It's World Breastfeeding Week so it's only appropriate to post my breastfeeding experience. If you've read my previous blog posts in the Mamacita Moments series, you know that I didn't have a great experience with breastfeeding. That doesn't mean I'm going to say "I hate it, don't do it!" Actually, I think breastfeeding is the way to go. Perhaps you've heard the saying "breast is best." Breastfeeding is a great time for mother and baby to bond, helps strengthen baby's immune system and it's free! There are so many health and wellness benefits to breastfeeding but I don't think I'd ever do it again. Here's why...
I had it all: cracked/chapped/bloody nipples, thrush and mastitis. To be honest, I'd rather go through another unmedicated natural birth than breastfeed. That's how bad my experience was. After I had my first daughter, I was gung-ho about breastfeeding and wouldn't have even dreamed of doing otherwise. I had done my research and I knew all of the good things that came from breastfeeding so my plan was to breastfeed my baby for at least one year. My nipples were raw and chapped within the first two or three weeks. I was a super producer and my baby was loving it but there was one problem, we couldn't get a good latch. I think that I was always so full that my baby wasn't able to latch properly. It soon took a toll and I was in constant pain. I saw multiple lactation consultants and none were able to help. It was painful but I stuck to my guns. There was no way I was going to stop breastfeeding my baby because I knew that was best for her. So I suffered and cried for months. My nipples didn't look quite like nipples anymore, I went through bloody/chapped nipples, thrush and a mild case of mastitis. I hated it so much until one day I realized how miserable I was. Mind you, I was going through postpartum depression at the time and my psychologist helped me realize how much it was affecting my mental health. Aside from my psychologist, I was also going to a local support group for new moms called Transitions In Motherhood. This group and Tara Farajian, LCSW were a godsend for me! It was here that I first heard the saying "fed is best." When I heard this, I felt some weight lift off of my shoulders and I realized that what I was doing to myself was completely unnecessary. I finally decided to stop breastfeeding and that made a big difference in my mental health. It was a major breakthrough and a huge step toward returning to my "normal" self. I pumped but even that was too painful so I ended up manually expressing for about a month while my milk supply dried out. It was tiring, my hands and breasts were sore, but at least I wasn't stressed out or in pain anymore.
When I gave birth again in 2020, I decided I would try to breastfeed as long as I was OK and didn't feel the same as before. I started off the same way and by week two, I had a clogged milk duct. It was hot to the touch and I knew I had to get it out ASAP or else it would progress to mastitis. Sure enough, my left breast became red, swollen, extremely painful and I started getting cold shivers right after I pumped or manually expressed the milk. I went to the ER and they gave me some antibiotics for mastitis. Not more than 24 hours later I was hospitalized for the out of control infection that developed. I was in the care of the Labor & Delivery nurses at Long Beach Memorial Medical Center. These women were straight up ANGELS!!! They took such good care of me and were very sympathetic about the whole thing. I could tell that my situation was a bit more than the normal case of mastitis because every nurse and doctor who saw me was taken a back. One doctor told me it was the worst case of mastitis she had ever seen. They switched my antibiotics about three times because nothing was working. I was on pain killers, antibiotics and really just in and out of sleep. I had a couple of lactation consultants come visit me to help express the milk and they asked, "Do you want to continue breastfeeding?" I was conflicted, I wanted to do the best for my baby but I had also promised that I wouldn't put myself in the same position as last time. That mom guilt is a BEAST and will eat at you whether you are suffering physically, mentally or emotionally. All things considered, I decided to stop breast feeding. It was time to think about myself. It really came down to self preservation at that point. I remembered "fed is best" and finally put myself first. I spent the next few days icing my breasts and applying cold cabbage leaves to my makeshift bandage bra and still expressing the milk that was stuck. My husband would make trips to the hospital to collect the milk for the baby since it was still safe for her to drink. It was a horrible week and I was finally discharged the day before the 4th of July. I was still in pain but I was happy to be home. I wish I had taken pictures of the side of my breast. It looked like I was a burn victim, then progressed to looking purple and blue, then looked more brown, until finally it was matching the rest of my skin months later. Two years later, that part of my breast is hard to the touch. I recently had my first mammogram due to this hardened tissue and occasional lactation (told you I was a super producer). I've said it before and I'll say it again, I'd rather have another unmedicated birth than breastfeed again.
I want you to know that I choose to share these personal experiences because I hope to help anyone going through a similar experience. If you feel that breastfeeding is the most amazing thing and you love it, that's great! I hope you continue to do it as long as it serves your baby well. If not, put yourself first. Don't compromise your mental or physical health because "breast is best." Remember that "fed is best" and your child needs a happy and present mother. Give yourself the best chance to be the best version of yourself for you and baby. Motherhood is hard and anything you can do to make it easier is going to benefit you.