Having had six babies, Jessica Martin-Weber knows that breastfeeding is not the serene bonding experience that many of our pop culture representations of nursing would suggest (when breastfeeding is depicted at all, that is). So, as the founder of a breastfeeding support Facebook page, the seasoned mom recently shared photos of herself just "trying to survive" and feed her baby when a relatively common but still agonizing breastfeeding complication had struck. Ultimately, Martin-Weber was able to feed her child and recover, but her Facebook post shows that the breastfeeding struggle is real — inflamed and painful breast, body aches, raging fever, and absurdly uncomfortable feeding positions just come with the territory for many parents.
At the time that Martin-Weber's husband snapped the photos of her doing everything she could to feed her fifth baby, she had developed a case of mastitis that made her want to "chop [her] boob off," she wrote in the Facebook post she shared last week. Mastitis is basically every nursing mom's worst nightmare, as the infection causes a painful swelling of the breast or breasts, engorgement, flu-like symptoms, and fatigue. And Martin-Weber, whose online breastfeeding support "pub" is called The Leaky Boob, knew that one way to alleviate the pain was to get as much milk as possible out, leading her to bend over the baby in what she called the "dangle feed position."
The baby lies on her back in a bed as Martin-Weber hovers over her, supporting much of her weight with her arms. It's a far cry from the images of babies quietly and contentedly sucking while nestled against their moms' chests that people are more used to seeing — but that wouldn't have worked too well for Martin-Weber, as she explained in the post:
The reason for feeding in this position was to attempt to drain the breast more fully with baby's chin pointed in the direction of the pain/clog/redness. It worked for me in combination with several other measures such as warm compress, frequent emptying of the breast, breast massage, fluids, and rest (thank you Netflix for letting me rest). But I was down for the count and desperate, I would have tried anything. The dangle feed position- as hard as it is to hold when you're fighting a raging fever and absolutely agony in your breast and full body aches- helped turn things around for me. It's not pretty, it's not an inspiring breastfeeding moment captured in camera, but it's real and it saved me.
39-year-old Martin-Weber, who's now pregnant with her seventh child had mastitis one other time before the photos were taken, according to Yahoo News. She was lucky because the case eventually cleared up on its own and she didn't have to go to the hospital, she wrote in the post. Her experience also helped her to catch signs of the infection early the next time she got it, and to use the dangle method once more. Perhaps just as importantly, though, the experience gave her the opportunity to show other moms that — just like with any other aspect of parenting — it's not always so pretty:
Parenting isn't all sun spotted mother goddess moments or white drenched stock photography families. 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.
Moms survive, indeed. And Jessica Martin-Weber rules for showing the world and other moms that raising a family includes some moments that moms would probably really, really rather not repeat.