Let me start by saying that I am not a doctor. I have never been to medical school, and I do not live with a doctor. The advice I’m about to dispense is based on nursing two boys for a combined total of 32 months and having mastitis roughly 1,345,555,666,543,002 times. Ok, that’s an exaggeration, but I came down with my first case when Baz was 3 weeks old and I had it, as my OB/GYN said, “chronically” until I weaned him at 15 months. Then it started up again with Walter, but at that point I was like a crusty old sailor able to smell a storm over the horizon. So I learned how to head it off, and now I’m going to share my wisdom with you in five easy steps.
Your body heals as you rest. So clear your schedule as much as possible and pencil in some quality time with your couch, bed, comfy chair…anywhere you can get cozy and rest. Mastitis is a sign you’ve stretched yourself too thin and it’s time to dial that back.
2) Drink LOTS of water.
It will help flush your system and keep things working smoothly. As nursing mamas, it’s easy to get dehydrated, so whether you think you’re drinking enough water or not, you should drink even more.
3) Baby to breast. Baby to breast. Baby to breast.
Pumping will also help, but your baby is more efficient and more stimulating to milk production. I would nurse the affected side first, every time. The common wisdom is to start the baby on the breast you finished on, but when you’re fighting a plugged duct and the infection (mastitis) that comes from it, that wisdom won’t help. Make sure that side is drained before switching over. I would pump the unaffected breast after my baby was full to help keep it empty, and sometimes I’d pump both sides just to be safe.
4) Ibuprofen is your friend.
I’m not one to run to the medicine cabinet for every little thing, but in this case you’ve got inflammation in your breast and it’s causing a fever and flu-like symptoms. It’s gnarly, and you’ve got at least one small child relying on you. Drug up, mama. (Obviously don’t overdose, but don’t get behind — you want that swelling DOWN and fast.)
5) This is my favorite part…WARM BATH.
Sylvia Plath wasn’t lying when she said that baths cure everything. Run yourself a bath — slightly hotter than you’d normally like (unless you’re pregnant, and then run it just a degree or so above your body temp), and deep enough so that you can get the infected breast under the water. Grab your favorite book and hang out for fifteen minutes…twenty is better. Close the door if you can, so you’re really, really relaxing. After you’ve been in the water for 15-20 minutes, massage that breast under the water. You’ll have an instant milk bath (great for the skin!), and on more than one occasion I was able to clear the duct and avoid infection this way.
These aren’t foolproof steps, and obviously you should consult your medical professional of choice if you can seem to get yourself feeling better. But these are easy steps that anyone can do to help herself heal and be the best mama she can be. Feel better!
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