Uncloggin’ Me Boob – Mastitis

I was one of the lucky ones, a mommy who had a wonderful breastfeeding experience. Copiloo was exclusively breastfed for six months until I went back to work (it was a miracle that he accepted the bottle the day before my maternity leave ended), then I nursed morning and evening and pumped three times a day at work. I introduced cow’s milk when he turned one, only because I was having some milk supply issues and I was too tired to fight to bring the levels back. It only took a few days before he started liking cow’s milk. He’s 14 months now and we still nurse morning and evening, and supplement the rest.

So, you can understand my frustration when I got hit with a breast infection on the last leg. Plus, it was a weekend, which made matters worse as I had a to-do list long like the Great Wall of China.

According to Mayo Clinic,

Mastitis is an infection of the breast tissue that results in breast pain, swelling, warmth and redness of the breast. If you have mastitis, you might also experience fever and chills. Mastitis most commonly affects women who are breast-feeding (lactation mastitis), although sometimes this condition can occur in women who aren’t breast-feeding.

In most cases, lactation mastitis occurs within the first three months after giving birth (postpartum), but it can happen later during breast-feeding. The condition can leave you feeling exhausted and run-down, making it difficult to care for your baby.

Sometimes mastitis leads a mother to wean her baby before she intends to. But you can continue breast-feeding while you have mastitis.”

SITUATION

On Saturday we had a birthday party to attend. I wanted to make sure I breastfed before leaving, not so much so Copiloo ate or to empty my breast for my own comfort, but milk production is meh! in the evening and I wanted to protect whatever supply I still have. We were nothing less than a cartoon: I was dressed up to the waist, topless, chasing the kid in his playroom to breastfeed him. He would stop from his sprints, suckle for 15 seconds, then take off again. I only had so much time assigned to this task, so unfortunately we did a poor job at emptying one of the breasts.

SYMPTOMS & CAUSE

The next morning I woke up with a bruise-like pain on my left breast, so I assumed Copiloo has punched me during the night, as he usually does while climbing over me. A couple of hours later fatigue and malaise took over my body and I ended up napping alongside Copiloo (which I never do – cannot sleep during the day if it saved my life!). Upon waking up from the nap, I realized that the breast was much more sore than earlier and I had also developed fever; my self-diagnosis called mastitis.

According to Mayo Clinic, mastitis symptoms include

  • “Breast tenderness or warmth to the touch
  • Generally feeling ill (malaise)
  • Swelling of the breast
  • Pain or a burning sensation continuously or while breast-feeding
  • Skin redness, often in a wedge-shaped pattern
  • Fever of 101 F (38.3 C) or greater

Although mastitis usually occurs in the first several weeks of breast-feeding, it can happen anytime during breast-feeding. Lactation mastitis tends to affect only one breast — not both breasts.”

What happened was that Saturday’s poor breastfeeding session caused one of the milk ducts to become clogged, which in turn caused milk to back up leading to an infection. I was a vegetable that day; Hubbyloo had to step in and cover the night routine (this is a whole other story!) while I was crying my eyes out at the discomfort I was in.

According to Mayo Clinic, mastitis is caused by

  • “A blocked milk duct. If a breast doesn’t completely empty at feedings, one of your milk ducts can become clogged, causing milk to back up, which leads to breast infection.
  • Bacteria entering your breast. Bacteria from your skin’s surface and baby’s mouth can enter the milk ducts through a break or crack in the skin of your nipple or through a milk duct opening. Bacteria can multiply, leading to infection. These germs aren’t harmful to your baby — everyone has them. They just don’t belong in your breast tissues.”

TREATMENT

I refused to go to the ER or Urgent Care (I was in such a bad shape that Hubbyloo suggested it, that’s the least he could do) saying that I would wait until the next morning to see a doctor. I did however apply heat and pump a lot and nurse that day. I would take a bath before pumping and leave the hot (hot!) water flow over my breast while massaging it. The first time I pumped I (over)did it for about 40 minutes although they say you should do it for 15 minutes every couple of hours. The fear is that your nipples would get sore; mine didn’t so I pumped and pumped and pumped until I collected… 0.5 oz of milk. The breast was almost empty, and whatever was in there did not want to come out. I was in such pain. Also, I hate taking pills, so I refused any Tylenol (which would help with pain and fever) and Advil until the evening, after I breastfed for the night.

Although I have weaned Copiloo off the nightly feedings, I did allow him to suckle on the bad boob hoping that would clear the clogs. It did not, at least not right away.

The next day I felt much better; flu-like-symptoms gone, just the local pain to deal with. I did however want to see a doctor for a prescription, as I did not want to mess with an untreated infection in my body. That’s how I entered a game of Dodge Ball. I was the ball. My OBGYN was telling me I have to call the pediatrician. The pediatrician said I had to call the OBGYN. The OBGYN said I had to call the pediatrician or my family doctor. I do not have a family doctor and the pediatrician said the OBGYN should see me. The OBGYN said I should go to Urgent Care. Ay-ay-ay! I said, and I called a doctor friend of mine who called in an antibiotics prescription for me.

Before I even started taking the meds, Copiloo had managed to unclog the problematic duct. I could feel it when it happened; it was that needles and pins feeling most describe, and I could also kind of feel something being pulled in there. The next morning all pain was gone. Still taking the antibiotics just to be safe. I was prescribed Dicloxacillin.

Happy Nursing!

Happy Nursing!

For more information on mastitis, visit

Management of Mastitis in Breastfeeding Women, by JP Spencer, MD

Plugged Ducts and Mastitis, on KellyMom.com

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