My Breastfeeding Journey with Mastitis 9 times in 12 months

My Breastfeeding Journey & Experience

My first son Lucas was born on February 9th 2017. My labour was long and the birth extremely difficult, resulting in the use of forceps . After about a 56 hour labour/birth process, he was finally here. Exhausted and uncomfortable I was over the moon about his birth. He was only just over 7 pounds, but some how still so chunky. His face was swollen, he has these huge chubby cheeks, and huge hands and feet! I could have just stared at him for hours, in fact I think I had. Visitors like my parents and in laws came, and they all commented on how large his hands and feet were, and how long his fingers were! We were all obviously in awe & overjoyed with emotion.

My memory is a bit foggy, but I believe I put him to my breast almost instantly after he was born. From the first moment – it was not easy. I can imagine he was tired, and exhausted too! He had been poked at, stabbed by a needle, and passed around to doctors. Obviously my milk had not come in yet, but I was full and dripping with colostrum. When I put him on he was able to get a bit, but it was slightly painful and he was not latching well.

I was getting frustrated, and to be honest I could tell the nurses were too. I really wasn’t getting it. One nurse would come in and shove my breast in his mouth and get a latch then leave. Which in return left me with a fed and happy baby, but no gained knowledge. She wasn’t teaching me how, she was just simply doing for me what I couldn’t figure out.

The first night was hard. He would NOT sleep in the bassinet, which everyone had convince me was NOT normal. The nurses would come in and get mad that he was sleeping with me in my bed, or with my husband in his. Among the lack of sleep was the still pressing issue that I was unable to work as a team with my baby and create a latch. Luckily I had frozen some colostrum that had been leaking, from weeks before his birth. I was able to warm it and feed him some with a syringe (careful to not create nipple confusion), between trying to latch.
DISCLAIMER — I do not recommend this option unless you are facing a starving baby or forced to feed formula. Why? Breast milk production is all supply and demand. If you fill your babies tummy (that’s the size of a cherry on the first day) they wont suck for more = you wont produce more. Babies suckle for a reason, its to encourage the let down of milk. We need this process to be able to successfully breastfeed and get our milk in.

Pictures shown photographed by Fox & Huntsmen Photography in 2017

After a 24 hour stay we were able to head home to our new life as a family of three. Oh yes but wait, no I still didn’t know how to breastfeed.. They had still not really tried to TEACH me — instead what was done was shoving my breasts uncomfortably into his mouth, have multiple people touch my breasts, get snorted at by grumpy nurses, and encouraged to try formula. Look back I wish I knew how many paid and free resources there are to teach you to successfully breastfeed! Any who so we’re on our way home…

When we arrive I was still so tired, I crawled into my amazing bed and snuggled my new baby. FINALLY we were able to sleep in peace, without anyone telling us that it was wrong to be together. After all he had just spent 9 months inside me, to suddenly be expected to sleep somewhere else seemed not right with my beliefs. I was awoken to people visiting, and instantly noticed my baby was gone. This didn’t help my breastfeeding process. I urged my husband to get my baby back to me, and I tried to get him to latch. I believe he was semi latching, but it was a struggle and painful.

Fast forward my son is now 4 days old. I’m not really sure how we made it by, it was such a blur. Here we are, its 3am my baby is screaming, hes hungry, I think this is my milk coming in, I’m swollen and so exhausted. I looked at my husband crying and asked him to please get the formula from above the fridge. My husband knows me, he knows me so well and he knows that formula wasn’t what I wanted (and for no other reason than I wanted to breastfeed my baby, no hate to formula feeding). He looked at me and said “Katey just one more time, just try to do it one more time” I think at this point I was crying and said I cant and maybe he patted me on the back and said something about team work. I think at this point he did get up to boil the water and get formula, all the while our Lucas still screaming beside me.

As my husband walked away to do what I had asked, I moved myself around, moved some pillows and blankets and grabbed my baby and put him to my breast. I tried something new. Something no one had told me. I scooped him up and scooped my breast up pinching my nipple slightly and put it on his lip. He opened and nuzzled looking to feed, and there we had it — he latched. I was shocked, I think I cried.. I called my husband in and showed him. WOW I had done it, I had created a team with my baby and I WAS breastfeeding. He finished his feed and we snuggled back down into bed and dozed off until the next feeding.

