When I was on maternity leave with my second baby, I started using those disposable breast pads in my bras. I had never used them the first time around.
But since the hospital gave me this big box of them for free, I figured, why not? Because I really loved waking up at night in a puddle from just leaking everywhere–NOT.
They helped, which was great, but then they would be sopping wet sometimes when I would wake up to nurse. Well, I think they were the cause of a terrible flare up I had shortly thereafter, because I wasn’t changing them often enough. Care(dot)com recently interviewed me for an article about it. I’ve got it pictured here for you:
Because I had read and read a million things about breastfeeding, I didn’t have to confirm what I already knew. But I did, checking my temperature when I realized that my baby’s face felt cold against mine, instead of the other way around–big sign of a fever. I had a mastitis breast infection.
Mastitis Breast Infection
When you’re breastfeeding within the first few months after your delivery, have zero sleep and energy, you are more likely to get a breast infection. Common bacteria normally only found outside of the body can enter in through your nipple, possibly from your baby’s mouth, or cracks that may have formed on your nipple. These infect your breast tissue and it’s like having the flu at an even more terrible time when you can’t rest much.
Up to 10% of breastfeeding mothers get it, but it’s more likely to happen with your first baby. So naive me, I was thinking I would never get it because I never had it before. But I knew that at least one thing had changed this time, those breast pads. I must not have changed them often enough and wasn’t letting my breasts breathe as much, which is important.
How Do I Know I Have Mastitis?
I actually had pain and a super tender breast the entire day before I even had my fever pop up. And it was just on the one side, which is usually how it happens. I just figured, well, hormones are fluctuating, I’m recovering, I’m bound to be tender here and there. So I was going to just keep an eye on it–but I kept nursing.
Then the high fever (thank you immune system that’s finally coming back) got me paying more attention. So I looked in the mirror and saw red streaks across my breast, then just groaned….It was 2 am on a Sunday and I’d have to go to a walk-in clinic in the morning.
So you’ll know fairly quickly of you have any of the following symptoms:
- red streaks or patterns on your breast
- high fever
- suspicious lumps
- abnormal discharge
If any of these symptoms are extreme or don’t clear up within a few days, an antibiotic will solve the problem within 48 hours. But I had done a lot of reading…..I knew that if it didn’t get better soon, I could have abscesses that could lead to worse problems, maybe even requiring minor surgery to drain the fluid.
Since this was my breast that already had a tougher time producing milk than my other, I didn’t want things to get worse and take the chance of possibly losing a lot of ability to nurse on that breast. So I went to the doctor and took the entire antibiotic treatment in this case. My baby already had been exposed to my microbiome, and believed it was the best thing for more at this time.
What To Do About It
There are the antibiotics, basically. You don’t necessarily need the antibiotics either. Many mothers simply treat their pain and recover just as quickly. But a few other things help to provide relief:
- ibuprofen for swelling and pain (safe to take now that you’re no longer pregnant)
- warm compress before nursing
- cold compress if needed at other times
- drink plenty of water, especially during breastfeeding
- KEEP breastfeeding–even on the infected breast
- completely empty your breasts each time, pumping afterwards if needed
- massage your breasts from the side down to the nipple before and during breastfeeding
- let your breasts breathe, be open to the air and as dry as possible
- clean or change your reusable breast pads often
- wear loose bras or none at all
The MOST important thing to do is continue breastfeeding your baby. They are already exposed to the bacteria infecting your breast and will not gain any infection from it. Draining your infected breast is the main way to get rid of the built up infection whether if it’s from a blocked milk duct or not. Plus, it allows for fresh antibodies in your immune system to be made in the fresh milk that will come after nursing. So DO NOT stop breastfeeding or you’re doing yourself a major disservice.
Hopefully, you won’t ever experience it like I did. And I sure am going to do all I can to not get it this time around by keeping up on my own probiotics, getting enough rest, and keeping my breasts empty and dry when possible.
I love nursing my newborns! It’s such a wonderful feeling. But doing it through a mastitis infection–NO Thank You. Have you ever had mastitis?