I didn’t know much about breastfeeding, until I became pregnant with our baby girl. I used to say, I’ll never breastfeed just because I was very selfish and not educated about all the wonderful benefits that it has for your child! Even though we attended a class dedicated to breastfeeding in the Centro Mi Matrona, where we took the baby preparation classes, I found out so many other facts & benefits about it from the book 'Pre-parenting: Nurturing your child from conception' (by Thomas R. Verny, M.D. and Pamela Weintraub). If you don’t have time to read it, click HERE to see my summary. Also, if you’re struggling with the latch or find breastfeeding painful, I use the Medela silicone nipple covers, which are amazing and these also help you to swap to the bottle later and to get your baby to use a dummy, should you opt for one!
But like the title of this blog says, here’s my experience.. Breastfeeding is such a beautiful experience and a great bonding time for the mother and the baby - and the feeling of having her close to you during day & night is so lovely. But as nice as it is, it can also be exhausting if your baby feeds every 2 hours. Thankfully Amanda has been giving us super long sleeps and she also eats for quite a long time. From the start she’s been eating 30-40min even to an hour and then sleeping 5-7 hours at night, plus a 2-3 hour nap on top of that, which is amazing! But even though everything was going well in the beginning, I was unlucky enough to get a breast infection aka mastitis that was not fun at all.. Mastitis is usually caused by a blocked milk duct leading to inflammation or by a bacterial infection.
I started feeling as if I was falling ill (temperature rising, aching body & neck and one of the breasts was starting to hurt). I was determined to get rid of it naturally, trying everything from cabbage and potato compresses to homeopathy and I managed to beat it once, but as it started to come back I opted for antibiotics to get rid of it once and for all. Also, if not treated properly, it can cause the milk to dry up, so I didn’t want to take any risks! I had heard about the infection, but had no idea about the previous stages to watch out for in order to prevent it, which are the following:
How to manage mastitis:
- Improve the removal of milk and try to correct any specific cause that is identified.
- Advise the mother to rest, to breastfeed the baby frequently and to avoid leaving long gaps between feeds. If she is employed, she should take sick leave to rest in bed and feed the baby. She should not stop breastfeeding.
-She may find it helpful to apply warm compresses, to start breastfeeding the baby with the unaffected breast, to stimulate the oxytocin reflex and milk flow, and to vary the position of the baby. She may take analgesics (if available, ibuprofen, which also reduces the inflammation of the breast; or paracetamol).
-If symptoms are severe, if there is an infected nipple fissure or if no improvement is seen after 24 hours of improved milk removal, the treatment should then include penicillinase-resistant antibiotics (e.g., flucloxacillin). However antibiotics will not be effective without improved removal of milk.
I also used cabbage compresses on the breast and drank lots of herbal teas!
How to prevent mastitis?
- Make sure the baby is positioned and attached properly on the breast.
- Avoid long periods between feeds.
- Feed frequently. Wear loose, comfortable clothing.
- Bras, if worn, should be properly fitted.
- Avoid nipple creams, ointments and prolonged use of nipple pads.
I also take Echinacea for the immune system boost and Sunflower Lecithin helps to prevent clogged milk ducts and thankfully I haven’t had it again.
Minus the mastitis, I really enjoy breastfeeding and the bond between me and my baby girl - also I love to see her happy and I can see how much she enjoys that time with me. It’s such a natural and beautiful feeling - I wouldn’t change it for anything!