And then I was able to successfully breastfeed for 2.5 years? NOPE — not this story.

Three nights later my son is a week old. I woke up at maybe 2am sweating, feeling very very sick. I set it up so I could leave Lucas in the bed with my husband, grabbed the monitor and went into the shower. I sat in there with the water beating down on me, constantly turning it colder and colder (which is not like me, I like the water HOT). I got out of the shower and I struggled to make it back to the bedroom. I crawled into bed and called my mom, I explained and she said I’m just tired and its no big deal. Well then all the sudden my son wouldn’t latch again, he was refusing to be by my skin. I felt so confused, why he was not wanting to latch again, why did he not even want to be against my skin. My husband felt my forehead and was shocked, I was burning up! My temperature at this time was 102 and growing.

I called my midwife, but they also didn’t show much concern, I was a new mom who was exhausted. This isn’t to say they didn’t care, but no one really took me seriously. My husband didn’t even really understand, because all that was apparent to them was a light fever. Inside I felt my body shutting down though, I was struggling to see straight and move. Things progressed quickly. I had woken up 2am with the weird feeling, when 7am rolled around I was unable to walk I was crawling along the floor, my eyes wide open but everything was black. My husband packed up baby, helped me to the car and rushed me to the hospital. When we arrived my husband helped me into a wheel chair and carried the baby in his seat. We opened the door and he quickly told the triage nurse what was going on, I was seen instantly to be assessed and before my husband could even turn fully around to bring me to the seating area to wait our turn — the nurses called my name and rushed me in. My fever was around 107 at this point. I was laid down on a bed and hooked up to machines, needles were inserted in both arms, and they tried to place a catheter in but were unable to do so due to the swelling. I couldn’t move, I couldn’t sit up, when I did move the machine went wild and the nurses rushed in. Everything I did was shutting my body down more, stealing the energy I needed JUST to breath.

But a baby has to eat, and I wasn’t ready to admit defeat to breastfeeding. My husband helped me prop weak self up and put baby on my breast. I was able to keep feeding him, and at this time there was no concern of my milk being infected with whatever infection or condition I had going on.

The nurses and doctors came in and checked a lot, I was still in the emergency room but the admitted part where people sometimes stay for days. Being hooked up to the IV’s did help for sure, I felt my body absorb all the fluids. They kept asking me to pee, and I just couldn’t . I kept trying but I couldn’t do it, as hard as I did try! The nurses were concerned and tried again for a catheter but only hurt me worse, I was to swollen. Eventually a doctor came around and determined it wasn’t that I was unable to pee, it was that my body was so hot it absorbed all the liquids inside me, thus why nothing would come out. So they upped my fluids. Maybe a few hours later when I was able to walk I was finally able to urinate! This brought a whole new pain from the nurses prodding with the already sensitive area, I mean I had just had a baby a few days before…

I don’t think Ive ever had so much blood taken, every few hours they were taking blood and checking on me and changing something. A full day passed and we still had no answers, I wasn’t getting “better” I was just able to get myself to the bathroom with some help, and then back — I couldn’t do anything more. My body was shaky and the fever would NOT break. I stayed around 105 for 4-5 days.

Imagine having a traumatic birth, and then going home expecting to adjust just to be thrown into turmoil and sent back to the hospital. I felt so robbed of my newborns first days, and all those experiences. After about a 3 day stay in the ER (which I got lucky they put me in a quarantine room with glass doors to keep baby safe), they moved me to a sick ward, like that was much better than the ER?! The room again was a quarantine room, they were doing their best to keep me and baby safe. Moving to a ward meant I could shower though and after a fever of 105-107 for the past 4 days you could imagine I needed a shower. I don’t know why I wasn’t allowed to shower in the ER shower, but I wasn’t and I felt disgusting which didn’t help with the feelings of sickness.

