#15: When Breastfeeding Goes Bad

#15: When Breastfeeding Goes Bad
5 minutes to read

Thus far, I’ve parented for 37 months and breastfed for 21 of those. Not bad, considering my less than impressive rack (debunked myth number one – small boobs can feed just as well as big hooters). I find expressing the work of the devil so it looks like it’s going to be Moo, me and my udders for the duration. So far with her, so good. In fact I had a pretty good run of it with Mouse too, save for a couple of instances of badly blocked ducts. And I mean SAVAGELY blocked ducts. 

The first time, I was at a group and flinging Mouse up in the air to “Drunken Sailor”, wondering if I ought to try rum again (rum might be an olive type thing – you only truly appreciate the taste when you’ve hit the age of 30). Ooh, that smarts a bit, I remember thinking – I must’ve have trapped a nerve. A quick stealthy grope reveals a solid mass the size of a plum in my right boob. It wasn’t there this morning so I know it’s nothing sinister (please, all comers, check your breasts regularly, please). On our walk home, pushing the buggy with one hand and reading the whole interweb on my phone with the other, I familiarise myself with La Leche League’s suggested diagnosis. “Mouse, you’d better be hungry, old girl. This could take a while.” As soon as we’re through the front door and I’ve had a wee and amassed a few casino chip stacks of hobnobs, we set to work. Bless her, she feeds and feeds and feeds. During the intervals where she’s lolling about on my lap utterly milk drunk, I hand express into a tissue. It would almost be a sexy scene if…actually no, nothing about this is sexy. For starters I’m wearing one of those god awful navy and white horizontal striped nursing tops that all the first time mums think are a good idea.

Hours pass. Days. My husband has to forage in the garden for wild garlic and nettle leaves for his dinner. A time lapse video would show the layer of dust on the coffee table reach a level that Kim and Aggie might faint over. My eyes look like a shattered windscreen. I get bed sores. My arms are numb. In reality we’re there for about two hours but you get the drift.

Finally, release – the blockage has cleared, Mouse has drained the bejesus out of me and it now feels like she’s sucking wet sand through my nipples. Man alive, no one told me how much breastfeeding can hurt. Still, I feel like we’ve conquered and won, our dream team of two.

A few months down the line, it happens again. Same boob, different duct. I know it’s not mastitis, and I carry out the same tried and tested course of treatment as before. Mouse feeds, oh she feeds until she’s sick. This blockage is a stubborn swine though, and before long I’m googling the shit out of it in desperation. I’m getting my hair cut at 3pm for the first time in years, and I’m not going to waste this opportunity for an hour to myself by discreetly nudging my boob under the plastic cape to see if it’s righted itself.

I scrabble together a 3-point “try this” list. First up, your standard massage with a warm flannel, sniffing your baby’s sleepsuit that you’ve not managed to get through the wash yet, and looking at photos of her on your phone. No cigar.

Second – a mercilessly hot shower and a wide toothed comb. Yep, I stood in the bathtub and COMBED my breast, starting under my armpit and moving in towards my nipple. I later told a friend about it and she stared at me blankly. “You did what?” she asked. “I combed my breast. It didn’t work.”

Third – try a variety of feeding positions. I select my stance, which the page politely refers to it as “kneeling downward facing dog”. In layman’s terms, this equates to doggy style. I lay Mouse on her playmat, apologise to her, and sort of flop onto my right shoulder so my arse is sticking in the air and my boob hangs vertically over her face like a suspended pink, lumpy pendulum. My husband walks in. “Bloody hell…is she alright down there? Is that legal?”

“Don’t speak to me. Can you bring me a digestive?”

I let out a low, sonic moan as something shifts in my breast and i have a letdown like a tidal wave. Poor Mouse can’t deal with it so I grab the nearest soft garment and milk myself until I have an empty, normal shaped boob. They say some kids remember being born. Fine with me, as long as she never remembers that morning on the playmat.

When people tell you that breastfeeding is easy, they’re usually trying to encourage you to keep going, rather than brag or preach. You have to work hard at establishing it of course, and that is no joke – it can feel like a lonely and painful place when your baby is naffing around at the nipple and neither of you can quite get the hang of it. But it is my absolute most favourite element of being a mummy and I know that once Moo self-weans, I’ll cry and wish that I could do every single night feed again, twice over. Mother Nature loves a tease though, so she does.

