What I learned the hard way about mastitis—by Cullen

Just one month after the birth of my baby, I began experiencing breast tenderness, but was mostly concerned with why I suddenly had a piercing headache and was feeling feverish. I was experiencing tenderness of the breast but was mostly concerned with why I suddenly had a piercing headache and was feeling feverish. I had a one month old to care for and my husband was gone for the week working — I couldn’t afford to get sick. I took Ibuprofen but the symptoms progressed quickly. I caught my reflection in the mirror getting into the shower and was surprised to see my breast so swollen and red. I felt it and realized the skin was extremely hot to touch. I decided then to go to urgent care, but by the time I was seen, my entire body ached, I felt so weak and had zero appetite. I was curled up into a ball with the baby in the stroller and I didn’t know how I was going to get through this.

The doctor confirmed mastitis, another name for a breast infection or an obstructed flow of milk in the duct. He explained different ways it can come about and pinpointed this particular instance was most likely from engorged breasts and an oversupply of milk. I was prescribed antibiotics and told to continue taking ibuprofen. I was also instructed to continue nursing, and even pumping after nursing, as much as possible until the breast was completely emptied. Not long after taking the prescription I felt some relief but spent the next two days in bed resting, nursing/pumping non-stop, and sleeping as much as possible.

I unfortunately got mastitis again about five months later, only this time due to a bad latch. As soon as I began recognizing the symptoms again I sought medical attention right away. Mastitis hits fast and hard — the sooner you’re treated for it the better.

Here’s what I learned about mastitis the hard way:

– Overfull/engorged breasts or a bad latch can lead to a plugged duct or mastitis.

– It’s most common in the first few weeks of breastfeeding, although it can happen at any point in lactation, usually affecting just one breast. It can also come on very suddenly.

– You need to continue to breastfeed, pump, or hand express through the discomfort of mastitis. Expressed milk may look strange but is still safe for your child to consume.

– Avoid tight fitting bras (ie sports bras) and shirts in the first few months of breastfeeding to avoid pressure on the milk ducts.

– Non-infectious mastitis (no fever present) can be recognized and treated at home if managed properly without taking antibiotics.

– You are more prone to getting mastitis again if you’ve had it before.

Symptoms you may experience:

    – Tenderness, hot to touch, and redness of skin in infected area

    – Headache

    – Body aches

    – Painful nursing, especially during let downFaintness

    – Fever

    – Exhaustion

    – Loss of appetite

If you recognize these symptoms call your doctor and consider some of these preventive measures:

    – Drink plenty of water

    – Take ibuprofen

    – Up your intake of vitamin C and consider taking probiotics or lecithin if you’re getting reoccurring infections

    – Get plenty of sleep and consume nutritious foods to help strengthen immune system

    – Apply a hot compress and massage tender area

    – Take the handle of an electric toothbrush and hold it to the infected area to help “loosen” the clog

An additional resource I found helpful on the topic of mastitis:


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