Bad Mastitis Advice

Susan over at 5 Minutes for Mom blogged about her bout with mastitis last week. She mentioned that her Doctor told her to stop nursing on the affected side and to pump and dump… and that made me really mad. :-) She got a ton of comments to that post from other mad mommies who knew that was bad advice.

So I decided that since this bad advice was still being proferred by medical folks who don’t have a clue, and to participate in the Motherwear Carnival of Breastfeeding, I would share some mastitis tips here. Mastitis is very common at this time of year, for reasons I’ll mention below.

nursing mom- mastitis tipsTo treat mastitis, it’s important to get lots and lots of rest. If at all possible, go to bed with baby for a day or two. Get help with your other children if you can. Increase your fluid intake and sleep and nurse as much as baby will let you.

It’s important to keep nursing, offering the affected breast first. This might be a challenge because the affected side will be sore. If you can’t bear to nurse on that side first, then don’t, but make sure you nurse on that side often enough for it to stay soft. You may want to hand express or pump if baby is unwilling to nurse. While you nurse, try to massage the sore area if you can feel a plugged duct.

The reason to keep breastfeeding is because weaning now will only make you much more uncomfortable, and it’s an extreme measure for a simple problem. If you got a cold, would you cut off your nose? Didn’t think so. ;)

Breastfeeding improves the flow of blood to your breast, and the presence of your milk itself also helps to clear milk ducts of infection. Your baby will not be harmed by your milk when you have mastitis. Your baby has already been exposed to whatever caused the infection in the first place, and if you wean her, you’ll deprive her of the antibodies that are present in your milk and the other benefits of nursing.

Before putting baby to the breast, use a warm compress and massage the affected area which will help with milk flow. Try the same treatments mentioned for clogged milk ducts. Nurse baby soon after you do this, and don’t worry about baby getting the thickened milk, it won’t harm her! Using these self care measures usually means you’ll be feeling better in a day or two.

If you call your Doctor s/he may prescribe antibiotics, which is fine (although unnecessary). Most antibiotics are safe for nursing Moms, but double check with your health care provider, La Leche League leader, Lactation Consultant or Poison Control Center. It’s also ok to take a Tylenol for the body aches and discomfort you feel during mastitis.

Another thing: Often mastitis happens around busy time (like the holidays) when you’re busy, distracted, and running around. Baby might not be nursing as frequently, leading to a plugged duct which can get worse, causing mastitis.

Be sure to take nursing breaks when you are traveling or enjoying company! If baby won’t settle down easily, take her into another room away from the hustle and bustle, use a sling or a nursing cover to help her focus. Mastitis is especially common at around 9 months when babies start getting more interested in crawling and discovering their surroundings, so take precaution.

Another common problem is when other family members develop colds and flus. For some reason, the nursing mom in the family will sometimes come down with mastitis. So be sure to drink fluids, eat well, sleep enough, etc and take care of yourself. If you get mastitis frequently, suspect underwire bras. Some nursing moms just can’t wear them, so find a good softcup bra that’s supportive. I hope those tips are helpful. To recap:

Avoiding Mastitis:

  • Nurse often
  • Drink and eat well
  • Get enough rest
  • Avoid underwire bras

Treating Mastitis:

  • Nurse often, on the affected side first if possible
  • Massage
  • Warm compresses

More on mastitis: What is mastitis? What are the symptoms of mastitis? Pretty nursing bras that come in soft cup, not underwire.

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5 Responses to Bad Mastitis Advice

  1. Jenny says:

    That is terrible advice! I read somewhere that OBs only get about 4 hours of training in lactation, so imagine how little a GP gets. No wonder their advice is so bad.

    I had a wicked case of bilateral mastitis once, but following sane advice like nursing, warm compresses, showers and rest plus phytolacca from my ND had me feeling better in no time.

  2. Fernanda says:

    Informative article. I’ve been lucky in that I’ve never had mastitis, or any major nursing problems for that matter. The most trouble I’ve had has been with bruising, when baby latches onto the wrong part of the breast in the middle of the night. I wake up sore the next day and don’t understand the problem until I see the black & blue mark in the mirror! My second child was much more distractable with nursing at an earlier age and I may very well have run into problems had it not been for her older sister who was always more than willing to help her mama relieve a little engorgement ;-)

  3. Aneta Koehn says:

    About two months ago I’ve had what I thought wouldn’t happen to me, a plugged duct. I was running 103F fever and I did the warm compresses and massage and took probiotics, vit. C, echinacea and soy lecithin but most of all I kept on nursing on the affected side. It hurt just about as bad as giving birth (so I can only imagine how bad a full blown mastitis feels like), but after all that hard work the fever was gone and the duct opened up. Continuing to nurse your baby during plugged duct or mastitis is the BEST thing you can do to get through it.

  4. Carrie says:

    Fernanda I am wearing a bruise right now that fits that description. LOL!

    Thanks for the story Jenny and Aneta. Your experiences are helpful to other moms.

  5. Paula says:

    Amazing! Glad Internet is around so that moms can get a second opinion easily!

    Now one really great tip I got from an old nurse to get rid of mastitis is to have your baby nurse so that his cheek is as close to the lump as possible. This way his sucking will help those clogged ducts to heal. It might be hard and you might need some help at first to put the baby is the right position (You might have to lye down with his feet close to your ear for example, depending on where the lump is…) But it helps!

    Stop breastfeeding… Bah!l

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