Friday, January 8, 2010

Mastitis


At this point, breastfeeding is generally easy and enjoyable, and a nice time of one-on-one connection with Sweet Pea. It is good for her and my health and well-being, and has so many benefits. There are just a few drawbacks, compared to the many many positives. One thing I have always hoped to avoid in my breastfeeding experience is mastitis: the painful lump that leads to the fever, aches, chills, and fatigue is something to be avoided at all costs. I had my first experience with it this week, and it was every bit as bad as I imagined.

Mastitis usually starts as a lump in the breast, a clogged milk duct, and can progress to an intense illness very quickly. The clogged duct could be related to engorgement or not emptying the breast of milk often enough, or it could have no apparent cause. I have heard that mastitis is more common during cold and flu season and that it is usually related to over-stress on a mama's body. Well, Sweet Pea, Average, many members of my family that we were around over the holidays, and I have had a cold over the last weeks. Sweet Pea's cold hindered my sleep, and guests and traveling added a mental and physical strain. On Monday, my body gave me a big sign that it was time to slow down, way down. At noon I started to feel some pain on the left side of my left breast, at 1:00 I nursed and then pumped for good measure, took some vitamins and applied heat. By 3:00 I was experiencing body-shaking chills, muscle aches, and intensified pain in the large, deep, lump. I knew it was likely the onset of mastitis, and knew that I needed to rest and get some remedies and possibly get started on antibiotics as soon as possible. If mastitis is untreated, or doesn't respond to treatment, it can progress into an abscess. Unfortunately for me, I'd been missing my cell phone since Saturday night and we no longer have a home phone. I felt stranded alone with Average at work, and no way to call him. In a way, the Internet rescued me from this bad situation. I was able to find out what I needed to do online (from diaperswappers breastfeeding forum and kellymom.com), then reached a friend through facebook chat, she called Average, and he got online to chat with me. Another friend gave me the names of the homeopathic and herbal remedies she had used successfully to combat mastitis, and I passed the information back to Average again. He came home from work early, picked up Sweet Pea, and headed to the local natural store to pick up supplies while I lay in bed doing nothing. You know that crazy feeling when you're really sick where you can just lay there and not read or watch t.v. or sleep, and yet you don't feel bored at all? I was there. Out. Of. It. I was doing everything I had heard of that might help. I took vitamin C, grapefruit seed extract, raw garlic, Red Root tincture, and phytolacca homeopathic remedy. I massaged the area, nursed as much as possible, took a hot shower, and other than that just laid in bed, occasionally picking up a magazine. By 11:00 my fever (which only ever got to 101, not bad compared to some I've heard, but still not pleasant) broke and I felt a little more normal. I was more aware of what was going on, and the skin on my entire body was no longer painfully sensitive to touch. What a relief. The lump still hurt, and was still there, so I knew I wasn't totally out of the woods yet. I spent most of the next day on the couch, besides the time I spent heating food, feeding Sweet Pea, changing diapers, or bathing. The next day was even better and I threw in a load of laundry and logged some internet time. Today (Friday), I feel pretty much back to normal and have no more lump but I still feel like I want to be careful to get myself plenty of rest. I feel extremely grateful that I was able to avoid needing antibiotics and an expensive trip to the doctor. Luckily I knew what I was dealing with and was able to get what I needed quickly. Mastitis can come on quite suddenly, so all of us breastfeeding moms should be prepared to deal with it. The main advice that I got over and over was to REST REST REST to recover the most quickly. Hopefully this experience will help a reader or two to take steps to avoid a plugged duct, or at least recognize the signs to react quickly. Please share any other tips you have in comments!

6 comments:

  1. Rosie, I'm so sorry. Wish I could have been there to help. Glad you are doing better. I'll try to call you this weekend.
    mom

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  2. Wow! What an ordeal. I'm glad you were able to help your body heal and you are feeling better. Thank you for sharing.

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  3. so glad you're feeling better, rose. that sounds just awful. you say your skin was really sensitive- did that make nursing more painful? one of the things i found most challenging about nursing was that- that even if it hurts and sometimes because it hurts, the only way out is to nurse more often. moms sure do go through a lot. it is amazing how rest really does help the body heal.

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  4. So sorry to hear about this. I had never heard of mastitis - it sounds completely dreadful. Your experience just shows how important it is to keep yourself educated and informed! It sucks that it happened, but I'm glad to hear that you were able to recover quickly.

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  5. Thanks for the support, everyone! I am feeling fully recovered now. Sweet Pea's cold is much better too, so we are close to back to normal around here. Thank goodness!

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  6. I went through the same thing, only no fever, etc. It was larger than a golfball. My LC told me to hold an electric toothbrush or massager against the area which totally worked.

    I also had an internal breast yeast infection which was just as bad - avoiding all bread, sugar, fruits did the trick but made eating quite un-enjoyable!

    We nursing moms go through A LOT.

    Hope you stay well!

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