-SJW June 2016

Pink Pear Bear
My Random Musings
Diary of an imperfect mum


  1. June 27, 2016 / 2:11 pm

    Oh my word this brings back memories – not good ones! So so funny – thank you so much for the giggle – I needed that today! x

  2. June 27, 2016 / 9:58 pm

    Oh wow, this takes me back….we didn’t have an easy time either, in fact most of the time I felt like I was going mad! Thank you for making me smile though 🙂 #triballove

  3. Mummy Muckups (Anna)
    June 28, 2016 / 9:14 am

    I love your commitment to the digestive. I hated breastfeeding. Even 10 months in, it still made me nauseous, however, glad I lasted it out for both my babies. Not beer and skittles, that’s for sure. #chucklemums

  4. June 28, 2016 / 12:47 pm

    Breastfeeding is SO not easy. I got mastitis 6 weeks in during a heatwave and it was awful – plus blocked ducts. I’m 12 months in and plan to keep going until the Popple decides that she’s not into it anymore, though – as hard as it can be, there’s something so lovely and peaceful about a milk-drunk baby. #chucklemums

  5. June 28, 2016 / 12:49 pm

    This is brilliant! I did a breastfeeding post back when I started my blog and it basically had the same ending. Now he’s self weaned and I haven’t fed for a few weeks reading this actually made me nostalgic in a way…. Weird. Make me cry with laugther. A+ #chucklemums-ing

    • June 28, 2016 / 12:55 pm

      Aaah – yeah at the time it’s sodding annoying but I wouldn’t change it, not really. Self weaning is the ultimate goal as well although you feel like you’ve been kicked to the curb. First time around I wanted to do a nostalgic “goodbye” feed where I could just weep but she was having none of it. A mere business transaction for her, the cheek. Thank you for being a super doops #chucklemums host x

  6. June 28, 2016 / 2:47 pm

    The bit where you write ‘like sucking wet sand through my nipples!’ – well that’s spot on! I remember the engorgement and bullet breasts! And yes It defo felt lonely in the beginning, luckily my health visitor told me to try and ‘trust my breasts’ which was the best advice she could have given me. Funny honest post x #chucklemums

    • June 28, 2016 / 2:50 pm

      Thank you for reading! Boobs are magic, fact. The wet sand thing makes me grimace, highly unpleasant but a lovely cue for the magic boobs to make more. #chucklemums

  7. June 28, 2016 / 3:49 pm

    Oh my word! I have certainly never heard of combing! Great post, although I feel bad for laughing at your discomfort! Lucy xx #TribalLove

    • June 28, 2016 / 3:58 pm

      I aim to educate through my own misfortune, haha! Thank you for reading and commenting xx #TribalLove

  8. min1980
    June 28, 2016 / 5:24 pm

    Oh, high five to you from one who has been there. I had one blocked duct for a week and was googling all over the shop. No matter how much Piglet fed, it wasn’t budging. That was nine months in too, so it’s a myth that all the problems are at the beginning! #Chucklemums

    • June 28, 2016 / 5:48 pm

      Urgh how horrid for you as well! Yes, completely agree – “they” have you believe that after the first few months you’re home and dry, so to speak. Not so! Thank you for reading and commenting xx #chucklemums

  9. June 29, 2016 / 8:48 am

    Oh I really laughed at this. The combing, the positions (arse in air) just everything about it- because it’s so true! Though can’t say I’ve used a comb, but next time… #bloggerclubuk

    • June 29, 2016 / 9:41 am

      I hope you never need to use a comb, it was something of a low ebb! Thank you for reading and commenting xx #bloggerclubuk

  10. June 29, 2016 / 9:53 am

    Oh your poor boob! I can’t believe you combed it! I’m pretty glad that once the initial agonising weeks of nipple-splitting was over it was pretty easy. I wanted to carry on longer than we did but my milk dried up – stupid thyroid! #chucklemums

    • June 29, 2016 / 10:09 am

      Oh boo to boob-affecting thyroids ???? Yes, first time around I’d have to wince and curl my toes for the first minute of each feed, now my nips are tough as old boots, haha. Thank you for hosting #chucklemums ????

