Part One of Coming Back From a Breastfeeding Break: Breast Abscesses
I spent most of my first pregnancy worrying about labor and birth. I knew I wanted to breastfeed and wasn’t worried that it would be difficult. After all, it’s a very simple process, isn’t it? Your body makes the milk, your baby drinks it, and you’re all good. Right?
Unfortunately for me, things weren’t that simple. A week after my daughter was born, I was spiking fevers and experiencing some of the worst pain I’ve ever felt. A month later, after several bouts of antibiotics, I still had fevers and felt like my right breast was on fire, constantly. I found myself dreading feeding my daughter because of the pain, and I felt guilty for that. I went to see a lactation consultant, and she gave me some helpful tips to relieve the pain temporarily. But the fevers didn’t go away, and neither did the pain and swelling.
Then one night I had a fever that went through the roof—well over 105 degrees. My breast was so swollen that my daughter couldn’t even nurse. The doctor took one look at me and sent me to the hospital. Once there I found out that I had an abscess in my right breast. The reason my body hadn’t responded to antibiotics is because the infection was MRSA, or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus.
The next day, I went in for surgery to have the abscess removed, but the symptoms didn’t go away. More tests revealed a second abscess that also had to be removed surgically. Needless to say, this was not how I had expected my breastfeeding experience to be. The recovery was difficult, mostly because my milk was completely gone on the affected side. I tried to continue nursing on one side while supplementing with formula, but I eventually realized that I was actually supplementing with breastmilk and mostly feeding with formula.
One day I just decided I was going to make a decision between the two. I understand when women decide to discontinue breastfeeding, but personally, I wasn’t ready to give it up yet. I loved the experience of nursing my daughter, and I wanted to keep doing it. I decided I wanted to keep nursing. There was only one problem: my right breast had been dry for two weeks. Nevertheless, I was determined to get the milk back.
I share this experience because I know there are moms out there in similar situations who want to keep breastfeeding but may feel helpless. It’s important to realize that if your milk dries up due to surgery, illness or some other problem, a lot of times you can get it back. But it does take some work.
Check back tomorrow for my top five tips to get back into breastfeeding after a break. And in the meantime, tell us, what was your breastfeeding experience like? Did you ever have to take a break, too? —Nicole