Would you believe I had mastitis 5 TIMES in the 13 months that my son nursed? Unfortunately I became all to familiar with the signs, cause and treatment of this type of breast infection.
Mastitis in an infection in your breast caused by a few things but most commonly clogged ducts and milk staying in for too long (aka- glands not getting empty due to either a clog or lack of nursing/pumping). It can also be caused by cracked nipples which is a whole other OUCH in itself!
Symptoms include swelling of the breast, red spotting or streaking, burning sensation in breast (kind of hot lava running through your milk glands), chills, fever, fatigue and a general sense that death is upon you. I was really bad about recognizing the signs early in my nursing career because I already had swelling thanks to engorgement, was tired thanks to sleepless nights and my breasts hate me and clogged all the time. It wasn’t until I was at the “I’m going to die from an infection in my freaking boob” stage that I realized I was sick the first few times.
Generally I am not a natural remedy kind of Mom but there a few options for you out there if you aren’t into antibiotics. Mastitis can be serious so if natural remedies aren’t working for you, you should put a call into your doc ASAP. I personally called my doctor within 5 hours of having a fever and chills (once I put two and two together) but the last few times I had it I knew even before I started running a fever to call and start antibiotics. Tylenol also helps with the pain…a little.
Other than medicine, a few other things to help ease the pain/get rid of the infection are: nurse, nurse nurse! Always start on the infected side. It will hurt unlike anything that’s ever hurt before but baby does a better job of drawing out the milk than a pump and it’s important to try and keep that side empty. Take warm showers and massage if you have a clog, put cold/warm wash cloths on your breast while you nurse (whatever feels better to you). Rest is also key, try to get help with the baby or older siblings while you are sick. Don’t let anyone tell you it’s “just a breast infection”. You have the FLU in your BOOB.
There are several VERY easy ways to prevent mastitis- the first is just to keep nursing and don’t skip feedings (if you need to be away from baby…just pump, pump it up!). If you get a clog, work it out as soon as possible. I always had success with taking a hot shower and massaging the area then immediately after nursing or pumping. Gravity helps so if you can lean over baby or lean over to pump, even better (I call this the spider man technique).
You can also take lecithin to prevent clogged ducts. It’s fairly inexpensive and works like a charm! Per Kellymom.com I took 1 pill 3 times day but I’ve read that some Moms had success with as low as 1-2 pills a day.
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Mastitis is such a nightmare! For me I was sick for at least 24 hours when I was on top of it, 48 hours when I waited for medication. If you suspect mastitis contact your doctor asap! Even if that means at 3am, which was seriously ALL 5 times for me. Figures!