This post was written for inclusion in the WBW 2013 Blog Carnival. Our participants will be writing and sharing their stories about community support and normalizing breastfeeding all week long. Find more participating sites in the list at the bottom of this post or at the main carnival page.
I confess that I kind of assumed that the risk period for mastitis was with younger babies. Turns out? That’s not true. Indeed, you might even be at more risk around the year mark, when your baby gets more active and may suddenly be too distracted to nurse as often.
Much of the advice available for supporting recovery from mastitis, though, seems to be aimed at mamas with younger nurslings. “Go to bed with your baby” might be excellent advice if your baby is a little 3-month-old button who’s not even rolling yet. But when I got mastitis a couple of months ago, going to bed with my highly mobile, super-active 11-month-old was going to last for about as long as it took him to reach the edge of the bed and reverse himself off. Nor was entertaining him likely to be particularly restful if I could keep him there.
So, from recent and unpleasant experience, here are some suggestions for supporting your recovery when nursing an older baby.
Note! Mastitis is serious, and if left untreated can result in an abscess. If self-help doesn’t do the trick within 12-24 hours, or if it is immediately severe, you should go straight to your doctor. The below suggestions are for supporting your recovery alongside medical treatment, not instead of it.
- Nurse. A lot. The trouble with this one is that if you’re also trying to rest, and someone else is minding the baby, an older nursling will happily go a couple of hours without asking for milk. You need them brought up to you AT LEAST every two hours, possibly more often. Nursing trumps rest. (This is the first mistake I made.)
- If you can’t nurse (perhaps baby is out with dad for the morning or having a ridiculously long nap — yes, this happened to me, too), pump or hand express, then pump some more. Do not think that, hey, your breasts are pretty flexible these days, you’ll just wait til baby is back and deal with it then. Sure, most of the time now your breasts are pretty flexible. Right now, you need to drain them, thoroughly and urgently.
- Rest. If someone else can take the baby, great, but as above, make sure they come up to nurse regularly. If you’re a SAHM, and you haven’t been far-sighted enough to get ill on the weekend, try to call in some help. This might be someone to chase after the baby, or it might be someone to take on some of your other responsibilities (my other partner handled dog-walking duties while I was ill). You remember all those favours you called in when you had a newborn? Time to call them in again. If you really can’t get help, then nap when the baby naps, and consider making judicious use of TV or DVDs to maximise quiet sofa snuggles. If you’re a WOHM, you’re ill and you need to take sick leave. You’ll be no good at work with a fever, anyway.
- Eat well if you can. (If you have a partner or other help, enlist them to leave healthy snacks for you.) But if your only option is takeout, that’s better than tiring yourself out cooking. Pizza has veggies on, right?
- Take whatever your preferred immune-system-boosting supplement is. For me that’s vitamin C and zinc, and fruit/green veg smoothies.
- Did I mention rest? Right now, nap time is not for getting the housework or blog post or whatever done. Nap time is for napping. If you absolutely can’t sleep during the day, sit on the sofa, put your feet up, and chill out.
- Massage, hand expressing and/or pumping, as often as possible, will help shift the blockage that usually goes along with mastitis, and prevent milk building up. Another good option is to take a bath with Epsom salts, bend over, and express underwater. The hot water and Epsom salts help drain more milk. (After a fortnight of this, I sincerely hoped never to see another tub of Epsom salts as long as I live.)
- Cabbage leaves in the bra, apparently, though I didn’t try that one myself.
- If you get prescribed antibiotics, they will tackle the fever and redness; but if you still have a blockage, you need to keep up the rest and frequent draining of your breast. Do not get irritable at the ridiculous amount of time all this is taking, and stop doing it. That way lies strange small lumps, “? abscess” in your medical notes, and yet more antibiotics. Ask me how I know… If you’re very unlucky, you could wind up needing surgical treatment. It may be irritating (I certainly thought so!), but mastitis is serious, and you do need to take it seriously. Also, it will be far more time-consuming if you fetch up in hospital.
Good luck! And try not to be too annoyed that all the positive joys of extended breastfeeding come along with the risk of Bad Things Happening To Your Nursing Boobs.
Photo Credit: Juliet Kemp
Statements on this website have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Products and/or information are not intended to diagnose, cure, treat, or prevent any disease. Readers are advised to do their own research and make decisions in partnership with their healthcare provider. If you are pregnant, are nursing, have a medical condition, or are taking any medication, please consult your physician. Nothing you read here should be relied upon to determine dietary changes, a medical diagnosis, or courses of treatment.
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants. Below are a list of links for today’s participants; you can find a complete list of links (updated throughout the week) at our main carnival page:
(This list will be updated by afternoon August 3 with all the carnival links.)
- Breastfeeding and NIP: A Primer — Rachel Rainbolt of Sage Parenting, featured today at NursingFreedom.org, uses her informative and candid voice to share with you everything you need to know to breastfeed successfully in public, from the practical how-to’s to handling the social stigma.
