When I met Kalina she was at the end of her rope. She had experienced mastitis while breastfeeding her now 8.5 month old, over and over again (a total of ELEVEN TIMES). Her baby continued to show signs of being unsettled while feeding and her breasts never felt drained or soft. She saw me as her last resort after having countless visits with health care professionals and alternative health practitioners. As much as she loved breastfeeding (she fed her first for 2 years), she knew she could not continue if things didn’t improve. “It was like he was in pain when feeding and he wanted to seek comfort but it was hurting him. He would scream with the let down.”
Here is her story in her own words. While this story is hard to read (as she has gone through so much!) when I asked her, “What is your response when people question why you kept going and why you didn’t just switch to formula?” She replied simply, “Because it wasn’t about formula vs. breastmilk. I knew in my heart something was wrong and it wasn’t meant to be this way. I know it is the most amazing thing for my baby and I knew I had to find the reasons I was having so many episodes of mastitis and why he was acting so unsettled at the breast.” (You will find a full summarised list of symptoms pre and post procedure at the bottom of this post).
Here is her story… ♥
My amazing son was born 7.9 pounds, a healthy thriving baby. He never lost any weight after birth and breastfeeding seemed to be okay at the start, I just recall saying he had a “really strong suck”. He has always had great nappy output and was meeting all the milestones so whenever I saw someone they were not concerned with his or my other symptoms. They’d just prescribe antibiotics for mastitis and send me on my way. (From Meg: this experience is quite common for women who have babies that are gaining well and meeting milestones. They are brushed aside by health care professionals and ignored when they say something isn’t right or just given medication.) Fast forward 6 months, throughout this time I was diagnosed with Mastitis when my baby was 4, 6, 11, 15, 17, 20, 22 weeks old and another 4 times after that.
No matter what I did or how often I did it, I was getting mastitis at the beginning and end of every month. The only pattern I could recognise was when my son was going through a “leap” in the wonder weeks app (looking back now when he would be the fussiest with feeding). Every single time I got mastitis it was in a different spot and a different boob, never in the same place. For “treatment” I was put on 3 different types of antibiotics. At one point my mastitis was so severe I was hospitalised for three days and on IV antibiotics, where I experienced such a traumatic time, I now never want to go back. I experienced a blood clot after this and I’m positive a little bit of PTSD. I saw a kinesiologist, a naturopath, and a doctor, two lactation consultants in hospital, all which helped with my general health side of things but not investigating the cause of why I kept getting mastitis. (From Meg: THIS IS CRUCIAL! Make sure you are seeking help from someone who will actually investigate WHY you are experiencing symptoms…not just giving a medication to fix the symptom of the underlying issue) Not once did anyone ever mentioned ties. One doctor looked me dead in the eyes and said “maybe you just have to stop breastfeeding”. One doctor sent me away for ultrasounds and to have my milk tested which just came back with mastitis and nothing growing in the milk. Then finally FINALLY I got to see Meg. The Milk Meg aka “life saver”.
Meg came and looked at how he was feeding (at that point he was 5.5 months old) and he was doing the things he normally did, which was throwing himself backwards to pull himself off of the boob, he would scream, thrash around, go on and off, kick his legs and cry. Breastfeeding was quickly becoming more traumatic for the both of us then what it was meant to be (nourishing, comfort and beautiful). And this sort of behaviour was increasingly getting worse as the months went on. I would lay in bed and cry some nights as I knew in my heart this wasn’t how it was meant to be. I had at times tried to give him a bottle to see if that was the answer but he refused. It was almost like it was hurting him to feed or use his mouth, I just didn’t know why. Meg looked at me and said he most likely has a tongue tie because of the ongoing symptoms I was experiencing, and this was certainly not normal behaviour at the breast. Meg did an oral assessment on my baby and referred me to a dentist. I then spent the night googling tongue ties and I could not believe what I was reading. Everything tingled in my body knowing that thank GOD finally we had some answers. BUT with minimal evidenced based research it was hard to know what was the right thing to do.
