What to Expect: Mastitis

Mastitis. The word sends shivers down breastfeeding mothers’ spines. The boogeyman of lactating mothers’ dreams. I recently had a throw-down with the beast and am sharing my experience so that others may know what to expect should they find themselves fighting the same battle.

What is mastitis? Essentially, a breast infection. As many moms know from sufferer’s stories, the malady causes pain, often fever, chills, malaise, and a red blotch on the breast. See more a more detailed description here.

Some women are placed on bed rest for healing. Considering I have three young children and don’t have a personality that mingles well with bed rest, I was pleased to simply be told to “take it easy.” Though, after experiencing the level of fatigue brought on by mastitis, I certainly understand the call for bed rest. That exhaustion is unlike anything I have experienced.

How did my healing process look? Well, this is my timeline.

Sunday 4pm: feel suden fatigue, but I’m a mom of 3 so fatigue happens.

Sunday 5pm: skin and body aches with increased fatigue, along with a 100F temperature (I took Advil.)

Sunday 9pm: feels like I have a 102F fever but I’m 98.6F (pronounced body aches, tiny bones in hands and feet hurt, chills, skin sensitivity, fatigue) Advil allows me to sleep.

Monday 6am: feels like I got hit by a truck: fatigue, brain fog, increased body aches, clogged milk duct is notably uncomfortable, 97.9F temperature. Advil lowers the pain to a flu-like level.

Monday 8pm: still at 97.9F, fatigue is pronounced, chills are notable, milk duct clog is painful but so is everything else.

Monday 9pm: body aches and fatigue are so elevated that walking is slowed and encumbered, chills have increased, anxiety is raised, burning nerve pain across the shoulders and base of the neck. I’m crying due to the pain. This is truly awful. Advil allows me to sleep.

Tuesday 6am: Red blotch appears over the milk duct clog site, brain fog is irksome, fatigue is notable as are the body aches and breast pain despite Advil.

Tuesday 3pm: I see my physician who asks me about my symptoms and conducts a breast exam. I receive an unwavering mastitis diagnosis. A 10-day round of a breastfeeding-safe antibiotic (Dicloxacillin) is prescribed along with  the recommendation to increase my current probiotics to avoid thrush

Tuesday 9:30pm: chills, body aches, painful breast; first dose of antibiotic… major heartburn

Wednesday 3:30am: second dose of antibiotic… At 4am reflux is so bad it is not just bubbling up the back of my throat but coming out of my nose. With that, I’m officially up for the day.

Wednesday 6am: “fatigue” does not do justice to the level of lethargy. I also have body aches, breast pain, and brain fog, but still no fever.

Wednesday 9:30am: third dose of antibiotics… by 10am I start to feel less achey but still fatigued. By 12:30 the energy increase is clear, but the discomfort remains. By 3:30 I just have a sore breast and feel like I had a bad night’s sleep.

Wednesday 9:30pm: mild chills return, breast is sore, fatigue is pronounced… 5th dose of antibiotics. No reflux.

Thursday 3:30am: sore breast but no chills… 6th dose of antibiotic.

Thursday 6am: Tired with a sore breast and mild brain fog, but returning to normalcy.

Thursday 9:30am: Sluggish with a tender breast, insatiable hunger… 7th dose of antibiotic.

Thursday 3:30pm: Sluggish with lowered patience and a tender breast, but relatively normal… 8th dose of antibiotic

Thursday 9:30pm: no chills or body pain, simply a clogged duct feeling and fatigue… 9th dose of antibiotic.

Friday 3:30am: no breast pain, constipated…10th dose of antibiotic

Friday 9:30am: fatigued with tired muscles but feeling otherwise normal, insatiable hunger, constipated… 11th dose of antibiotic

Friday 3:30pm: beyond fatigued, constipated, sore breast where the clog is… 12th dose of antibiotic

Friday 9:30pm: exhausted, constipated… 13th dose of antibiotic

Saturday 3:30am: constpated, slight heartburn… 14th dose of antibiotic

Saturday 9:30am: constipated, edgy, lethargic, full-body fatigue… 15th dose of antibiotic

Saturday 3:30pm: constipated, edgy, lethargic (better after having taken a nap) … 16th dose of antibiotic

Saturday 9:30pm: constipated, edgy, fatigued… 17th dose of antibiotic

Sunday 3:30am: constipated, edgy… 18th dose of antibiotic

Sunday 9:30am: feeling a bit less peppy than usual but otherwise normal, still slightly constipated… 19th dose of antibiotics

Sunday 3:30pm: feeling slightly constipated but normal

Normalcy with slight constipation has continued since. I rejoiced upon taking my final dose of antibiotics 10 days after beginning the regiment. Once my gut flora repopulate, I presume the regularity will return fully.

Despite it all, I’m still breastfeeding and pumping for donation. No clear end in sight for us!





Unclogging a Clogged Milk Duct

As a breastfeeding and pumping mom with oversupply, milk duct clogs are my jam. Here are my tricks for getting those painful (and potentially harmful) buggers out:

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My Tried and True Method

1) I take ibuprofen and Sunflower Lecithin per the manufacturer’s instructions (please consult a physician before taking any medications.)

2) Take a warm shower and let the water fall on the affected breast

3) Under the water, firmly massage from the clog toward the nipple

4) After the shower, grab your breast pump and a vibrating device (either the mechanical portion of your pump if it’s handheld, an electric toothbrush, a massager, etc.) and pump while holding the vibrating device on the clog. (Add in extra stimulation and letdown phases to your pumping session to ensure as much milk is released possible.)

5) Nurse your baby on the affected breast.

6) If still clogged, place a washcloth in very warm (not scalding) water mixed with Epsom salts. Apply the soaked cloth to the clogged area. Re-soak and reapply 5-6 times.

7) Pump with the vibrating device or breastfeed again.

Once the clog has been released, repeat steps 1-5 at least once a day for three days to ensure the duct doesn’t re-clog.

** Of course, if you experience intense pain, fever, chills, and/or redness at the clogged site, immediately contact your physician. **

Happy milking!