- Lactivist Ryan Gosling — Breastfeeding mamas, the time is long overdue for a Lactivist Ryan Gosling. Fortunately, Dionna of Code Name: Mama has created some for your viewing pleasure.
- In Defense of Formula — Amy of Mom2Mom KMC, guest blogging for Breastfeeding in Combat Boots, asserts that formula is a medical tool rather than a food. She examines how this perspective supports breastfeeding as normal and eliminates the negative tensions between breastfeeding and non-breastfeeding mothers.
- World Breastfeeding Week 2013 Blog Carnival – Breastfeeding Tips & Tricks — Throughout her breastfeeding journey (since March 2009), Jenny at I’m a full-time mummy has shared countless tips and tricks on the topic of breastfeeding.
- Nursing in the Wild — Meredith at Thank You Ma’am posts about how seeing other moms nurse can make all of us more comfortable with nursing in public.
- Normalizing Breastfeeding — Sara Stepford of The Stepford Sisters confronts the social stigma vs. the reality of breastfeeding and opens up about the steps she takes to make herself and others more comfortable with the process.
- Breastfeeding Alrik at two years old — This is where Lauren at Hobo Mama and her second-born are at in their nursing relationship, two years in.
- Perfectly Normal — Stephanie from Urban Hippie writes about the way she and her family have done their part to try and normalize breastfeeding in a society that doesn’t get to see breastfeeding as often as they should.
- Diagnosis: Excess Lipase — Learn about excess lipase and how to test if your expressed milk has it. That Mama Gretchen shares her own experience.
- Redefining Normal — Diana at Munchkin’s Mommy reflects on how we can normalize breastfeeding in our society.
- Nursing Openly and Honestly — Amy W. at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work feels that the most socially responsible thing she can do as a mother is to nurse and nurture her children openly, honestly, and with pride.
- Wet-nursing, Cross-nursing and Milk-sharing: Outdated? — Jamie Grumet of I Am Not the Babysitter shares a response to the Wendy Williams quote about milk sharing being akin to slavery, by giving a brief history of the wet nurse.
- Tackling Mastitis with an Older Nursling — Much of the advice available for supporting recovery from mastitis seems to be aimed at mamas with younger nurslings. Juliet of Twisting Vines, posting at Natural Parents Network shares tips for dealing with mastitis while breastfeeding a toddler.
- Milk in the eye — Gena from Nutrition Basics discusses how breastmilk cured her 3 year old’s case of pink eye.
- Boobie Biter — Rachel Rainbolt at Sage Parenting offers guidance on how to survive and thrive a boobie biter with your breastfeeding relationship intact.
- My take on breastfeeding advice — Diana at Munchkin’s Mommy shares her insights on nursing for both new moms and new dads.
- My Top Five Breastfeeding Tips for Delivery Day: Think “A-B-C-D-E” — Mothernova shares how her continued success at breastfeeding with her second child rests on a foundation of five key things she did to prepare for baby’s arrival, along with things she did when she and baby first met. Easily enough, these tips can be categorized as “A-B-C-D-E”: Access to lactation consultant, Baby-friendly hospital, Communicate your plan to breastfeed exclusively, Demand, and Expect to room in.
- Breastfeeding Buddies: Twin Brothers Nurse while Living in the NICU — Twintrospectives at How Do You Do It? shares her 5 tips for learning to breastfeed multiples while in the NICU.
- Breastfeeding on a Dairy-Free Diet: Our Journey and Our Tips — Finding herself nursing a baby with food allergies, Jenny at Spinning Jenny embarked upon a dairy-free journey with her son for eight months. Here she relates her reasons for making the decision to give up dairy in her diet, why it was worth it, and tips for moms on the same path.
- Normalizing Breastfeeding in my Home — Shannah at The Touch of Life shares how she plans to help keep breastfeeding normal for her own children, even when her breastfeeding years are over.
- A Year With My Nursling — The more you see and hear, the more normal it becomes, so That Mama Gretchen is sharing her heart on the last year of breastfeeding – the ups and downs, but mostly the joy of her priceless relationship with her son.
- From Covered to Confident — Krystyna at Sweet Pea Births shares her personal NIP evolution: she started by covering up from neck to ankle while nursing in public. Eight years later, she has gained confidence and the ability to nurse without stressing about flashing a little skin. She shares her views on normalizing breastfeeding – what influenced her and how she hopes to help others.
- Normalizing Breastfeeding for Older Kids — Sadia at How Do You Do It? hopes that openly discussing breastfeeding with her (now weaned) daughters will help her children feel comfortable with breastfeeding and their bodies in general as they grow.
- Nursing in Public — Listen up, mammas. Those other people around . . . they don’t matter. It’s not about them. It’s about you and that beautiful baby. Nurse on, says The Swaddled Sprout!
- How to Nurse a Teenager — Sarah at The Touch of Life declares: the purpose is to help normalize breastfeeding a toddler.