A few months ago, I went to hell and back with the worst pain I’ve ever felt in my life. Like 25 times more painful than natural childbirth. When I left the story, I still had a penrose drain and gnarly black plastic stitches just an inch from where my baby latched on to nurse. It. Was. Rough. But it did get better and I wanted to give you and update on my “angry boob” and bout of mastitis.
After I was released I saw my surgeon a week later to check out the penrose drain and assess the healing. At that point it dripped breast milk constantly (4-6 overnight pads worth per day!!) but all signs of infection had seemed to clear. He said the drain would need to stay in until no more fluid was coming out, including breast milk. He told me I could continue to breastfeed if I wanted, so I continued to nurse on that side but it was uncomfortable so I lessened the sessions while my other breast took on all of the work. We only had to do a few bottles of formula during this time and Felix continued to gain weight, although slowly at that time.
I followed up with another appointment the next week with no change in my wound and the doctor would not give me a solid timeline for the leaking to stop. At that point I did a lot of research online and found other women who had the same procedure. I also emailed with world renowned breastfeeding doctor Jack Newman who was surprised that a) surgery was done on such a small abscess versus an aspiration and b) that he drain was still in.
I called my doctor to chat about the research and he told me I wouldn’t stop leaking breast milk until I weaned and he wouldn’t take out he drain until then.
I was incredibly upset. Upset doesn’t really acurately describe it. I was heartbroken. But i was also angry and felt like I had it in me to fight to make this work.
Then I decided to seek out more options.
I got in touch with the lactation consultants at our local support center, Bloomington Area Birth Services, and they did a lot more research for me and told me protocol for this would have been to remove the drain after 2-3 days. Breast milk is sometimes called white blood because it has incredible healing properties. Having it coat the wound was actually helping it heal, but the drain was preventing the wound from closing up. I made an appointment with a different surgeon for the following Monday, which was just shy of four weeks with the drain in. Four weeks with an open wound that dripped a steady flow of milk, up to an ounce an hour!!!
On the Sunday night before my appointment Felix got fussy while nursing and grabbed the drain and yanked it out. It was painless but I was in total shock! Was part of the drain still in there? (No). Would milk come gushing out? (Nope!) We called the emergency answering service and they said to just wait until my apt the next afternoon. Phew!
When my new doctor saw me she removed the stitches, said the area looked good and that is would heal up in five to seven days. The wound slowly closed and leaking stopped on day 10 after the drain came out. I was a little engorged on those ducts for a day and a half but my body adjusted and normal breast feeding resumed on that breast.
So the end result is that I followed my gut to get that drain out and we are exclusively breastfeeding. Those five weeks of a leaking wound were a challenge but I am glad I kept on. That drain could and should have come out sooner. I also believe my first surgeon told me I could continue to breastfed but probably didn’t think I had the tenacity to keep it up when I was told the would would leak for months.
I’m so grateful for the support I had during this whole ordeal, My sweet husband who made trip after trip to the store to buy every kind of pad under the sun to figure out what made for the best bandage. Who listened to my cry, who played nurse and helped me clean and cover the wound. Who did load after load of laundry when I soaked through my fifth bra and shirt of the day. To Emma, an LC in England who corresponded with me over email and reminded me that the worst was over and that I could do it, To my local LC, Ann Marie, who texted me day and night to find a solution and got on the phone with nurses all over town to get me into a new doctor (and fast). To my friends who came over just to sit on the couch with me and just listen. The support was everything. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.