Yet another post about my miracle-working milk-producing mastitis-ridden breasts.
February 16, 2010

Alright, alright, maybe my breasts do not exactly work MIRACLES.  It’s not like I’ve ever solved cold fusion or ended world hunger with my nipples.  But that is beside the point.

The point is that my breasts produce milk and that I am battling mastitis.  Again.  ROUND THREE.


As with any team activity, the two of us are not always in sync =(

This particular bout of mastitis is the result of me somehow plugging up a duct.  For those of you lucky, lucky mongrels who have never had a clogged duct, let me try to paint a picture for you.  Imagine that you have had a brick pelted at your head and a legion of furious medieval archers have shot flaming arrows at you – all of which have landed in the exact same spot in your breast.

Now multiply that by twelve or fifteen and you now know what a plugged duct feels like.

Anyway, the clogged duct led to engorgement.  The engorgement led to difficulty expressing milk.  The difficulty expressing milk led to a nipple blister the size of China.  The nipple blister led to mastitis.

And the next thing I knew, I was running a fever and deliriously wondering why I even bother with all of these lactation shenanigans.

The truth is that mastitis turns me into an awful hypocrite.  When nursing my daughter goes well, I can sing the praises of breast-feeding with the best of them.  But as soon as the agony of mastitis hits, I morph into a total wreck.  I curse lactation, swear at that blasted duct, tearfully beg my child to suck just a little more gently.  I think about giving up.

It is times like this that I am extremely appreciative of how supportive Donald is with regards to my decision to nurse our daughter.  Without him, maybe I would have given up.  Maybe this latest battle with mastitis would have defeated me.  Maybe.

But since he is here and he is supportive and he does things like lie when I ask if my blistered nipple is a total turn-off that makes him never want to see me naked again, I am proud to say that I am soldiering on.  Which feels, I must admit, like a very small miracle of its own.


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  1. By Melissa on February 16, 2010

    I hope you’re feeling better soon!

  2. By Hillary on February 16, 2010

    your boobs are my heroes!  take care of yourself and stay encouraged -  you have lasted longer than most!

  3. By Joanie on February 16, 2010

    Ouch! Mastitis again? You poor girl! I breastfed two babies and I haven’t ever experienced this so I guess I was a lucky girl! My heart goes out to you.

    By the way, I nominated you for an award on my blog, check it out! =) Maybe it will be a little bit of “sunshine” in the face of the mastitis.

  4. By Cara @ Health Home and Happiness on February 16, 2010

    Such sweet pictures!  Feel better soon. Have you tried tea tree oil topically? I got mastitis twice and it worked both times- and antibiotics didn’t work at all.

  5. By Crystal on February 16, 2010

    I feel your pain. I went through the same thing which resulted in me stopping nursing. I would have clogged ducts every other day. I feel sad now that he no longer nurses - so stick with it :)

  6. By Mailis on February 16, 2010

    Oh, your poor ta-ta’s. :(

    Have you tried taking frequent hot showers and expressing whilst angling the girls into the spray? I am sure you have.

    I have read that some women do often experience mastitis when they are first introducing their child to solids because the eating schedule changes, but the boobs are still producing for the old schedule. But, if you just charge right through it, things should work themselves out.

    I only breastfed for roughly a month, because Jude seems to be lactose intolerant. Every day, I wish I’d been able to continue. Mastitis and all.

  7. By Sarah A. Schlothan Christensen on February 16, 2010

    Cara - No, I have not.  BUT NOW I WILL.  Tea tree oil?  I’ve never even heard of that, but it is definitely worth a shot.  My first go-around was antibiotic-resistant, so I wish I’d known about it then!

    Mailis - Yeah, I think it’s the solid foods.  Mastitis Round 1 happened when Charlotte was 3 weeks old, so we were still figuring out the supply.  But Rounds 2 and 3 have both happened since we started solid foods.  It’s killing me.

    You know, I’d never heard of a baby being lactose intolerant with breast-milk before getting pregnant, but I’ve heard of it several times since.  I’m glad you were able to identify the problem and resolve it!

  8. By gretchen from lifenut on February 16, 2010

    Mastitis is a curse I wouldn’t wish on anyone. I hope you feel better soon.

    Regarding lactose intolerance: I thought one of my kiddos was lactose intolerant when he was a newbie, but it turned out to be a simple foremilk/hindmilk imbalance.

  9. By *emilie* on February 16, 2010

    you go girl. fight’er !

  10. By on February 16, 2010

    I was going to suggest the tea tree oil as well. It is great stuff, although I am not a huge fan of the scent. You should definitely get some, I think when I have gotten it I was able to find it in a regular drug store.

  11. By monicaonthego.com on February 16, 2010

    Oh you poor thing, hot compresses is all I can recommend.  I hope it gets better soon, so unfair you’ve had it 3 times!  That’s more than your fair share for sure.

  12. By C @ Kid Things on February 16, 2010

    Never had full blown mastitis, but have had a number of clogged ducts that hurt like a bitch. Hope you feel better soon.

  13. By Michelle on February 16, 2010

    Tea Tree Oil is super SUPER smelly. It makes me nauseated.

    Have you tried taking a warm bath and manually expressing while under the water?  That was what finally worked for me.  Clogged ducts are super painful, I can’t imagine full blown mastis.  You poor thing.

  14. By kirsten on February 16, 2010

    UGH!! Your description sounds painful.

    Yes, it’s true—I excel at the hyperbole of understatement. I hope your poor breasts feel normal and well again soon.

