Getting mastitis from breastfeeding is one of the fears we might face. I’ll be sharing how to prevent infection along with managing it if you already have it. Here is what you should know about mastitis.
My Experience with Mastitis From Pumping
A little over a week ago, I had mastitis…not once but twice within a three-week span. This was crazy because I have been nursing my son for 25 months now and the last time I experienced mastitis was at 1-2 weeks postpartum!😭
But let me just say– it happened quickly. I had pumped that day at 2 am and pumped again when I woke up around 6 am. That’s when I found the clogged duct, and I didn’t have a great feeling about it. Within only four hours, I was feeling achy, feverish, and had tons of hot flashes. The area was red, inflamed, and very warm to the touch… Oh, and did I mention it was my birthday?😭
I literally tried everything to relieve the duct, but nothing was working. The issue I was having was that the clogged duct was so deep in the tissue that it was extremely painful to apply any pressure to feel it…
After two days of working on it, I scheduled an appointment for ultrasound therapy to remove the clog. I was that desperate! After talking to some of my friends, I decided to try a massage gun.
Yes, a massage gun that you typically use for your neck, back, or leg pain. Remember… I was desperate!
And honestly, it did not let me down! It was definitely a more intense approach to a breast massage as you can hurt the breast tissue. So I decided to try the lowest setting and it worked! The lump started to minimize after a few seconds. I continued it for about 10 minutes in intervals to ensure it was completely gone and even.
The following 3-4 days after it was released, I had the same flu-like symptoms that decreased as the days went on. I never used antibiotics as I normally take the holistic approach by trying all the things.
Would I do it again? Probably not, unless I experience this same terrible clogged duct. While everyone’s experience with mastitis may be different, there are some common symptoms and relief methods that I share below for you to try if you get this infection.
What is Mastitis?
Kellymom explains that mastitis from breastfeeding occurs when the milk flow to your breast is blocked. It may start out as engorgement but can quickly turn if left untreated…
The first signs of mastitis are redness or a sore lump in your breast. And trust me, these lumps can get pretty big! If you touch the surface around the lump and apply minimal pressure to massage it, it may feel hard and painful.
However, you might also have these symptoms with a clogged duct. Some moms will get clogged ducts if they have an oversupply, their baby is sick, or they are weaning. Other times, it can be the wrong flange size, not responding to the suction pressure levels of a pump, and more. Anytime when your baby is nursing less or you produce more milk than your baby can take, you can experience clogged milk ducts.
The difference between a simple clogged duct and mastitis is when it becomes an infection. If you go too long without being able to relieve the clogged duct, you might start to feel achy, tired, feverish, and experience other flu-like symptoms. While some women see a low-grade fever with a clogged duct, you will know that it is mastitis when all of these other symptoms are present!
In addition to how you are feeling, your baby might notice a change in the breast milk you are producing. KellyMom explains that your breastmilk may taste saltier or have a different consistency while you have this infection. In addition, you may see blood, mucus, or pus in your breastmilk. If you see any of these, make sure you contact your doctor right away so they can determine if the cause is mastitis.
How Can You Prevent Mastitis?
Breastfeeding moms can possibly get mastitis for a number of reasons. For example, being overly stressed, tired, or having a weakened immune system paired with a clogged duct can lead to the infection. Just like any other disease, if your body can’t heal itself properly, it is more likely that issues start to begin.
So, the number one way to prevent mastitis from breastfeeding is to stay healthy! While this is definitely easier said than done, staying hydrated and making sure you get enough rest can make a huge difference in preventing mastitis.
Of course, while also doing these few things: Draining the milk in your breasts before they get too full can prevent clogged ducts and mastitis. Switching the sides you breastfeed on with each session or trying other positions may also help as well.
And lastly, if you are in the process of weaning, make sure you wean gradually. If you are still experiencing engorgement, using a manual pump can help take the edge off between sessions while preventing a full letdown from occurring.
Mastitis and Oversupply
Moms who struggle with an oversupply are at a much higher risk for mastitis! This is because they are consistently producing more milk than their baby needs each session. So how can you prevent mastitis if you have an oversupply?
If you are nursing with an oversupply, you can pump after your baby is done feeding. Even a manual pump can give you a little relief and prevent clogged ducts. If you are pumping, you can do hands on massaging in the areas you feel most full. Having the correct flange size is vital too!
Now, here are a few tips if you are looking to manage your oversupply. For example, you can try breastfeeding in a laid-back position to help slow the flow of your milk. You can also express milk in small amounts to relieve the pressure. Biggest reminder - LISTEN to your breast!
If you are still struggling with your oversupply, I would love to help! I offer lactation services including dropping pumping sessions, weaning, and individualized support sessions to go over your breastfeeding questions and/or concerns.
What To Do If You Have Mastitis From Breastfeeding
If you have mastitis, it is really important to continue breastfeeding!
The main reason is that continuing to nurse or pump, even if it is painful, can prevent the infection from getting worse. It can also help clear the infection up and prevent more clogged ducts from forming in the same area.
You can try the Haakaa by adding warm water and Epsom salt and suctioning it on. This can help loosen the clogged duct. Breastfeeding gymnastics is another popular option, too! However, I recommend nursing your baby with their nose vertically to the clogged duct for more of their natural suction to catch it. Wearing loose clothes and massaging your breast can also help with the pain and loosen the clogged duct. The Lavie Mom warming massager is a great option because it not only massages your breast but can help improve milk flow and provide comfort with the warming feature (You can use code EPMAMA10 at checkout for 10% off!).
However, be cautious with too much warmth because it can lead to more inflammation and swelling. To counter this, you can use cold compresses after nursing and/or pumping to help relieve the pain. Switch between warm and cold compresses every 15 minutes for the best results.
Lastly, other therapies are available that are more in depth such as ultrasound therapy! But make sure that you talk to your doctor if you believe you have mastitis from breastfeeding. They can provide additional resources and medications (if necessary) to relieve the clogged ducts and fight the infection.
The Problem With Mastitis
Overall, mastitis can be a huge pain for breastfeeding moms, especially if you have an oversupply. The best way to prevent this infection is to massage when nursing and/or pumping, check for clogged ducts, and treat them before it gets worse. But if you happen to get mastitis, taking care of yourself and continuing to breastfeed is the best course of action.
If you are struggling with this or other breastfeeding issues, book a lactation session so we can talk about your individual struggles and come up with a plan that works for you!
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