A U.K. mom’s Instagram post is shedding light on the reality of mastitis.
Peers has a 1-year-old son named Rudy, and although they have an easy breastfeeding relationship now, it wasn’t always that way. The photo she posted on Instagram was taken about 10 months ago when she had to spend two nights in the hospital due to mastitis that turned into sepsis.
In the caption, Peers shared her breastfeeding journey, from waiting almost a week for her milk to come in (”I wasn’t aware that it could take that long”) to struggling with latch issues (”My nipple literally cracked in half”) to feeling afraid to nurse in public (”I felt embarrassed and as though I would make others uncomfortable ― this resulted in clogged ducts and engorgement”).
When Rudy was 2 months old, Peers developed mastitis, and when she went to the hospital, she was diagnosed with sepsis. Thankfully, her sepsis improved after 24 hours and the mastitis went away after nine days of antibiotics.
“During my hospital stay, I repeatedly asked for a pump, because if I didn’t drain the breast my mastitis would get worse (and it did),” the mom wrote. “The nurse’s response was ‘we’re having trouble finding one as we don’t get many breastfeeding mothers here.’”
Peers believes this underscores a bigger problem ― lack of widespread understanding of breastfeeding in the U.K. Throughout her journey, the mom noticed there was one constant: “Nobody ever taught me.”
As Peers wrote, “There’s a lot more to this story, but my point is, the lack of support and education surrounding breastfeeding is just terrible. And I don’t mean in terms of relaying the benefits of breastmilk 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.”
Pointing to the low breastfeeding rates in the U.K., Peers noted that women don’t have the chance to learn about nursing from their mothers and grandmothers because so many didn’t breastfeed. She also believes medical professionals don’t always offer the support new moms need to learn to breastfeed.
“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,” she wrote.
“Breastfeeding is HARD,” Peers concluded. “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.”
“I wanted any women experiencing troubles to know that they weren’t alone, that it is actually very common to find breastfeeding difficult, and I wanted them to know that it IS possible to go on to have a very successful and enjoyable breastfeeding relationship despite experiencing problems,” she said.
Peers hopes to raise awareness around the importance of face-to-face education and support both during and after pregnancy. Though she did research and read many books about breastfeeding, she still didn’t feel fully prepared to handle the challenges she faced as a new mom.
“I believe this is because to find the right answers, you have to know the right questions ― which many first time mothers don’t,” she told HuffPost.
Peers wants people who read her post to know that she doesn’t intend to deter new moms from breastfeeding, as it is actually one of her biggest joys as a parent. Rather, she hopes to make women aware of the issues that can arise and prepare them for all possibilities.
“That way, if problems do arise they can seek help quickly ― without shame, or the belief that there is something wrong with their bodies ― and talk about their issues, and ultimately go on to breastfeed successfully for as long as they want to,” she said.
“I’d also like to add, that for some women breastfeeding just doesn’t work out, and there is no shame in switching to formula,” she noted. “I hear a lot of women expressing guilt around being unable to breastfeed and it breaks my heart.
Ultimately, her goal is simple: “I just want women to feel empowered and supported in their choices.”