Rarely people talk about how difficult breastfeeding is, and mastitis is perhaps the ugliest part of it. Although having breastfed 10 months doesn't make me an expert by any means, I thought it would be useful for some to know the things I have done in order to avoid mastitis. Disclaimer, I am not a doctor and if you experience symptoms of mastitis my main piece of advice if for you to contact one.
If you have read my first blog post, you will know that I have been blessed to produce a lot of milk. My husband jokingly says we need industrial equipment use for cows, instead of a normal pump to keep up with my production. And although it certainly feels like a blessing since not all women that would like to breastfeed produce enough, or any milk at all, there is one serious downside to it and that is the fear of getting mastitis.
Mastitis, for those of you who don't know what it is, its an inflammation of the breast tissue that could lead to an infection that in the worst of cases could result in an abrupt wean to your breastfeeding journey.
There are two main causes for it:
1) Blockage in one/several of your milk ducts
2) Bacteria entering your breasts
I will talk about how I have managed to solve/prevent the number 1 reason for it, the blockage of milk ducts.
I would say that if you produce medium-to-a-lot of milk is almost inevitable that:
- if you skip a session of breastfeeding/pumping,
-if your baby starts sleeping through the night,
- if the latch wasn't correct and the breast wasn't completely drained,
- or if your baby kicks your boob (main reason for me),
you will feel a little lump in your breast every once in a while.
For me that lump makes my entire boob feel swollen, and warm. I get chills, migraine, and it hurts like hell. After lots of research these are the things that have worked in order to prevent it and ''treat it'' at home:
1) Change positions while breastfeeding. The position that has helped me the most is me holding myself on top of my baby (like in a plank position) while he eats laying in bed. Gravity is in the favor of my boob being drained.
2) Breastfeed/pump more frequently. If you are used to doing it every 3 hours, switch it to 2 or less, in order to drain as much as possible and as often as possible your boob/s. This is perhaps the most important thing even if its painful.
3) Warm shower while massaging your boob towards the nipple, focusing on the lump/s.This certainly helps, but is painful because you have to apply a certain pressure for it to be effective. If you don't apply enough pressure ask your partner to help.
4) Taking Sunflower Lecithin. I have taken this religiously since my baby was born according to the recommended dose in the pill box. I found out while pregnant that Sunflower Lecithin is a natural fat emulsifier. This means that it helps to prevent the milk fat to clump and clog your breast ducts. I swear by it.
5) Don't use tight fitting bras/clothes. I found that to be another cause for it. So rather change to a well-fitting bra and loose clothing if possible.
6) Use warm compress before feeding/expressing. I use a diaper with warm water as I found that it can hold a lot of water and keep the temperature for a reasonable amount of time.
7) Rest and drink lots of water. I drink 1 gallon a day which not only helps keep my production of milk up but its also crucial to prevent mastitis.
If your symptoms doesn't improve I would try to see a doctor as soon as possible to get some antibiotics that are not harmful for the baby but can help with your symptoms.