I was lucky that I was able to breastfeed, and for as long as I did. I mean, there were so many wonderful moments that I was able to share with my son when I was breastfeeding him, but man, breastfeeding can be hard. The exhaustion and the pain and engorgement and sore nipples; the list goes on and on. That list can get worse, of course, if you have mastitis. Thankfully, even the terrible things about mastitis are funny when you look back on them. Honestly, in breastfeeding and in motherhood and in life itself, if you can't at least laugh at the absurdity of it all (even when that absurdity is painful and the result of a clogged milk duct in your left breast) you'll have a tough time getting through the sh*t.
My mastitis, which is essentially an infection of the breast, was the result of a clogged milk duct. I experienced fever and chills and pain and redness on my breast, because a milk duct had been lodged and, later, infected. I had to pump and I had to continue breastfeeding through the pain and I had to position my son so his adorable little chin could work the clog out of the infected duct and dear breastfeeding gods was it the worst. It was also, looking back, pretty freakin' hilarious. I mean, my kid's chin doubled as a clog extractor. That's funny, you guys.
Now that my son is about to turn two and our breastfeeding days are behind us, it's much easier to look back and laugh at painful moments that once had me questioning my sanity (or at least my choice to breastfeed). If you're going through these moments now, know that you're not alone and know that, eventually, it will get better and you'll be able to laugh at it all. Trust me, you'll be sipping on your well-deserved glass of wine and chuckling at the following things, in no time.
Warming Your Boob Before You Breastfeed
When you have mastitis, preparing to breastfeed is an exercise in necessary futility. I mean, it's going to hurt, no matter what you do, so the best thing you can do is try to make it hurt for a specific reason. In order to help dislodge the milk duct that is clogged, most recommend putting a warm washcloth on your breast for 15 minutes before breastfeeding or pumping. This increases milk flow to the breast, and can assist your kid (or your pump) in essentially "sucking out" the clog. I was literally "warming up" to feed my kid. Un. Freakin'. Real.
One of the best ways to get rid of mastitis and/or a clogged duct, is to keep doing what you were doing. If my kid wasn't attached to my boob, a breast pump was. While I hated it in the moment (because who likes being attached to an obnoxious, uncomfortable machine?) it can be funny to look back and see an exhausted new mom confined to the couch so she could sit close to a power outlet and let something suck the milk out of her. I mean, if that doesn't make you at least smile, I don't know what will.
...Or Hand Expressing, When Necessary
I absolutely hated hand expressing milk (because it hurt and it took forever and I have better things to do than sit on the couch and try get an ounce of freakin' milk into a tiny little bottle) but, sometimes, I had to. If it was in the middle of the night and I couldn't find (or didn't want to look for) my breast pump and my kid was done eating, I was left doing all the work. It was the most annoying.
However, in the moment and especially now that I can look back, I've realized that I've required a pretty great (albeit rare) skill. If my career ever tanks, I can always start my own dairy farm. It's pretty great to have options, you know?
The Cure For Something Caused By Breastfeeding, Is More Breastfeeding
This just doesn't make any sense, science. The cure for the common cold isn't to get a cold. Well, wait, I guess that's what a flu vaccine is, but whatever. I still didn't appreciate my pediatrician telling me that I had to keep breastfeeding "through the pain" in order to help alleviate the clogged milk duct and mastitis that followed. What kind of pseudo-science is this nonsense?!
Turns out, while many women are hesitant to breastfeed through mastitis, it is a way to alleviate the blockage and the infection. You won't hurt your baby, as any bacteria in your breast milk will be stifled by your baby's stomach. So, yes, breastfeeding more can alleviate certain issues caused by breastfeeding. Nothing makes sense anymore.
That Moment You Freak Out, Afraid Of Something Far More Serious
OK, at the time this wasn't funny at all, and I can definitely understand why, to many, this isn't funny at all. However, I have always had this very, somewhat unnecessary fear of getting cancer. It runs in my family (my grandmother is a breast cancer survivor) and I'm constantly checking myself for lumps and, when I hit the recommended age, will be getting breast cancer screenings on the regular.
So, when I first felt the lump that turned out to be a clogged milk duct and the reason for my mastitis, I was convinced I had breast cancer Like, convinced. I was so cared and didn't even want to call the doctor because, well, hard news is difficult to hear. I was preparing myself for treatments and ready to call my grandmother and ask her how she did something so miraculous and with such grace and courage, when my doctor told me to stop being a fool, it was just a clogged milk duct. Looking back, I can let out a chuckle, but at the time I was so afraid that something was seriously wrong.
Breastfeeding actually lowers your risk of breast cancer, and clogged ducts are fairly common. Usually, a clogged duct will go away in a few days and before developing into mastitis so don't pull a me and freak out. Chances are, you're just fine.
When You Realize The Location Of The "Plug" Has Shifted
Why is this a thing, body?! Why?!
I sufficiently freaked out when my clog essentially "moved," even though I was told this was a good sign. If the clog is moving closer to the nipple, that means the sucking action of either your baby or your breast pump (or both) are doing the dirty work. In fact, if it moves close enough, you can even use your baby's chin to help "massage" the duct and remove the clog, which adds an entirely different level of hilarity to the situation. Oh, the joys of being a boob-carrying mother.
Finding Solidarity With Fellow Mastitis-Suffering Mothers
I've bonded with many women over the course of my 29-year-old life, for a variety of reasons. I once made friends with a girl because we were both drunk and throwing up into random pots we found in someone's kitchen, for instance (oh, college). I made a friend with one of the nurses at the hospital when I was in labor, because I asked what her job was and she said, "To clean up your poop," and, well, she was and will forever remain one of my favorite people in the world.
However, even poop doesn't surpass how adorably strange and hilarious it is to make friends with a woman because both of your respective boobs are clogged and infected. I mean, that's not necessarily a normal conversation starter, but when you share that you have mastitis (with either the masses or a small group of women), you're bound to find someone who has been through it too and, well, solidarity is awesome.
How Much It Freakin' Hurts
Ha, yeah. Just kidding. This is never funny. It doesn't matter how many time has passed, this is and will remain the freakin' worst. My son is about to turn two and I still don't think that pain was funny. Hell, he could be turning 20 and I will still cringe.