Sunday, November 21, 2010

Breastfeeding Challenges- Recurring Mastitis

M having a snack

For some nursing pairs, breastfeeding comes easily and has few challenges. For M and me, it's been a bit more difficult. While the benefits still far outweigh those challenges, some days I just want to give up. But that time is fleeting. There are so many great reasons to continue to breastfeed that I just look for solutions to our struggles.

I have had mastitis 4 or 5 times in the eight months since M's birth. I've lost count. Each experience has been different. Sometimes, it's accompanied with a very high fever and delerium, sometimes not much worse than a cold and some soreness. My most recent bout of mastitis started yesterday morning around 4 when I noticed that it hurt while M was nursing. At 4 a.m., that didn't matter too much. We went right back to sleep. By the time we woke for the day, it hurt an awful lot, I was swollen and red, and I knew it was mastitis. Some resources recommend homeopathic treatments as the first course of action when symptoms occur, but since my case is recurring, I go straight to the doc. (I don't want it to become an abscess.)

One of our awesome La Leche League (LLL) leaders sent me a ton  of information on mastitis, potential causes, and repeat infections. Most or all of the information is available on KellyMom and on the LLL site. Some things that may be causing my troubles are the following:

1. Failure to fully recover from a previous case of mastitis
2. Anemia (I've been anemic my whole adult life, but with no menstruation I'm not sure if it's an issue currently.)
3. Sore and cracked nipples
4. Use of a nipple shield (She was off the shield until she got teeth recently. Now, she's back on because it dulls the impact of the bite.Ouch!)
5. Sleeping position- I sleep on my right side most of the night, snuggled up to M

I'm treating this current case with allopathic and homeopathic remedies. So far, this is what I've tried:

A. I'm on day two of a 10-day course of antibiotics
B. Hot compresses on the clogged duct- I use a sock filled with rice and warmed in the microwave
C. Fresh cabbage leaves applied directly to the breast to draw out infection (It sounds wacky, but even the doc at the walk-in clinic suggested this approach)
D. Ibuprofen- OTC dose whenever I have a fever- So far, 6 doses in 36 hours
E. Tablespoon of soy lecithin- I mix it in with applesauce or oatmeal
F. Lots of vitamin C- I've been drinking EmergenC
G. Most important- Nursing frequently on the infected side with M's chin in the direction of the clogged duct

Usually, that all works, but I'm still feeling pretty crummy and having difficulty clearing out the clogged duct. This evening (Sunday), I called my family doctor to make an appointment for tomorrow morning. I'm hoping I'm better by then, but just in case, I want to nip this in the bud.


I never was able to get into my doctor's office. When I called for an appointment, the nurse called back saying to use a hot compress and take tylenol. :/ I don't think she gave the doctor all of the information I shared, but ultimately it worked out fine. It took the full course of antibiotics to get rid of the infection. And despite taking a probiotic and eating plenty of greek yogurt, I now have thrush. More on treating thrush later...

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