As a teenager I dealt a lot with depression and anxiety. What I was dealing with while in the hospital was NOTHING like that, nothing could have prepared me for the depression that I was going threw. I was locked up in the hospital, no answers, with a newborn who I was trying to keep clean and safe and away from all the sick people around me. I remember looking out the window and moms and dads would come and go with their babies. It was rainy and gloomy and I was jealous of them. I wanted to go home too. Luckily in the sick ward I got some really nice nurses, who ended up scrubbing in (like before surgery) every time they came into my quarantine room! This eased my mind a bit, but still tears wouldn’t stop rolling down my face. This had been taking a toll on my husband and I’s relationship since there was no real bed for him, and I couldn’t do anything besides feed the baby. Luckily my mom and dad came by a lot to help me and bring other food and relieve my husband so he could go home and wash up and maybe relax for a bit. My in laws I believe came by to help watch the baby while my husband tended to me in the shower. Yup just like a crippled old lady my husband had to wash my body and hold me up. I still couldn’t walk well, and I was super weak but now at least I was clean.

Besides my parents and my in-laws visiting once I didn’t let anyone come. It wasn’t to be rude or selfish but I didn’t know if I was dying or what was happening — and honesty neither did the Doctors so I really wanted to be left alone. I didn’t feel good, I didn’t feel ok. I can understand this was hard to understand for some, but to me this is what I needed. So for 7 days we only had my parents coming in for support — not even holding the baby most times, but helping me with my hair, my dad went and bought me supportive nursing bras haha, and they helped with bringing us tasty food. I found comfort in the presence of my parents, I really needed them during that time.

Finally on like day 4/5 my family doctor came by and figured it out, it was mastitis. Even though my breasts were red, and they weren’t that lumpy (which is why no one else caught it). They switched up my antibiotics and finally I started getting better within a night. A room in the maternity ward had opened up, so they decided to move me there for the last 2/3 days. This was nice, it eased my anxiety about my son getting sick.

So we moved to the maternity ward, but I was still sick and there wasn’t any idea when I’d get to go home BUT at least we knew I wasn’t dying anymore. Just a wild case of mastitis! My relationship was still wearing thin, my husband was exhausted from horrible sleeps and I was depressed, moody, and still not able to move much — so he had to help a lot all threw out the night and day. Sleep is a huge thing, take it out of a relationship and you will see consequences. We were feeling those consequences.

I’ll never forget my hardest day, when I had barely slept (keep in mind I have two IV’s in and heart monitors), and Lucas would not stop crying. My husband was doing his best but he too was at a breaking point. I was crying, my husband was upset, and the baby was screaming. I told the nurse I didn’t want my baby anymore. Yup… I told my husband and the nurse, and luckily they both knew it was just my lack of sleep, sickness, and over all poor health that was speaking. It seemed like that was the worst day. The next day rolled around and my fever finally broke from 105! This was a good sign, this meant I may be able to go home soon! We had the best day that you really could, living in a hospital. The day after my fever went down again!

I was finally on the mend! I was so close. I could go home soon with my little family! I felt better, my body wasn’t aching and finally I was able to walk to the vending machine and back (ALONE!). And just like that my fever went to 102 and on the 7th day we went home.

After settling back in at home my husband and I rekindled what had been neglected in our relationship, and my son and I were able to bond very well. My PPD seemed to disappear as my sickness left, I still spent another week and a bit on antibiotics to keep the infection away.

We later that year traveled to Panama where I developed mastitis HORRIBLY again and went to the hospital there. I was treated amazingly, and recovered well. My fever only reached 104 that time, which was a relief because I was half way around the world, and so far from family! PSA get travel insurance, luckily I had it but didn’t need it since Panama health care is dirt cheap and free for some stuff!

FUN FACT: In 12 months I got mastitis over 9 times. I tried everything they said, but was always over producing, and had a super chunky baby!

Always trust your body and your gut! If you feel sick, advocate for yourself. You are not tired and crazy.

Watch for red lumps, red skin, fevers, stomach sickness, exhaustion, and make sure to drink tons of water always!

Real. Raw. Mother. Doula. Photographer. Katey Mac // Maternal Union.

– a real mom sharing experiences and serving fellow mothers –

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