Breastfeeding may seem straightforward, but from chapped nipples to stubborn babies who refuse to latch on, it comes with a list of possible difficulties and complications — some of which can be quite serious.
In April 2020, new mom Tyler-Marie Oates was visiting her parents' home when she began developing flu-like symptoms. Initially, she shrugged it off, assuming the fatigue came from all the challenges of having a newborn. However, when her fever skyrocketed to 103.8 degrees and the body aches, chills, and headache started pounding, she went to a hospital.
A sneaking suspicion set in, and difficulties pumping led her to believe she had mastitis, an inflammation in the breast due to infection, which she recorded on her emergency room admissions paperwork.
Unfortunately for Tyler-Marie, she was early in the development of her clogged milk duct, and her breast had not yet become swollen or red. So, doctors ran blood work, two CT scans, two MRIs of her spine to check for possible complications with her previous epidural, and a COVID test. Everything came back negative and, as this was the early days of the pandemic, her COVID test results would need another day to process. So, seeing no reason to believe her intuition, doctors moved the three-week postpartum mother to the COVID unit for the night.
Now under the care of the postpartum doctors, Tyler-Marie pumped her breast for three days in an effort to suck out the infection. Then, she was allowed to go home...but she came back two days later, septic again.
At this point, doctors agreed that she would either need to pump the clots out of her body or undergo surgery. "I was already away from my daughter for almost [a week] and was determined to get back to her. So, I took pain meds and with the help of my boyfriend and the amazing lactation nurses there, I pumped and got it out," she said.
Tyler-Marie passed between 10 and 15 clots ranging in different sizes, shapes, and colors. She took a video of one, and over 9.5 million people watched with large eyes as the clip circulated TikTok.
"How the HELL is THAT supposed to come out?" the most-liked comment reads. Tyler-Marie's answer? Painfully.
"It was not pleasant by any means and would honestly burn on their way out," she admitted. "The clot came out of my nipple. It squeezes its way out, and yes its extremely painful, but I was on medicine, which helped me get through it. I also dangle pumped and used gravity to help pull the clots out along with a lot of pushing with my hands and fist. When the clots would come out, they would be a little thicker than a shoelace string while exiting and in the bottle would form together to make the slime-like ball in the video."
After fully recovering, the 28-year-old was told she could go back to breastfeeding, but ultimately decided not to. "When something like that almost kills you and takes you from your baby, you have a fear of ever doing it again," she said. "It took me about two weeks to completely dry up, but it was the best decision for me. 'FED IS BEST' is what one of my lactation nurses told me, and I stick to that. My child is healthy, happy, and thriving."
Now, Tyler-Marie is urging womxn to trust their bodies when something doesn't feel quite right. "I think women should know this can happen to them and when they think something is wrong, listen to your body," she concluded. "After you have a baby, you normally meet with a lactation specialist [but mine] never [told me] the risks and complications you can have while breastfeeding."
If you'd like to keep up with Tyler-Marie, you can follow her on TikTok.