When my firstborn came along, I was determined to breastfeed him. To prepare myself, my husband and I read up extensively and went for breastfeeding courses. However, little did we know that it was not as easy as we thought it was going to be!
Both my baby boy and I tried to learn breastfeeding the best we can, but he did not seem to latch on well and I, too, was getting frustrated with myself as a new mum. The daily distress and the engorgement soon kicked in and we found it harder to breastfeed by the day.
We visited our lactation consultation at the hospital several times to re-learn breastfeeding and to have my breast massaged. My hard-rock breasts then resulted in pain and discomfort and by the time my boy was about 2 months plus old, I was down with fever and shivers every other week. It was so bad that our lactation consultant finally recommended me to see a breast surgeon.
The breast surgeon was very patient and explained to us about mastitis. She also assured us that even as I underwent treatment, I did not have to give up breastfeeding my boy if I were determined to. I still recall her words. She said, ‘The only thing that will stop you from breastfeeding is your fear of pain’. With her advice, I began receiving treatment and told myself to persevere regardless.
On that day, she cut a slit right underneath my nipple (imagine the pain!) to extract the pus. The wound had to be kept open for 2 weeks so that I could continue to extract the pus daily after shower. It was both milk and pus that came out whenever I had to clean up the wound. I was told to continue to breastfeed my baby with the other breast.
As for my wounded breast, I had to pump out the milk at 2-3 hours interval to keep the milk supply coming. I remember crying my heart out as my milk supply fell to 10-20ml and no matter how much I massaged, nothing seemed to flow. I was scared that I was going to fail big-time as a breastfeeding mum.
Enduring the pain while pumping was one thing; the other was seeing the ‘strawberry milk’ that came out of my breast as I pumped. My breast surgeon said it was actually all right for my baby to drink the milk as long as no pus was inside. However, my mum who was helping us with baby was so disgusted that she made me throw away the milk after each pump. I was sad but knew that the period would soon be over if I took care of myself well during the recovery process.
A month later, it all paid off. The wound healed nicely but my milk supply was still low. My surgeon gave me antibiotics on standby. She said that when I foresaw that symptoms of mastitis were coming, I were to start on them before it kicked in again. Slowly and steadily, my boy and I continued on our journey of breastfeeding. It was not the most successful but I was thankful that we still bonded over whatever sessions we had together.
And yes, the economic principle of supply meeting demand is real – eventually I managed to breastfeed him till he was a few months older and when I returned to work, I also managed to pump out sufficient amount of milk so that he was on breast milk till he was one and a half!
My advice to all new mums out there who are struggling with mastitis and breastfeeding, don’t give up. You are as new at this as your baby is. Be patient with each other. Equip yourself with knowledge and don’t be afraid to seek help when you need. It will get better and the beautiful moments of bonding when your baby suckles at your breast while looking at you with those angelic eyes will make everything all worthwhile.
Hang in there, mummies!
Contributed by Evelyn Lim Ing Ing, 35, mother of three. Evelyn breastfed her two children, a boy and girl for 1.5 years and is currently breastfeeding her new born child.
This article is part of Breastfeeding with Love campaign, initiated by The New Age Parents and New Age Pregnancy.
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