  11. June 29, 2016 / 10:26 am

    Oh no that sounds painful. Sorry I had to giggle a little at the playmat incident. Breastfeeding is natural but it’s not as easy as some people assume it will be. I had a couple of issues as well and boy did it hurt! It’s good to do what you did, read and just try different things till you find something that helps. Though I had to laugh at the combing description as well. Somehow it does make sense to me. #bigpinklink

    • June 29, 2016 / 11:30 am

      Definitely – it’s pitched as a bit of a walk in the park sometimes, but even after months and months you can be beset with problems. Thank you for commenting for #bigpinklink xx

  12. June 29, 2016 / 1:28 pm

    I cried with hysterics and sympathy at this post and think udders should be used more often..I couldn’t breastfeed for very long but shuddered at the wet sand through nipple description…I also tried to brush my boobs in the shower but I simpered to a soft bod brush rather than comb..your perseverance is bloody marvellous I think you need more than a digestive!!!Hehe….is that legal???…laughing again…#chucklemums xx

    • June 29, 2016 / 2:29 pm

      Aah thank you, reading that lovely comment really made me smile ???? it doesn’t matter that you couldn’t do it for as long as you’d hoped, even one feed from the udders is beneficial. Had a wet sand incident the other night with the baby but I think it was because I was wide awake blogging and so I left her there for much longer than necessary, haha. #chucklemums

  13. June 29, 2016 / 4:34 pm

    Oh god I am feeding the boy now and wincing!!!! You are such a trooper and warrior – how amazing to persevere. I never realised blocked ducts could come on that quickly, I assumed I would have some warning! I’m 7 months in and have been the luckiest person alive as not had anything go wrong yet. Hope I’ve not jinxed myself!! #BloggerClubUK

    • June 29, 2016 / 5:06 pm

      Oh fingers crossed for you and your bullet proof boobs!! Yeah, I always think mastitis is similar to flu at first but blocked ducts can literally whop in out of left field. Bloody painful. Consider this an education in comb use… #BloggerClubUK

  14. twotinyhands
    June 29, 2016 / 8:47 pm

    You’ve made me remember the early days now. Hitting the 12 month mark next week and we are still feeding strong! Not as much but still easy.. I had forgotten the engorged boobs, oops. in the shower milking myself because LO has slept through. The joys! #bloggerclubUK

    • June 29, 2016 / 9:09 pm

      Yay well done for your golden boobs! Make sure you do something just for you to celebrate, that’s fantastic. It’s not been AS bad second time around in terms of engorgement but I’ve found it harder in terms of not having as much time to enjoy lovely leisurely feeds, quite often I’m doing dinner or other chores with the poor baby hanging vertically off my boob. Poor neglected second child, haha. Thank you for reading and commenting for #BloggerClubUK xx

      • twotinyhands
        June 29, 2016 / 10:11 pm

        Oooo golden boobs. Someone told me to get the boob awards at the start but failed. You’ve just reminded me of this! ????

        • June 29, 2016 / 10:24 pm

          Absolutely! There’s a whole list somewhere. I can’t remember what the duration is but I’m sure there’s one called “rainbow glitter tassels” or something which sounds hilarious. What day is it next week and I’ll send you a humorous celebratory gif ????

          • twotinyhands
            June 29, 2016 / 10:58 pm

            Wednesday ????

  15. June 29, 2016 / 9:23 pm

    This is the best description of the things breastfeeding mothers go through I have ever read! I once was found by husband sitting with a nappy on my boob. Apparently it was better than a flannel because it held the heat of the water for longer (it worked!) I finally found the cure for blocked ducts – wear a blooming bra that fits you!! Thanks for making me giggle today #bloggerclubuk

    • June 29, 2016 / 10:22 pm

      Oh goodness the nappy thing sounds like utter genius! Or should that be udder genius (I’ll get my coat). I’ll remember that if things go peculiar while I’m feeding the baby, thank you ???? Glad you enjoyed reading and thank you for the lovely comment for #bloggerclubuk

  16. June 30, 2016 / 11:37 am

    this brings back so many memories for me, I used to liken it to having a wee when you really need to go out of your boob! #BloggerclubUK

    • June 30, 2016 / 11:46 am

      Yes!! Never thought of it like that but it’s spot on, haha. Thank you for reading and commenting ???? #bloggerclubuk

  17. June 30, 2016 / 5:13 pm

    Oh crumbs, this makes me wince with the memories and shudder with the impending dread of breastfeeding again. Yes I said dread. Yes I missed it a bit when E self weaned but I had a complicated relationship with it and was pretty ready for him to stop when he did. I’ve since made it part of my life as a breastfeeding volunteer BUT I don’t know if I’ve missed it enough or want it to be as big a part of my life again to do it all again…haha! I’m sure I’ll cope. Anyway lovely, funny, sweet and oh so painfully true post. xx

