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.