Although most of us likely know that breastfeeding has far-reaching benefits, we don't often discuss the fact that it isn't always easy — or even the right choice for everyone. In a post on Facebook on Wednesday, Jessica Martin-Weber, founder of breastfeeding support group The Leaky Boob, shared two photos of herself that highlight how difficult breastfeeding really can be.
"These photos are not of a sacred, special breastfeeding moment," Martin-Weber wrote. "They aren't to celebrate my belly or even feeding my baby. These photos are of me trying to survive."
The mom of six shared that she struggles with mastitis, a condition that can make breastfeeding extremely painful and, according to a 2014 report by the The Academy of Breastfeeding's Medicine Protocol Committee, affects around 20% of breastfeeding people every year.
"This was my 5th baby and only my 2nd time with mastitis," she wrote. "I knew what had caused it: a poorly fitting bra that I had worn too long and tragically, through a skipped feed. The bra pressed on a milk duct and with that missed feed it was the perfect storm that led to mastitis."
As the American College Of Obstetricians and Gynecologists notes, mastitis can be caused by a blocked milk duct or bacteria entering the breast, as well as stress, fatigue, missed feedings, or poor hand or breast pump hygiene. As Martin-Weber experienced, pressure on the breast from a too-tight bra can also contribute to the development of mastitis.
"My temp here was over 103 and I was in agony," she wrote about the photos. "Complete and utter agony. I was texting my husband that I was certain I was dying. With my breast inflamed and angry red, streaks running across my chest, my body aching, pain radiating everywhere, and having several small children at home to still care for, I didn't feel I was being dramatic in telling my husband that I needed to get to the hospital. Or at least that I wanted to chop my boob off."
She also explained that she was feeding in the position shown in the photos "to attempt to drain the breast more fully with baby's chin pointed in the direction of the pain/clog/redness."
Martin-Weber writes that changing her position, applying a warm compress, and frequently emptying and massaging her breast helped her breastfeed her baby. But she's sharing the photos to combat the idea that breastfeeding always comes naturally.
It may indeed be easy for some. But for others, it's not such a positive experience — and that's okay. Some may eventually come around to breastfeeding even if it doesn't come naturally right away. But other moms may not breastfeed at all, whether due to certain medical conditions or simply by choice.
"The most important thing for moms to know is that breastfeeding is difficult, and it is a learning process," Fahimeh Sasan, DO and assistant professor of Obstetrics at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital, told us last year.
"Parenting isn't all sun spotted mother goddess moments or white drenched stock photography families," Martin-Weber wrote in her post. "There are these moments too with fevers and pain and unflattering positions as netflix blares in the background and kids devour every goldfish in the house. And we survive."
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