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For those of you who mayn’t know, mastitis is a terrible terrible infection to have. When one breastfeeds, it’s essential that you not get too full and keep your nipples clean and moisturized, else you may get clogged ducts and/or mastitis. I also have oversupply, so keeping my breasts from becoming engorged is a balancing act. Since I’ve been at it for over a year now, I mainly just keep to block feeding. Rarely though, even block feeding will fail me. Or rather, Baby Boy and I fail each other by rushed nursing sessions, extended time between nursing, and/or too much distraction/playing while nursing. Recently, a combination of all three factors led me to having a clogged duct.
To make matters worse, we were on the road. And when I mean “on the road”, I mean headed back home from visiting family and attending a wedding (post and pictures to come) many, many miles and hours from home. I felt an inkling that I might be getting a clogged duct before we stopped at a state park to hang out and take some pictures. I pumped out a couple ounces, which didn’t help as much as I’d hoped. By the time we got to the park, I knew I was in for a difficult journey home. Good thing, Hun was rested enough that he could drive the whole way. Once at the park, I tried to pump more, I tried to get Baby Boy to nurse. None of that was happening. I was really starting to hurt.
Then, I felt the symptoms of a fever gearing up. Now, I wasn’t entirely surprised by the fever, as that’s how my body is when I have a clogged duct. But, this wasn’t just any fever. Despite my desperate, beyond desperate attempts at getting the engorged breast somewhat emptied, I wasn’t having much luck. And when I say desperate, I mean desperate. I fought back tears, Hun heated a wet cloth on the car’s engine, I begged and pleaded Baby Boy (who was much more interested in mastering the small steps at the overlook than nursing), I kept trying to pump and massage a breast that was painful, and I begged and pleaded with my breast to (please, please) not betray me as there was such a long way left before getting home. None of that worked and I was left with an increasing and spreading achiness. I barely got through a few pictures with Baby Boy and Hun before I had to admit defeat. My breast had betrayed me. I had failed at my attempts to not get worse.
As the fever started to rip through my body, I became a blubbering mess of pain and apology. I told Hun that I was in pain and I was getting worse – fast. I said we had to go. I apologized for not feeling well. I apologized for apologizing. I asked Hun not to be mad (which he wasn’t anyway). I apologized for being a bad mother. I apologized for needing to get ibuprofen. I was sad, hurting, and defeated. There was no way I could make this trip back home without the aid of ibuprofen, short of grabbing a hotel room for at least a night. Since grabbing a hotel room was the absolutely last resort in my book, I knew I could at least ease the pain and discomfort, as well as address the fever enough to pump more.
Me asking for ibuprofen is a really big thing. I don’t take medications. I typically believe in the body’s process working and the importance of fever as part of that process. At the same time though, I know when I’m doing more harm than good. I knew that my fever was quickly becoming unmanageable without things I didn’t have the luxury of using (bed rest, continuous warm compress, nursing non-stop) at the time. I felt terrible, but I knew that ibuprofen would be better than acetaminophen. So, anyway, off we were to get some ibuprofen, hand warmers, and more water. Thank goodness a store was on the way back to the highway, especially because I figured this clogged duct road wasn’t going to end there.
And I was right, my fever got worse in the few minutes it took to leave the park and head to the store. I started shivering and the joint pain was getting progressively worse. I was incredibly uncomfortable. While Baby Boy and Hun graciously went in the store, I sat with the car running and the heat blasting…under a blanket! Once they returned and Hun saw (or felt rather) what I’d been up to, he urged me to take the ibuprofen, which I gladly did. Off we went, with the heat and me under a blanket. I pretty promptly fell asleep and asked to be woken in an hour. (By the way, Hun is wonderful for allowing me to keep the heat on low as long as I needed it.) I woke feeling better enough that the heat could be turned off and I could try some hand expression, which I did.
Finally, we returned home, I undressed, climbed in bed with Baby Boy and took another ibuprofen. That next morning as Hun was getting ready for work, we discovered I had quite the temperature (102), so another ibuprofen was taken, more water was supplied and I hunkered down with Baby Boy. Later that day, with keeping a high fever, despite the nursing, water, and ibuprofen I figured I had my first case of mastitis. I had the pain, the fever, the soreness, and the obviously red breast. There’s not much else it could have been. I could barely believe it, my first case of mastitis after breastfeeding a year. Either way, I did what any right-minded breastfeeding, natural mother would do and I started treatment.
It was simple enough really. Once I got my fever under control and could both move and think better. Alternating warm and cool compresses. Taking extra vitamin C, (mostly) raw garlic, raw potatoes, water, massage, nursing, and rest. There are other methods, but thank goodness these worked for me and we didn’t need to get any pharmaceuticals, nor did I even need to get phytolacca (a homeopathic remedy). So how exactly did I put all these things together? Here’s my list:
- A pad, disposable diaper, or even cloth diaper that’s hot placed on the affected area as often as possible. Even take some warm showers or baths and/or soak the breast. This keeps the milk flowing, thereby reducing the infection and the clogged duct.
- At least 5000mg of Vitamin C daily. First I took some tablets we had left, then I used Vitamin C crystals (like these). Every 3-4 hours I took about 1000mg. Vitamin C is a natural immune booster and will help fight infection.
- About a clove of garlic every 3-4 hours as well. I didn’t have any fresh garlic cloves, but I did have some chopped garlic, so about a teaspoon of that is equivalent to a clove. Garlic is also an immune booster and helps with infection.
- Slice or grate raw potato and put it on the affected breast. Once it dries, change it out. This works by helping to reduce the inflammation.
- Drink water! Tons and tons of water. It helps the body flush and keeps you hydrated for the extensive nursing.
- Nurse, Nurse, Nurse! Can’t say it enough. Truly, if you can, stay in bed (or on the couch, if you want) and nurse. The less clothing the better, for both you and baby. Continuous nursing the best way to eliminate a clogged duct and mastitis.
- Massage the breast. From sore, red area towards nipple. Do it while you have a warm compress. Do it while nursing. Do it just to do it. This helps to relieve the ducts and keep the milk flowing.
With these tips, my mastitis was cleared in 3 days, 4 if you count the beginning of the problem on the road!!
Also to note, phytolacca is a homeopathic remedy that many have used successfully in treating mastitis. Research on phytolacca also shows that it can be helpful with many other conditions (not related to breastfeeding) as well. Talk to a homeopathist or do your own research. If none of this works or you would prefer, then get some antibiotics from your doctor or other medical professional. Remember that antibiotics usually need to be taken for at least a week and if you do choose antibiotics, make sure you take care to repair your gut health with some probiotics and other fermented foods.