What To Do When You Have Mastitis And Are Trying To Breastfeed
After struggling with subfertility, I did not realize that there was much more to come around the pregnancy and childbirth corner. I did not foresee myself trying to overcome mastitis while breastfeeding two weeks after my son was born. If you have ever experienced mastitis or even a clogged milk duct, you know all too well about how painful these situations can be. At the end of my post, I discuss 7 Mastitis Must-Haves to help get you through this painful ordeal.
Mastitis happens when a milk duct becomes clogged. When fluids become at a standstill in your body, there is a huge risk for infection. A bacterial infection is often the result, which will need antibiotics for healing.
Waking up with a rock-hard, mastitis boob two weeks into nursing.
For me, mastitis came on fast and furious. I was two weeks into nursing. I was already having over-production issues, which I believe is a mess that I created. After Theo would eat, I would then pump. Every. Single. Time. I THINK one of the lactation consultants in the hospital might have told me to pump after nursing one time, and I interpreted that into after every time. My body had no idea that I was only feeding one baby. It surely thought I had a whole baby army to feed. I had over production issues the entire 11 months that I nursed, and I constantly looked like this.
Full on engorgement all the time. This lead to mastitis
It looks as bad as it felt!
So two weeks into nursing, I woke up in the middle of the night with a 103.5F fever. I was shaking uncontrollably, and sweating like I've never sweat before, and my right boob was fire hot. I was 100% sure that I had bacterial meningitis from the epidural, because, why not? It was a rare condition that I had read about while pregnant that stuck with me (much like anything horrifying does!) And of course, I was sure that I had it.
I called triage and left a message for the on-call doctor. I got a callback and began to scream that "I HAVE SPINAL MENINGITIS"! He calmly asked me to explain my symptoms. Then he said, "It's probably mastitis. Take a Motrin, and if the fever doesn't break by the morning, call again". I had never heard of "said" mastitis, so onto google I went again. Wow! This sounded terrible!
That night was the start of a four-day unclog-the-duct battle. I took that Motrin and woke up fever free. We had newborn photos that day. I did not want to cancel, so off we went. They turned out pretty good, despite the fact that I felt like death!
Pressing through a newborn session with mastitis
Later in the day, the fever crept back, so I needed to take more Motrin. By the evening time, the fever was a full 103.5F again.
The mastitis boob? Well, it was worthless. It was hard as granite. Seriously, rock hard. It was bright red and hot to the touch as well. And, hardly any milk was coming out. It was completely backed up! I got on the phone with a lactation consultant, and she suggested cabbage and hot showers before feedings.
Red Cabbage on the affected breast can help soothe pain and swelling
Red or green, I thought?! The hubs picked up red. I wore cold cabbage on the affected boob for three days. Apparently, the cabbage leaves have anti-inflammatory properties that are supposed to help alleviate all that mastitis brings on. The lactation consultant had also told me to keep feeding my son from the affected boob. What?! How is this even possible? I have this hot, useless bowling ball on my chest and I am supposed to feed my newborn son who BARELY knows how to eat as-is?!
What a nightmare. We pressed on. Somehow, he was occasionally able to eat from the mastitis boob. Since he was eating 8 times per day, this required 8 hot showers per day before each feeding. I kept thinking to myself, "what mom is ever able to survive breastfeeding?!" This was a nightmare.
On day four, the duct became unclogged. I cannot tell you what a relief it is to have a duct finally become unclogged. On that same day, I finally got into the doctor and was prescribed antibiotics. Within a week, things were back to normal. I had survived mastitis, and did not die. And some how, I was able to continue breastfeeding.
Finally, back to normal after surviving mastitis
I now understand why some moms breastfeed until their kid is headed off to kindergarten. It is so incredibly difficult to do, that once you get into a routine MONTHS later, you might as well stick with it!
7 Mastitis Must-Haves: These products will help to soothe as you work your way out of your mastitis-state:
1) Earth Mama Angel Baby Nipple Butter: This was my favorite nipple butter to have on hand. After trying to feed out of the affected breast, this butter provided relief for me in between feedings.
2) 3 in 1 Hot/Cold Lansinoh Breast Therapy: These therapy packs would have been key to have on hand. Instead, I used frozen diapers after feedings. These therapy packs are designed for sore breasts and would have been a lot easier to use than a bulky frozen diaper.
3) Lovies: These breast packs are filled with golden flax seed. The flax seeds have a high oil content, which allows the seeds to hold heat longer than other fillers used in breast pads. These packs are great for mastitis, clogged milk ducts, and other breastfeeding pains.
4) Rachel's Remedy Breastfeeding Relief: 100% cotton, waterproof, flaxseed-containing mini pillows. These pads can help to relieve symptoms associated with mastitis, breast engorgements, and clogged ducts. I am loving all of these flax-containing products!
5) Boob-Ease by Bamboobies: These are flax-filled therapeutic pillows that are also sustainable and fair trade. You can microwave them to keep them warm and freeze them for cool therapy. They also come with super cute heart-shaped nursing pads!
6) Ameda ComfortGel Hydrogel Pads: These gel pads worked wonders for me when it came to soothing in between nursing sessions. You can place them in the refrigerator and then apply them to your nipples in between feedings. My lactation consultant is the one who turned me on to these and I just loved them!
7) Soft Frech Terry Nursing Bras (to hold all of your therapeutic pads in place!): I am a firm believer that you need at least 10 nursing bras in a rotation while breastfeeding. I promise you, it doesn't take long before you need a fresh bra when you are nursing around the clock!
MBA, Master's of Human Nutrition, and Mom. Stephanie's subfertility journey has lead to the greatest adventure of her life - Motherhood. In addition to working full time, she chronicles her experiences of pregnancy and parenthood, and also shares nutritious recipes that are easy to prepare for busy families on the go. Feel free to send a message to Stephanie, as she loves to hear from her readers!