On Wednesday, Jessica Martin-Weber, founder of the Leaky Boob, a breastfeeding support group on Facebook, published two photos showing her bent over her baby while breastfeeding. “These photos are not of a sacred, special breastfeeding moment. They aren’t to celebrate my belly or even feeding my baby,” wrote Martin-Weber, 39, a Portland, Ore., mother of six. “These photos are of me trying to survive.”
The images have received hundreds of likes and are being called “inspiring” and “amazing.” Plenty of moms added that they’ve successfully tried the feeding method shown in the photos.
Martin-Weber explained that at the time, her temperature was over 103 degrees and she was in “utter agony,” writing, “I was texting my husband that I was certain I was dying. With my breast inflamed an angry red, streaks running across my chest, my body aching, pain radiating everywhere, and having several small children at home to still care for, I didn’t feel I was being dramatic in telling my husband that I needed to get to the hospital. Or at least that I wanted to chop my boob off.”
The mom was struggling with mastitis, a condition that occurs in breastfeeding women. The breasts become inflamed, red, and painful to the touch, and women usually experience fever, breast pain, or flu-like symptoms.
“I knew what had caused it: a poorly fitting bra that I had worn too long and tragically, through a skipped feed,” Martin-Weber wrote. “The bra pressed on a milk duct and with that missed feed it was the perfect storm that led to mastitis.”
Martin-Weber, who is currently pregnant with her seventh child, tells Yahoo Beauty: “That day, I couldn’t get a quick appointment with my doctor, so I was doing anything I could to stop the pain. So I tried a method called ‘dangle feeding,’ which entails positioning the baby toward the clog and allowing gravity to help drain it.”
The mom has experienced mastitis three times, although the photos depict her second bout. And while she says the pictures (taken by her husband) aren’t conventionally “pretty,” they’re a much-needed visual. “We need more realistic images of motherhood,” she shares with Yahoo Beauty. “I enjoy a sun-soaked family photo like anyone else, but most of the time, my motherhood experience looks as it does in these photos.”
Martin-Weber decided to post the pictures after a mom suffering from mastitis wrote to her for advice on how to cope until she was able to see her physician.
At the time of the photos, Martin-Weber’s other children were engrossed in My Little Pony on Netflix (“Although one approached me during all this and asked for a snack!”), and fortunately the mastitis cleared up on its own. However, although she says that the dangle method and hot compresses can help, Martin-Weber warns that most people should see their doctor and need antibiotics. And in severe cases, mastitis can result in sepsis, a potentially life-threatening illness.
Martin-Weber adds, “The fact that my baby could breastfeed then really saved me.”
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