Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Dealing with Mastitis

For the breastfeeding mom, mastitis is a common infection that can hurt like the dickens and be quite discouraging if you don't nip it in the bud. Additionally, if not dealt with quickly, your nipples may crack and bleed, which only exacerbates the pain that was felt from the actual infection & inflammation.

With my first baby (born 9 years ago today!), he got out of the hospital on day 7 (he had been in the NICU w/ pneumonia), and I had mastitis from when he was 8 days old all the way past when he was one month old. It was horrible. I remember sitting down to nurse Ethan, and crying every time because the pain was so bad. It was near-constant pain, and the latch-on and nursing process only intensified it. I have had mastitis with every single baby we've had, but never as bad as with Ethan because I learned what helps and have worked very hard in subsequent times to nip it in the bud right away.

So if you're facing mastitis, I probably know what you're feeling. It hurts, and it's discouraging. But you can treat it and help it go away, and if you press through, you will reap the benefits of your own tenacity & endurance, and be able to go on to a successful breastfeeding relationship!

Let me share with you what helps me:
  • Use hot compresses-- just before, and just after nursing, for about 20 minutes each time. What I do for that is a near-scalding hot washcloth (shaked out in the air just for a second to make it uber-hot but not scalding), covered up with a hand towel immediately, on each side, and then a bath towel over both sides. The towels help to retain the heat of the washcloth. After you remove the compresses, let your breasts air dry before putting your bra or clothes on over them.
  • I always nurse first on the side that hurts most. And if there's a particular side that hurts more (like, if the underside hurts most and is red), I angle it so that the baby's tongue/bottom of their mouth is directly positioned on that part of the breast. So, I'll use the football hold, cross over hold, laying side by side, or whatever, to get them into the best position to stimulate the part that hurts most.
  • Ibuprofen & Tylenol, alternating round-the-clock.
  • Rest, rest, rest, and rest some more. Do as little as you possibly can besides nursing and sleeping. This one is perhaps the most important. Rest, wake up to nurse, rest, rest, rest, nurse some more, and repeat until the infection is gone.
  • Nurse slightly *more* often than you would normally do. Drain your breasts as completely as possible, and use your thumb to massage any hard lumps/spots to get the milk out.
  • DO NOT WEAR UNDERWIRE. This is often a trigger for mastitis, as it presses right on certain ducts and can perpetuate the problem. Wear a soft cotton nursing or sports bra.
  • If you are using nursing pads, change them often.
  • If fever persists for more than 24 hours, call your doctor, as you may require antibiotics. I wish I'd have known to do this with my first bout. It wouldn't have lasted near as long as it did if I had called my doc earlier than I did.

OK, that's my brain dump about what helps me when I deal with mastitis... I hope it helps you. Mastitis can be a discouraging development while breastfeeding, but treat it quickly, and persevere; you can still go on to enjoy a very successful breastfeeding relationship! Hang in there!

If you have had mastitis and have tips that can help other moms, please share your thoughts in the comments.

If you're wondering why I'm writing about this, no, I don't have mastitis now. I'm just trying to get these things out on "paper" while I still remember them. I know the day will likely come when I no longer have little ones and may not be able to remember all these particulars. So, I'm writing them out now, in hopes that it can help others.


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