Breastfeeding Part 2- Mastitis

In Part 1, I mentioned that I had a lot of problems with breastfeeding. It never came easy for me. I battled and fought to be able to keep it up, and I believe it was worth every second.

When Chloe was born, she was 9 pounds 2 ounces. I was struggling to produce enough milk for her, and I had to supplement formula for the first several weeks while my body tried to keep up. It killed me to do, but I also knew that it was for the best. I ended up in severe pain. I mean, cracked and bleeding severe pain. Then, I started running a 103 degree fever and every time I fed her it was excruciating. I literally would scream into a pillow while feeding her.

BREASTFEEDING part 2 mastitis
I went to the doctor and had to get checked for all kinds of infections. I had a really rough L&D with her, so they were being extra safe. I ended up having the beginning of mastitis. I did not yet have the read streaks on my skin, so my doctor wanted me to try and get rid of it naturally so that my milk supply would not be affected. I got rid of it, and it came back. Over and over and over again. She was a couple of months old when I asked her pediatrician if it was possible that she was tongue tied since nothing I did seemed to be working. My husband was tongue tied, so I knew that it was possible for my children to be as well. I learned all of that from the book I recommended in the previous post.

They had a lactation consultant on hand and there was a lot of “clicking” happening when Chloe would eat, so she wasn’t latching on properly. They checked her out, and sure enough, she was tongue died. They took a tiny pair of scissors and clipped her frenulum (the piece of tissue that holds your tongue to the floor of  your mouth). Once that was done, she started latching on like a champ and I was finally able to produce enough milk for her. I ended up with mastitis again when Addison was a newborn and needing an antibiotic for it. I was able to catch the symptoms of it early enough with Harper and prevented the progression of it.

Needless to say, I have a lot of experience with treating mastitis at home. Now, I am not a doctor. If you have concerns, always talk to your doctor and get their advice. I just want to share some things that worked best for me because I know many mamas deal with clogged ducts. If they remain clogged, that is how infection starts to set in. It will feel like you have the flu along with really terrible breast pain.

1. Nurse on the clogged side first. I know, it is painful. But, your baby will eat a little more aggressively on the first breast than the second. Your baby does a much better job at emptying your breasts than a pump will.  Feeding them on the affected side will do the most work at getting your milk ducts unclogged.

2. Heat If you put a warm washcloth, or even the breast therapy packs, it will cause your ducts to expand. This makes it easier for you to get rid of the clogged duct. I used to warm a pack up, and apply it to the clogged area during the feeding. The expanded ducts along with the baby eating is really, really effective. I would also use heat if I had to pump after a feeding.

3. Massage Any kind of touch with mastitis is painful. Unless you have experienced it, you will not truly understand just how painful it is. However, massaging where the clogged duct is will also help to loosen it up. This is especially helpful when you are applying heat and feeding/pumping at the same time.

4. Warm Showers Are you noticing a heat theme here? The water directly hitting your skin will be painful. I would place one or two washcloths over my chest and let the warm (or hot) water hit directly on them. This is where I combined it all. I would massage the clogged ducts while the hot water was hitting the washcloths, and hand express some milk. (Tylenol also came in very handy when dealing with all of the pain from the feedings/massages/mastitis.)

5. Pump after feeding Like I said before, your baby will do the best job at emptying your breast. If the clogged ducts are bad enough, you may need to pump after feeding to try and empty your breasts completely. Applying heat and massaging during pumping always helps as well. If your baby is sleeping through the night, you may want to set an alarm and try to pump in the middle of the night. Waking up when you don’t “have” to is miserable. However, waking up engorged with clogged ducts is far worse. Just take my word and don’t experience it for yourself! 😉

6. Rest I know “sleep when the baby sleeps” is the most annoying advice ever. But, your body will need rest. Listen to it. Rest as much as you can while you recover. I had a toddler and newborn at one point with mastitis, and it was so difficult. I would sit on the couch as much as I could in between feedings, meals, and diaper changes. Thankfully, I had some freezer meals that my wonderful mama made that I was able to heat up. My husband would do the dishes and take over toddler duty when he got off of work. Rest is so important to recovering from anything.

There was a time when I was so “torn up” (my doctor’s words) that I was told to exclusively pump and bottle feed her so that I could heal. She later told me that just looking at my body made her hurt because she had never seen someone in such bad shape from breastfeeding. If you are in a similar shape, the scabs that form (I know, gross) can also block the flow of milk when your baby is eating. I would have to take a warm damp cloth and gently rub the scabs away during a shower.

I do not want to scare any woman away from breastfeeding. My experience was NOT at all typical. There will be pain in the beginning as your body is adjusting, but that goes away after two weeks usually. I wish that I had been able to find someone who had a similar experience as me. A support system is KEY to successfully breastfeeding your baby. I was really blessed in having my husband supporting me. He knew how important it was to me, and kept encouraging me while most everyone else kept telling me to just quit.

It is okay to quit if you feel you need to. There is NO shame in that either. I hate mom-shaming. We are all doing the best that we can for our babies. If breastfeeding is just so hard and not really worth it to you, then don’t torture yourself. You may end up resenting that sweet baby and not enjoying those precious days. If it is important to you- keep fighting. I would love to support and encourage you if you need it!! I am grateful for all that I went through because I have been able to help many other mamas dealing with similar experiences.

Have any of you ever dealt with mastitis? Do you have any other tips to give?

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