Reviving Motherhood

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Overcoming Mastitis

mother breastfeeding cassat

Ladies!  I am venturing into the the realm of the extremely practical today!  Sometimes we just need practical information, so here’s some that I hope will be a help to someone.

If you’ve breastfed for any length of time at all, more than likely you’ve had a run-in with the ugly beast that is mastitis. Basically, as I understand it, mastitis is a plugged milk duct (painful in its own right…the words hard, hot, and hurting pretty well sum it up) that’s gotten infected. And that can happen at the drop of a hat.

The first couple times I got mastitis I had no idea what I was doing and I ended up on antibiotics and in bed for a week. Now I can see it coming and (usually) head it off before it gets a good foothold. Since I’m not a doctor or medical professional, I’m just going to tell you mamas what I do and you can do your research and make up your mind whether or not you think it’s worth a try next time you are confronted with this scourge of breastfeeding mothers. Or if you are fortunate, you won’t ever have to deal with it, in which case you won’t need to read any farther.

1. Recognize early symptoms. Don’t just say, “Huh, why do I have this sore spot…?” and move on. Be proactive as soon as you think you might have a plugged duct. If you act quickly, you might stop it before it gets started. This has happened to me MANY times.

2. HEAT HEAT HEAT!!! Apply heat as often as you possibly can. My favorite method is to use a rice sock. Easy to make. Fill an old sock about ½ full of rice. Knot the top so the rice doesn’t pour out. Heat in the microwave for a minute or 2. (If you overheat it the rice will burn and smell kinda like burnt popcorn, in which case you may want to start over. Or not.) Apply to the sore place and keep it there as long as you can. Take care not to burn yourself. I sometimes wrap mine in a towel until it cools a bit.

3. WATER WATER WATER!!! Keep the fluids coming. Drink lots and lots. Water is best. Stay away from sugary drinks.

4. REST REST REST!!! Take a sick day or a couple. Nap. Watch TV. Go to bed early. If you can. Don’t overdo it. (Incidentally, getting overtired and run down is one thing that sometimes triggers mastitis.)

5. BABY! Letting baby feed will be painful, but one of the worst things you can do for yourself is to stop breastfeeding. Let your little one nurse as often as he will to keep you from becoming more engorged and infected. The milk is fine for baby. My friend Jenny, a mama of 8 encouraged me, “You can do it! This is when the wimps quit!” Hang in there! It will help!

6. Avoid sugar. Sugar feeds infection.

7. Garlic. I just take a garlic supplement. For a real kick, take fresh garlic. Garlic fights infection.

If you don’t knock it right away, pretty soon you might feel like you have flu, complete with fever, head and body aches, chills, the works. That is why it is so important to act as soon as you think you know what is going on. Even when it’s gotten to that point, aggressive action has enabled me to start feeling a lot better in 24 to 48 hours. It seems to be important to keep treating until you feel *lots* better. Don’t stop too soon. Of course, use common sense and see a doctor if you are really sick. I’m providing info on what has worked for me personally for informational purposes only.

Remember that breastfeeding is so wonderful for your baby! It is worth working through this to get to the other side!


Do the rest of you have any words of wisdom to share about what has helped you?

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