    • June 30, 2016 / 5:37 pm

      It can be love hate….brilliant that you’re a BF volunteer though because who knows, you might make 50 women love it even if you don’t, if that makes sense? God knows we need a few more advocates. Thank you for reading and commenting ???? xxx

  18. June 30, 2016 / 7:01 pm

    OMG, not quite sure why but half way through reading this I realised I had my thighs pressed together. Think it was tension, remembering that pain from my engorged udders… Thank you for linking up to #ablogginggoodtime ????

    • June 30, 2016 / 7:30 pm

      Hahahaha – I’m sorry it had that effect! How funny. I’m a teeth grinder when I think back to it, thigh squeezing is probably much healthier ???? thank you for reading and commenting for #ablogginggoodtime

  19. July 1, 2016 / 2:34 am

    Ugh, that sounds terrible! Little Miss and I have been blessed to have an uncomplicated breastfeeding journey thus far, but if we ever come up against blocked ducts, you’ve given me some great tips and some laughs to look back on!

    • July 1, 2016 / 4:06 am

      Ah I’m so pleased it’s gone well for you so far. At least you know that weird boob problems don’t have to mean the end of breastfeeding. Thank you for reading and commenting ???? xx

  20. July 1, 2016 / 11:32 am

    Breastfeeding is the hardest thing that you’re supposed to naturally be able to do. No amount of warning can prepare you for how hard it is. And painful. Well done to any Mum that manages it for even the briefest period. I lasted only 3 months and 1 bout of Mastitis, which was the most amount of pain I think I had ever been in before I succumbed to the lure of formula. I wish now I had tried for longer, but I’m probably forgetting my reasons for stopping in the first place. #chucklemums.

    • July 1, 2016 / 12:10 pm

      I really feel for you – it can’t have been an easy choice to make but I definitely think that one feed from the boob, even if that’s all you do, is better than nothing at all. I can completely yet how when you’re suffering with pain and also exhausted beyond compare, formula can preserve your sanity and give you the energy to get on and deal with motherhood. Thank you for reading and commenting with #chucklemums

  21. July 3, 2016 / 7:48 pm

    I never heard of combing your breast, but to be honest in that position anything is worth a go right? I’m currently feeding my 8 week old and have had a spot of mastitis. Managed to catch it in time and massage out the red bits before having to take the meds! Sounds like you dealt with with blockages perfectly. I stopped feeding my first at 5.5 months as I returned to work at 6 and logistically I couldn’t manage to continue to feed. So I am very impressed with your 21 months. Thanks for joining us at #Bloggerclubuk hope to see you again next week xx

    • July 3, 2016 / 7:50 pm

      Oh bless you – must have been horrid but at least you caught it and were on the ball. Funny old business isn’t it?! Thank you for hosting #BloggerclubUK ???? xx

  22. July 7, 2016 / 1:28 am

    Haha! Breastfed both of mine long term, wasn’t always easy…never combed my boob though, I have to admit! #ablogginggoodtime

    • July 7, 2016 / 2:54 am

      Well you’ve not lived, let me tell you ???? thank you for reading and commenting for #ablogginggoodtime xx

  23. November 23, 2016 / 7:16 am

    LOL … what a ‘funny’ take on blocked ducts; my blocked ducts posts won’t get the laughs yours elicit. My, my, do I remember that desperation to SHIFT those blocks. My first experience of them is a day I definitely don’t want to go back too … my husband had to rush home from work! Crazy how you’ll try anything and everything to get rid, isn’t it. And the doggy style is the dangling style for me; thank God for gravity … definitely a moment, I prefer my then baby not to remember.

    I feel your frustrations and desperation in the moment, fellow breastfeeder; but also the laughs in highsight. So pleased we made it through all that – says the woman about to start another breastfeeding journey with a twist 🙂

  24. November 25, 2016 / 5:14 am

    This made me laugh out loud! But also have been there! I remember getting plugged ducts a few times with my first, but faffed about with pumping which I think made it worse I have to say. Second time around has been a lot easier. Unfortunately she won’t take a bottle at all, but at least my boobs are doing well and no blockages! xx

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