After making it officially a year of breastfeeding, one mum is ready to share her story, but not because it's positive or inspirational. Instead, she's getting real about the difficult and less glamorous sides of nursing that many don't talk about but all women should know about.
Before even starting her caption, she made a major statement with her photo choice: instead of posting a glamorous snapshot while breastfeeding her baby, Rudy, this new mum opted for a raw photo of her red, engorged boob to show exactly what mastitis looks like. This painful condition can occur when there's a blockage of milk ducts, but it wasn't the only breastfeeding complication that she had to learn about on her own — because nobody taught her.
Instead of focusing just on the positive and minimizing her breastfeeding reality, she continued to open up about all of the things that she didn't know in the hopes of helping other mums. "Breastfeeding did NOT come easy for me. My milk came in after five days," she wrote on Instagram. "I wasn't aware that it could take that long, I didn't even necessarily know what 'milk coming in' meant."
She explained that she was the only breastfeeding mum in the maternity ward after giving birth and that the only other woman who even tried to nurse gave up after 12 hours because she also wasn't aware that it can take time for her milk to come in. "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)," she wrote.
When she got home from the hospital, the problems only continued to escalate as her nipple "literally cracked in half" as she continued to try to nurse. "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)," she wrote.
When she was out with her baby, she would only feed her son in a bathroom or with milk that she had pumped because she felt embarrassed about breastfeeding in public and didn't want to make others feel uncomfortable. "This resulted in clogged ducts and engorgement. (I feed freely in public now, and have done for a long time. F*ck this backwards society!)," she wrote.
But before she came to that realization, the mastitis developed. "I remember waking up at 3am shivering, putting on my dressing gown and extra blankets, and trying to feed my son," she wrote. "The pain. It was excruciating. I was shaking and sweating but freezing to my bones."
As her fever rose and she began to throw up, it became clear that something was seriously wrong. "I had developed sepsis overnight," she wrote. "This was because I was not able to recognise the more subtle signs of mastitis (as I had seen no redness that day)," she wrote.
Although she refused to let the pain or the hospital stay end her breastfeeding journey, she realised that all of her suffering came down to one thing:
The lack of support and education surrounding breastfeeding is just terrible. And I don't mean in terms of relaying the benefits of breast milk and handing out lactation support leaflets. I mean general education, about the basics of breastfeeding, about cluster feeding, about the problems that can arise and what to do, how to spot them and how to remedy them.
Women are not expected to give birth alone, but somehow today they are expected to breastfeed alone, and not share their experience with others, and this is why so many breastfeeding relationships end before they've even really started …
The health system, and society in general is failing breastfeeding mothers. 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.
And this is what I should have known but didn't, this is what I might have known if breastfeeding rates were higher, if this society didn't objectify breasts. 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.