Breast Abscess – the bad, the nasty, and the painful

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Warning: this post contains moderately graphic medical pictures. Queasy stomachs should scroll past the images

November 25th, 2015, 7pm. I’m shivering and sweating. I was 10 days postpartum and unaware of what was festering in my left boob. Rule/Lesson – don’t forget to pack your nursing bra in your hospital bag! If you do, make someone bring it! Don’t let your nips get chaffed and cracked from the combo of a rough hospital gown and your bundle of joy using them as a chew toy (before you know how to correct their latch). Don’t let a horrible abscess grow and get all kinds of nasty before it’s too late. Every new mom that wants to breastfeed needs a friend that knows how hard breastfeeding is. They need someone that will drop what they are doing to come help you.

My sweet baby just tore me up and I didn’t know that it wasn’t normal. I didn’t know that breastfeeding wasn’t supposed to hurt that much. I didn’t know how to heal raw nips correctly.

You don’t just put the cream on and cover those puppies back up with your bra. They need to dry. They need air. I stopped using lanolin cream. Wish I had never started using it.

Your nips can’t heal when they stay all moist and clammy. The nipple shields are just as bad. How can a baby effectively latch onto that? I tried it once and I screamed when she latched because it hurt twice as bad as without it.

Use breast shells!! They are the hard plastic pieces that allow air to your nipples and heal them.

These breast shells allow air to heal sore, cracked, and chapped nipples.

So I pumped and fed slightly pink milk until November 25, 2011. That day I learned about a little thing called mastitis. I went to the doc to get antibiotics but never was able to get the knots out.

Have mastitis? Learn about how to get rid of it fast here.

Fast forward to December 23, 2011. I’m in the emergency waiting room rocking forward and back selfishly hoping the lady with cancer doesn’t get called before me. I had to tune everything out. The husband kept trying to help me but I told him to just listen for my name to be called because in my head I’m on a beach with a margarita and boobs that do not feel like a million hot needles being poked into them. That pain was worse than labor. Or so I thought…

It was almost angelic to hear my name from the ER nurse. I undressed and the nurse circled the red infected area with a purple marker. Then, I almost passed out from the pain from the sonogram wand. A puss-filled abscess had set up camp in my red and swollen boob.  A humongous needle was then plunged into lefty (what I grudgingly called my diseased boob) to extract the nasty puss. I was given pain meds, 2 kinds of antibiotics, and ordered to pump and dump until the biopsy came back.

see that awesome bump?

that was my nasty abscess

I saw a breast surgeon four days later. She aspirated lefty to draw 20cc’s of a pink puss/milk combo. The good news was the biopsy came back negative (for some disease I can’t remember the name of) and I could nurse my sweet baby again. I nursed her on the right side and strategically placed a pillow between lefty and her rapidly moving hands and legs. Lefty was in no shape to be any source of nourishment nor be kicked by tiny feet.

Three days later, I returned to the breast surgeon and another 20cc’s of pink nastiness was taken from lefty. The aspirations weren’t working so she very painfully placed a drain in with a suction bulb.

For four days I emptied the bulb and recorded the cc’s it drained. The redness and swelling inside the purple marker had receded and I thought I was in the clear. Until it came back.

Two days after the drain was removed I was sliced open. I have different sized ta-tas because of this slice. Lefty will always be smaller. With my second child, I never ever was able to pump near the amount of milk as the right.

So, back to the slice. It hurt as bad as the hoo-ha tearing of labor. She placed gauze in the sliced open flesh told me to replace it with clean gauze every day. There was no way I’d be doing this on my own. Luckily, my mom is a nurse and came over every day to replace the gauze.

I took a codone and then a refreshing shower. I let the warm water wash the previous gauze out of the wound and plop onto the shower floor. Then came the re-stuffing of the wound. I should’ve won an Oscar for best actress in a Western. My performance was perfect. I bit that washcloth and looked away as though some sweaty, shaking, old doctor was retrieving a bullet from my shoulder.

I had a follow up a week later and all was looking good. No more gauze and just a Band-Aid were doc’s orders. I had one more follow up visit. This was the most painful of them all.

You would think a needle plunged into your boob or being sliced open ½ inch into soft flesh would be painful enough. I entered a whole new realm of pain when the 2nd layer of my skin was chemically burned down so that my top layer of skin could grow over it correctly. I hope I never see a silver nitrate stick close to my body ever again. This was thankfully the end of my breast surgeon visits.

chemically burned breast abscess
what it looks like to be chemically burned

Hindsight, should’ve I just let her stop my milk as she strongly suggested in the first appointment? I don’t know. It was my first kid and I wanted attempt to do the natural thing and breastfeed my kid. I’m stubborn and don’t give up on things easily. Sadly, because of the swelling and pain, I couldn’t fit the pump on lefty and I slacked off when I should’ve pumping righty. My supply never came back. If I had only known how to increase supply with my first kid, as I did with my second kid, I would’ve had a much better nursing experience post-abscess. See my other post how to increase supply

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