* Note: Always consult a doctor if you are concerned about mastitis *
Breastfeeding moms, have you heard of or experienced the dreaded M word?
That’s mastitis, if you’re wondering. I hate it with a vengeance and you probably do too. It always seems to strike at the most inconvenient times – on vacation, with a newborn while you’re trying to balance your milk supply, during the holidays, when you’re weaning, or out of the blue. Mastitis is truly a breastfeeding mama’s worst nightmare because not only does it throw a wrench in your feeding, it’s so painful and serious it can land you in the hospital!
As quoted by KellyMom – one of my favorite breastfeeding resources, “Per Maureen Minchin (Breastfeeding Matters, Chapter 6), mastitis is an inflammation of the breast that can be caused by obstruction, infection and/or allergy. The incidence of postpartum mastitis in Western women is 20%; mastitis is not nearly so common in countries where breastfeeding is the norm and frequent breastfeeding is typical. Mastitis is most common in the first 2-3 weeks, but can occur at any stage of lactation. Mastitis may come on abruptly, and usually affects only one breast.”
Mastitis is more than just a plugged duct and is often accompanied by red streaks on the breast. It usually escalates to a fever as a result of the infection and most moms describe flu-like symptoms. In most cases, antibiotics are needed to clear it up, but, if caught early I have personally found a combination of supplements and a few other tricks to help.
One of the biggest causes of mastitis is the improper removal of milk.That’s why it often occurs when moms get busy and inconsequently miss feedings. If you feel mastitis brewing, get your baby to breast and let them nurse as often as possible. We like to call it a nurse in – mama and baby in bed, snuggling, and focusing on emptying mama’s breasts.
Hot Water + Compresses
A warm bath or shower accompanied by deep breast massage can break up plugged ducts that lead to mastitis. While massaging, start way back up the armpit and firmly press forward, towards the nipple. Find the tender spots and gently apply pressure. I have also found Hot Hands hand warmers to be effective in alleviating pain and tender spots associated with mastitis.
Sometimes a too tight bra is the culprit because it applies undue pressure on the breast tissue. Stick with bras that have no underwire and when you can, simply nursing tanks.
During my last mastitis scare my midwife recommended a dose of echinacea, vitamin C, and lecithin. I took a combination fo these three supplements, three times day for three days and felt better after the first 24 hours!
Seems simple, but breastfeeding and hydration go hand-in-hand. Guzzle water when you’re nursing (and always really!) to help reduced plugged ducts.
To effectively aid in drawing milk out of plugged ducts, try dangle feeding where baby lays on their back and mom dangles over baby while they nurse. This puts gravity to work. I have also had great luck with positioning baby so their chin is pointed wherever the plugged duct is. The suction is greater wherever their chin is so move baby around – football hold, cradle, laying down and over your shoulder, parallel – so they can help you.
Have you had mastitis? What did you do to overcome this awful breastfeeding obstacle?