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Why Didn't Anybody Tell Me? Mastitis

In my days of baby preparation, I read tons of pregnancy books to soak up as much information as possible. Most of the texts offered up a small section dedicated to mastitis. Seemingly not that common, I skimmed over it and didn't pay much attention to the subject.

To see why that was a mistake,


Ten days into motherhood, my mom, newborn, and I went on a beach walk on a heaven–sent sunny day. About a third of the way into the jaunt I was so achy, tired, and ill feeling that I had to rest my laurels. I assumed I was still lethargic from the labor and delivery, but it was actually the beginning of something much worse.

Early the next morning, I woke up with a fever and mad chills. Still clueless, I thought my night sweating may have been the cause so I robotically went into the nursery and fed my child as I shook uncontrollably. Then I knew something was wrong.

My husband called his mum who suggested I might have mastitis. I shook my head and vehemently denied the possibility. The books all said mastitis would be excruciatingly painful and show itself in a red blotchy manner on my breast, which was not happening.

But as I did my online research I learned I might be wrong. WebMD explains mastitis:

Mastitis usually starts as a painful area in one breast. It may be red or warm to the touch, or both. You may also have fever, chills, and body aches. If you have these symptoms, call your doctor today.

Admittedly I had the flu–like symptoms but was still in denial since my chest still felt and looked normal. To be safe, my husband and I went to triage that night where I was diagnosed and treated for mastitis. The docs gave me a prescription for antibiotics and told me to nurse my way through the pain. I kid you not!

Breastfeeding is tough enough, but add a hard swollen boob, fever, chills, and aches to it and you've got a first-rate nightmare on your hands. And so it was. The worst part about it was that the antibiotics could not be taken two hours before or after eating, which meant my eating periods were laid out for me, which as any new mom knows, you eat when you can, not when you plan on it. To help the growing boob pain, I walked around with frozen peas and corn in my bra. Classy. Very classy.

But alas, I survived to tell about it. And when I told people I had it, I quickly found out how very common it is. I'd say that half of all moms I know toughed their way through it — some multiple times!

If you're pregnant and planning on nursing, take measures to avoid getting the beastly ailment. Here are some tips from WebMD:

  • Before breastfeeding your baby, place a warm, wet washcloth over the affected breast for about 15 minutes. Try this at least 3 times a day. This increases milk flow in the breast. Massaging the affected breast may also increase milk flow.
  • If possible, continue breast-feeding on both sides. Ideally, start on the affected side; it's critical that you empty this breast thoroughly. If this breast is too painful to start with, try feeding from the healthy breast first. Then, after your milk is flowing, breast-feed from the affected breast until it feels soft. Switch back to the healthy breast and breast-feed until your baby has finished.
  • Pump or express milk from the affected breast if pain prevents you from breast-feeding. Nipple pain can be caused by the baby latching on to sore nipples.


Join The Conversation
bajeckabean bajeckabean 9 years
Yep, I had mastitis too, but it was after a long cross-country flight with my 3-week-old to go to visit family over Christmas in Michigan. I just thought I was allergic Michigan. It sucked but it took me three days of thinking I just was coming down with the flu before I realized what it was. Nursed through it the whole time so I guess it was bad but didn't seem much worse than having the flu (which is sucky). Once I went into the Prompt Care to ask for something for the flu, the doc immediately identified mastitis and gave me antibiotics. I felt better pretty quickly after that. It didn't stop me from having a good trip.
katedavis katedavis 9 years
I just had mastitis for the second time last week! I had it in August for the first time. I had the achiness and the chills and a high fever, and when my ears started ringing my husband called my doctor, who was not on call, and spoke to the on-call doctor who told us to go to the emergency room. So I sat in the emergency room for hours, not nursing my baby and not pumping. They asked if my boobs were sore, but I just thought I was a little engorged from not nursing for so long. They x-rayed me, gave me a CAT scan and finally wanted to give me a spinal tap because I had a headache!!!!!! Having just recovered from a C-section the last thing I was letting someone do was stick a needle in my spine and risk getting a spinal headache. I could not believe they were quicker to give ma a spinal tap than examine my body. I was finally released at 3 in the morning and when I took a shower before seeing my doctor in the morning I saw the redness and swelling. But by that point I had been up all night an it was super-hard to recover from. This time I knew exactly what it was when the chills started and I pumped in the hot shower and I never got red or swollen. I got good and sick, but I was better within 24 hours.
Megatron Megatron 9 years
My friend had that late last year. She told me all about it, it did not sound like fun.
macgirl macgirl 9 years
That sounds just dreadful. Sorry that so many of you had to go through that :-(
bluecat1972 bluecat1972 9 years
So painful, luckily the antibiotics cleared it up quickly.
LiLRuck44 LiLRuck44 9 years
Yes luckyme, it can go away. The first time I got it I could literally feel the decline, each hour I felt worse and had crazy chills and started getting dizzy, etc. I took antibiotics and it went away, but when I got it the next time with my second baby I didn't want to go that route again. I ate some raw garlic (the Allicin in it is a natural antibiotic) and nursed my breasts off, massaged the clot (the bright red spot) like a mad woman, and stood in the burning hot shower. Sure enough, within a few hours it wasn't as red and I felt less achy. So I'd say yes, it can be reversed... just massage the crap out of it. Oh and your husband will not want sex if you eat 5 cloves of raw garlic. I promise.
luckyme luckyme 9 years
Can it start and then go away? I think I was starting to get it when the little one was itty bitty, but then I took off the ill fitting underwire bra I was wearing and it stopped. But seriously, the chills, dizziness, warm to the touch, sore boob and overall yuck feeling were definitely happening. It all went away a couple of hours after I took the bra off. It was kind of crazy.
kikidawn kikidawn 9 years
Can someone help me?! I read all of the post and I am still not sure I know exactly what Mastitis is. What causes it... what is it exactly?
milosmommy milosmommy 9 years
Yeah no one ever told me about that either until it was too late. I had it in both breasts. Worst pain ever. I'd go as far as to say that it was even worse than labor pain. :(
eeeyore138 eeeyore138 9 years
Ouch - my cuz just went through the same thing but both breasts were infected! :(
indielove indielove 9 years
Heard it's really painful! :( Sucks that you had to go through that.
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