Monday, August 22, 2011

Mastitis and Plugged Ducts - My Experience

First off I am not a doctor and certainly no expert, but I have had mastitis and plugged ducts multiple times to various degrees of infection and pain.  Here is my experience and what I did to help myself.

Definition of Mastitis:  Inflammation of the mammary gland in the breast .  It can be accompanied with a fever and this indicates an infection.

The first time I had mastitis was with my first baby and it happened while my milk was coming in so my breasts were already tender and by the time I caught on that I had mastitis I had a fever of 105 from the infection.  With the help of my midwife we tried a few things:
  1. Pump the infected breast in between feedings.
  2. Nurse my baby first on infected breast as much as possible with the bottom of babies mouth on the side of the infected area as that tends to pull milk from that area better.
  3. Massage infected area while nursing and pumping (it hurts a lot...but it also helps draw the infection out).
  4. Soak infected breast in warm/hot water and then pump/nurse.
  5. Drink lots of water.
  6. Put cabbage leaves inside nursing bra (this really helped when the infection wasn't so bad or just beginning.)
  7. Get plenty of rest:)
  8. Whatever you not stop or decrease nursing as it will make it worse and never better.
  9. I also went back on my pre-natal vitamins and ate food rich in iron, vitamin C, and B vitamins.
  10. Mother's milk tea that included fenugreek, fennel, and blessed thistle.
So as I said my infection was so bad and I was also trying to deal with an iron deficiency from the birth that none of this worked and I had to go on antibiotics.  I really didn't want to resort to that but my fever wouldn't go away and I could barely get it down under 101 with the help of fever reducers so that was my only option at that point.  I did learn a lot though, so when I got mastitis again about 6 weeks later I knew what to do right away and treated it at home with the above help.  I again got mastitis one time with my second child and 2 more times with my third child.  It always seemed to occur at about 2-6 weeks after birth.  The things that helped me the most was getting plenty of fluids, rest, and cabbage leaves.  A heating pad also relieved some of the pain.  Mastitis can be caused by not enough feedings, pressure on breast from bras, a blocked duck, cracked nipples where infection can enter, increased hospital stays, past history of mastitis, stress, being tired, and anemia.

My one experience with a plugged duct happened when I wore a bra too soon and didn't nurse or pump enough for a 4 hour period.  I knew it was plugged as one side of my breast was hard but didn't hurt yet...I was hoping to fix the problem before it got worse.  I nursed my son and massaged my breast but he was too little to be able to unplug it.  So I looked for the plug myself and literally manually expressed my milk by hand.  I actually found the milk duct that was plugged and luckily for me it was only plugged/dried up milk right at the nipple pore so I manage to unplug it my manually expressing.  Then I nursed again and the milk came out and the hardness went away.  Plugged ducts usually occurs while not nursing enough and or wearing constricting bras causing pressure on the duct, stress, being tired, and anemia.

I found a really good website for more information on
mastitis and plugged ducts here.

Thanks and happy nursing!

By Michelle Cook

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