  15. By on February 16, 2010

    Sarah:

    I used to get a lot of clogged ducts, but then I tried lecithin per kellymom.com: http://www.kellymom.com/nutrition/vitamins/lecithin.html

    It helped a lot. I also notice that whenever I start to nurse/pump less, I have more problems, so my plan when I quit pumping (THIS WEEK!!! Can it really be true? My baby is getting so big!) is to take lecithin BEFORE the ducts start a-cloggin.

  16. By amber on February 16, 2010

    Oof. I got that once in my short nursing/pumping career at it was enough to make me want to lie down and die…okay, I’m being overly dramatic, but I do feel your pain.

    Good luck and fast healing!

  17. By the domestic fringe on February 16, 2010

    I never had this, but it doesn’t sound fun.  Keep up the good work.  Looks like you have a happy baby!  Hope you feel better.

    -FringeGirl

  18. By on February 16, 2010

    i am so so sorry. mastitis is one of my greatest fears.  my sister had it only once and i was there to take care of her through it - 105 fever, she was a total zombie.  i have been fortunate so far but i’ve always said that might end my breast feeding career.  good for you for pushing through!

    tea tree oil is awesome for zits too!  i used it during my pregnancy to battle chin zits and it made then disappear in a day!  the smell is very menthol-y which was one of the only smells that didn’t nauseate me while i was pregnant:  even though i LOVE it, to me *garlic smelled like dog poop*

  19. By Stephanie on February 16, 2010

    I just battled my first little war of the whole plugged duct, engorgement battle. I was praying and begging that it didn’t turn into full blown mastitis and am thankful it didn’t. However, I was taking antibiotics (due to pneumonia) anyway, so it might have but the antibiotics kicked it before it could get bad.

    I woke up with a horrendous plugged duct and I fed THE MONKEY as usual, trying to get it to unplug. No such luck. I ended up pumping the life out of my breast trying to get it out. Nothing worked. I tried scalding hot water on my breast, everything. NOTHING. WORKED.

    Finally when I was about to say screw it and give up.. THE MONKEY was hungry again. I just put him to breast and suddenly about 2 minutes into the feeding, the lump and the pain was gone. GONE. I was so freggin happy I screamed to my husband to come feel my boob because it was GONE!

    The best part is… I’m still breastfeeding.

  20. By on February 16, 2010

    Yeah, the deal with the clogged ducts/ mastitis is that you have to keep nursing to get it unclogged and then once it’s unclogged, you don’t want to stop and end up clogged again!

    Boobs are sneaky that way.

  21. By Elaine on February 16, 2010

    My midwife suggested the “Happy Ducts” remedy to me once. She said that I should have it on hand since most health food stores don’t carry it and you don’t want to have to wait for this to come in! To find it, go here:

    http://www.wishgardenherbs.com/index.php?load=pregnancy&page=index&group_id=7#HappyDucts

    She said if you follow the directions you will be fairly “normal” the next day, although that may only be realistic with milder cases.

    I hope this is helpful! I had two milder cases of mastitis and suffered dearly.

  22. By on February 16, 2010

    ohhh - i feel your pain! i thought i had died when i would get mastitis. you have probably heard all of these suggestions, but i will say them anyway…i used the hot compresses (damp rag in a bag and then microwave for a second) right before nursing and then would rotate massaging the ducts toward the nipple when charlie was eating and hot compressing. when i was at my worse my husband would have to “massage” (more like dig his fingers) the duct and i would cry from the pain, but that made it clear up so much faster. the antibotics didn’t really help me at all and made my milk supply decrease a ton. keep on keeping on. nursing is wonderful!

  23. By on February 16, 2010

    Ouch! I am so sorry! I had mastitis twice in the first month which led to me stopping nursing. I wish I would have tried harder. I feel your pain though. I got some thermacare heat wraps for the back and cut off the straps and placed them in my bra. Hope you feel better soon!

  24. By Elizabeth on February 16, 2010

    Ugh.  Mastitis is terrible.  Wishing you healing and that it never comes back!

  25. By Cynthia on February 17, 2010

    I turn into a hypocrite too! I’ve never experienced mastitis, but with the other things I experience…

    Anyway, I hope you’re starting to feel better. Poor mommy…

  26. By Jenna @ Newlyweds on February 17, 2010

    Oh no you poor thing, y-ouch!!  I was lucky enough to never experience the pain of mastitis, but you 3 times already, ugh.  I hope you get over it very quickly!

  27. By on February 17, 2010

    Yes - Lecithin. You should take it regularly. Check the Kellymom resource upthread for more info. It really will help the clogs to keep from recurring.

  28. By Rebecca M. on February 22, 2010

    I feel very fortunate that in a year of nursing we have avoided both mastitis and thrush.  I did have a clogged duct just a couple times in the early months, on those rare occasions when Nicholas slept an usually long time.  I would lie down to nurse and turn him in all different directions, trying to drain the duct from every angle.  That seemed to help, along with all the usual stuff (nursing often, warm compresses, massage, etc.).  It seems that some women are just more predisposed to these issues?  Maybe with mastits/clogged ducts, it’s more likely if you have an ample supply?  I had an adequate supply but never what I would call ample.

    As for lactose intolerance, true congenital lactose intolerance can only be diagnosed through a genetic test, and it’s extremely rare.  This makes sense from an evolutionary perspective—before the invention of soy formula, babies who could not break down lactose would die and not pass on that genetic abnormality.  However, lactose intolerance may be a temporary symptom of gut irritation caused by allergies or intolerance of something in mom’s diet.  The most common of these is cow’s milk protein allergy (relatively rare) or intolerance (extremely common, up to 75% of babies under age 9-12 months cannot tolerate cow’s milk proteins, to varying degrees).  On the other hand, lactose intolerance is perfectly normal for adults, who are not designed to digest milk.  Here is a great link with more information:  http://www.kellymom.com/babyconcerns/lactose-intolerance.html


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