Mastitis caused me to stop breastfeeding

by Pippa Harbourne

I am proud to say that in the end I managed to breastfeed my second baby for four calendar months exactly, a huge improvement on five weeks with my first baby.

Unfortunately I developed mastitis during week 17, probably because I wore a dress that was too tight around my boobs on Mother's Day. I was so desperate to look nice and to fit into a pre-pregnancy dress, that I squeezed myself into it. Be warned, this is not a good idea. The next day I noticed that my bigger boob was very painful when my baby leant against it, and I started to feel unwell. I was with a GP friend at the time and she told me I should call my own GP and explain that I had mastitis, and that I had had it before so knew the signs. Luckily my GP was able to fax a prescription over to my nearest pharmacy so I was able to ask my husband to pick it up on his way back from work and I could start taking the antibiotics immediately.

That night I didn't sleep well due to a fever. I took ibuprofen to try to ease the symptoms and absolutely dreaded feeding my baby the next morning. The feed was quite painful but not too bad.

All the horrors of my previous breastfeeding experience came back to me. I felt really low and trapped in a vicious cycle. The advice I read online was to feed my baby as often as possible, but I had cut down to one feed a day so carefully over a long period of time, I really didn't want to go backwards. The doctor had told me to feed through the mastitis and so did everyone else I spoke to, but I really worried that the blockage wouldn't budge on just one feed a day and really wanted to just stop breastfeeding altogether. I was terrified of developing an abscess though, and really didn't know what to do.

I carried on breastfeeding for two more days but the pain was no better. I came to the conclusion that it would be better to stop sooner rather than later seeing as I was protected by the antibiotics. After a text exchange with my sister who told me to stop breastfeeding, I made the decision to do just that. I was spurred on by the fact that I had a concert coming up that I was singing in and I was worried because breastfeeding made me feel dehydrated so my voice wasn't in tip-top condition, I couldn't really diet and wanted to be thinner for the stage, and I wanted to be able to wear a structured bra. I had never believed I would manage to breastfeed for this long anyway.

It took about two weeks for my milk to completely dry up and I have lost a significant amount of weight since then.

Thankfully my mastitis cleared up with the antibiotics and did not return.

I have felt guilty for stopping but I think I gave it everything I could.

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