I’ve mentioned before (here and here) that after I had Edith I was really unlucky and developed Mastitis, 10 days post partum. This wasn’t something that I had any experience with, I never had it with Toby and it certainly wasn’t an issue with Reuben (who was bottle fed due to complications).
“Mastitis is a condition that causes a woman’s breast tissue to become painful and inflamed, it’s usually happens within the first three months of breastfeeding and can be caused by missed feeds, poor latch or problems sucking.
Symptoms of mastitis can include:
- a red, swollen area on your breast that may feel hot and painful to touch
- a breast lump or area of hardness on your breast
- a burning pain in your breast that may be continuous, or may only occur when you are breastfeeding
- nipple discharge, which may be white or contain streaks of blood
You may also experience flu-like symptoms, such as aches, a high temperature (fever), chills and tiredness.” – taken from www.NHS.uk
Just to be clear, I’m no doctor or midwife so this post certainly isn’t about any medical side of dealing with mastitis, but rather what I did to cope and manage the pain and complications that go with it, AFTER I had been to the doctor and got myself some antibiotics.
Yes, I know, this drove me to distraction too! I was so frustrated with everybody keep telling me to rest, I just wanted to scream. Unfortunately, the truth is: you have to rest. You have to. Like it or not, mastitis is one of those things (not unlike flu) that will not improve if you don’t rest. So just do it, cry about it, whinge about it, but put your feet up – either on the sofa or, if it’s an option, in bed. I was really lucky that my mastitis happened while my husband was able to be at home, it meant I could take Edith to bed with me and leave the entertaining of the boys downstairs with Daddy! If that isn’t an option, things like ordering take outs instead of cooking dinner, letting the kids have an extra long bath so that you can sit and chill out and putting a movie on so that you can sit on the sofa for a time are perfect options and something that you need to do.
Continue to feed, and if you can’t pump.
Whatever you do, DON’T stop feeding. This is something that the midwife really impressed upon me. With mastitis it’s often so painful because there is such a build up of milk or a blocked duct, so the best thing to do is to keep encouraging let down. I found that getting into the bath and feeding Edith made a huge difference as the heat encourages let down. If you are finding it too painful to feed baby yourself, then try to pump. During mastitis I would recommend (from my own experience) a manual pump as opposed to an electric – simply because you have more control over the tempo and pressure. I use the Medela Harmony manual pump, which you can find here.
Use soothing aromatherapy oils and heat/cool therapy
I was advised to use heat pads to try and let down the build up of milk in my breast, and to use a cold compress to ease the burning pain. I’m also a huge fan of aromatherapy oils as a natural method of treating the symptoms of a variety of ailments. Combining the two is the wonderful Bosom Buddies kit from The Natural Birthing Company. This has been a life saver for me, and it isn’t just for during times of mastitis or when suffering with engorged breasts, there is an oil for soothing sore nipples and one for increasing milk supply. This should be in every breastfeeders arsenal, and it makes the most wonderful gift for a new mum. You can get one here.
However much water you think you should drink, double it.
It really doesn’t matter how much water you think you need, you need more. The fastest way to kick an infection (obviously once using the appropriate antibiotics) is to keep hydrated. Breastfeeding requires you to drink additional water as well, so if you add in an infection you really should be knocking back the H2O like it’s mojitos on a saturday!
I hope you don’t get mastitis, I really do, but if you are struggling and you have been to the GP/Midwife and sort the proper medication, then these tips should help you with coping with mastitis! Good luck and big (not tight because that will hurt your sore boobs!) hugs!