weeks after giving birth.
Symptoms of mastitis
Symptoms of mastitis can often include:
Localised redness in the affected breast
Pain and heat in the affected breast
You may develop flu like symptoms such as fevers, chills, and aches.