In addition to having multiple benefits, breast-feeding is also a wonderful bonding opportunity for mom and baby. But it's not always easy, and it doesn't always come naturally. And that's not to mention the complications that can come along with it.
As birth doula Lindsey Bliss showed, breast-feeding isn't always "unicorns and rainbows," even when it comes relatively naturally. On Sunday, Bliss posted a photo to her Instagram page of herself nursing her newborn, with her breast inflamed and red.
"When a good boob goes bad — AGAIN!" she wrote in her caption. "I literally wanted Dan to bring me to the ER last night due to the most EPIC engorged boob, full body shakes, and a crushing headache. On the mend today from my bed. Why does this keep happening?"
The condition that Bliss is describing is called mastitis, a form of breast inflammation that can be linked to breast tissue infections. It affects up to 20% of people who breast-feed per year, often within the first three months of breast-feeding, and can be caused by a blocked milk duct, or bacteria entering the breast, as well as stress and fatigue, pressure on the breast from a too-tight bra, missed feedings, or poor hand or breast pump hygiene. Mastitis can even happen to those who aren't pregnant or breast-feeding.
It can also be incredibly painful, Bliss told Cosmopolitan.
"It literally feels like someone kicked me in the breast," she said. "No one really warns you about how powerful mastitis is. Your boob can cause a full body shut down."
Though Bliss is a mom of 7 children, she didn't experience mastitis until breast-feeding her youngest child. And despite her training as a director at Carriage House Birth, an organization that fosters community among birth doulas and postpartum care providers, she wasn't prepared for how severe mastitis could be.
In addition to her swollen breast, she told Cosmo, she also experienced flu-like symptoms such as milk duct discharge, full body shakes, and uncontrollable teeth chattering.
Now, she's sharing her photo in hopes of bringing more awareness to the condition.
"You always see these flawless goddess photos of breastfeeding, and no one discusses or shows when shit gets crazy," she told Cosmo. "Yes, [you might think] breastfeeding is the best thing for your child, but it isn't always unicorns and rainbows," she says. "Sometimes it just sucks."
If mastitis happens to you, it's probably best to check in with a doctor just in case, but in the meantime, the UK's National Health Service recommends using over-the-counter medication to reduce pain, and regularly emptying the breast to avoid more buildup. According to NHS, continuing to feed your baby won't harm them.
Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?