We ultimately decided to have his tongue tie lasered and during the first feed immediately afterwards I cried. I looked at the dentist and midwife and I said to them I cannot believe HOW different this feels. It was like his whole mouth had opened up and my whole nipple was in his mouth. Even after that feed my boobs FELT so different, he was actually able to drain them and it was like he had finally fed properly for the first time in 5 months. The difference in feeding was instant and he instantly had a different relationship on the boob, he went from never being able to feed in public to feeding whenever I offered it no matter where we were. It was almost like I had a different baby.
Then two weeks later I looked in his mouth and a sinking feeling hit me, I thought it had grown back and was restricting the movement again. The same feeding behaviours returned from pre procedure, and I didn’t know why. Then the next day I came down with mastitis. I immediately contacted Meg and my Dentist to investigate and ask why, as I knew something wasn’t right. We had to have it lasered a second time and I experienced that first great feed again.
It is amazing how much you just get used to as a mum and the pain you grow a tolerance to because you just, well, have to. This was my breaking point though. To have to put my baby through that a second time and being so unwell for so long my mental health took a total downfall. I could not be strong for my babies and strong for myself so I took myself to my doctor and broke down. She looked at me and said there are two things I can do, I can talk to someone or I can take medication. I asked for both. I strongly believe you have to put yourself first and you have to look after yourself, but with what I had been through I couldn’t stop my anxious mind from getting the better of me. I felt a sense of shame, having to take medication. But since then I realised I couldn’t have been further from the truth. I needed to do something drastic or I wasn’t going to be able to function and live the life my babies and I deserve.
Two weeks after the second tongue tie procedure I got a sore breast, but I was confused as my baby had still been feeding amazingly and my boobs had felt well drained and adapted to the feeding pattern. I contacted Meg again and she said one last thing to try, anti fungals. Ductal thrush is totally a thing and it can even mimic symptoms of mastitis! I only had to take the anti-fungal medications for a few days and it completely cleared up. (From Meg: I suggested anti fungal medication as she had been on so many round of antibiotics it puts her in a higher risk of experiencing a fungal overgrowth and was the reason she continued to have breast pain even after feeding significantly improved following the tie procedures.)
If there is one thing I have learned from this whole nightmare but amazing journey its to trust your gut, and to be your own advocate. If you think something is not right in your body or with your baby and breastfeeding, investigate and DON’T stop until you get the tingles in your body when you know you have found the answer!
To summarize, here is everything Kalina has been through in the past 8 months:
- 11 lots of mastitis
- 11 lots of antibiotics including 72 hours of IV antibiotics
- 2.5 cm blood clot
- Lasering my babies tongue tie (twice) with two extremely traumatic car trips as my baby hates the car
Things she tried to get rid of the mastitis…
- Worked on positioning, latching techniques and different ways to hold her baby when feeding, to try to help milk removal.
- Massage (vibrating massage machine)
- Hot compress
- Cold compress
- Warm shower
- Electric toothbrush
- Onguard essential oil
- Cabbage leaves
- Arnica cream
Vitamins and dietary supplements to ensure she maintained a healthy diet to try to prevent/reduce getting mastitis:
- Vitamin C powder
- Vitamin D
- Garlic Forte
- Greens powder
Symptoms prior to having baby’s tongue tie lasered:
- Baby unsettled and on and off the breast frequently
- Would “nipple feed” with a very shallow latch
- He would pull off the breast when the let down happened and scream
- Very gassy baby who got lots of extra air in when feeding
- Very “noisy” when feeding
- He could not drain breasts well so they always felt full
- Recurrent plugged ducts and mastitis
- Breast pain
- Would never fall asleep when breastfeeding
Improvements following the tongue tie procedure. This list was written by Kalina almost 6 weeks following the lasers, however she noticed many of these improvements soon after the procedures were done:
- Baby started to drain the breast well and I felt “soft” breasts for the first time
- He is now very settled and happy at the breast, no longer coming on and off as much
- Significant improvement with gas pains and less air getting in when feeding
- I stopped getting mastitis and plugged ducts
- He does not make noises anymore when feeding, I can only hear him gulping now
- Does not scream anymore with the let down
- Falls asleep on the boob now!
“It’s been amazing since we had the procedure done. Breastfeeding finally feels like what it was meant to feel like from the beginning. Like you said to me during our consultation, just really comfortable.”