Breastfeeding - My Experience With Mastitisby Sabrina Hackett-Saikul
I think I was in denial when I had Mastitis. I kept thinking, just one more painful feed and then it will be better, but this went on for weeks until I finally walked a mile and a half to the doctors on a really hot day because I could literally take it no more. I had a sore nipple after my son had accidentally bitten me with a fresh tooth he was cutting, and as he breastfed the sore kept reopening as a wound and became rather painful. This is what I attributed my pains to, and it wasn’t until I woke with an adjacent lump and red patch on my skin that I thought it was something more.
As I sat down to be examined with the doctor a chaperone was there too, and she was watching my son who was getting flustered at the sight of somebody other than him touching my breast, ha! Within seconds of looking at me he concluded it was Mastitis and told me I needed to start antibiotics immediately, I was told off for not coming in sooner. He told me to go to the pharmacy across the road and then go home and rest. He advised me to up my fluid intake, take paracetamol and stay warm. He even told me that if the redness spread any further across my chest to phone 111 and get admitted for IV antibiotics. It was quite scary...
My son was so flustered I had to breastfeed him in the Doctor’s surgery waiting room before I left the premises. That’s one thing people don’t realise about Mastitis, you actually have to keep on feeding despite the pain. Allowing the Breast to become engorged again would be dangerous and could further spread the infection.
So once my son was done I managed to get him back into his pushchair and I did what the Doctor said, I got my tablets, then I grabbed myself some Pepsi Max and Chilled Water from the convenience store next to the pharmacy too, it was so hot that day. Walking home afterwards I was getting more and more exhausted.
Once home I didn’t get the chance to rest, I took my medication then I fed my son both food and my milk. By the time I was sitting down to breastfeed I realised how hungry I was, but upon reading the antibiotic packet I saw it read no food for two hours after a tablet. So I then had to wait even longer to have my lunch.
By the time my husband got home from work in the evening, I was sat on the sofa huddled in blankets watching my son play with his toys on his mat. I was so exhausted I just did dinner in the oven that night. One of the symptoms is fatigue because your body is fighting an infection. Another is the flu-like symptoms that hit you like a train. For a moment you feel fine and then boom you’ve got shivering shakes and feel really cold. It was 28 degrees Celsius outside and 24 inside my house, yet I was sat with a heavy cardigan on and a blanket wrapped around me. I had these particular symptoms on and off for just over forty-eight hours, and they were not pleasant.
I was on my antibiotics course for two weeks, one tablet four times a day. Luckily by the time I came to the end of the course, I had noticed an improvement and my pain was now subsiding. I did however still had the open sore on my nipple which took another three weeks to heal completely. My son couldn’t help opening it every time he had an aggressive “I’m really hungry” feed.
The reason I got Mastitis was because I was away from my son for a few hours. Despite expressing some milk while away that day I still ended up engorged and in a lot of pain. Although I had encouraged him to feed more from my breast in the days that followed I could see my raised ducts weren’t going back down. If I ran my finger over my skin while he fed I could feel them, they were like tiny raised finger-like shapes. A week or so later the pain and discomfort began getting a lot worse. One side of my breast was bright red and due to my encouraging more feeds to try and empty the breast, it had become sore and my skin was splitting where my nipple met my areoles. I gritted my teeth at the start of every feed.
My son prefers one side to the other... I hear most babies do! I recall the doctor asking me if he fed on the other side and I said he did do, but my right could never keep up with the supply and demand that the Left could. He commented that I was rather lopsided, and I asked him to tell me something I didn’t already know!
So the weeks past and luckily my Mastitis completely rectified itself and I didn’t need any further treatment. I’m one of the lucky ones, and I also have fairly small breasts as far as sizes go! I could imagine that someone with larger breasts where more infection could spread would be having a more difficult time of it! It didn’t reoccur at all although I have been careful not to have a spaced outfeed since then, and my son has gone everywhere with me.
It took me a whole month to feel normal again, it was awful feeling so weak for a few days, but then the fatigue took a few days to recover from as well. I was grateful that I knew a bit about Mastitis due to my misdiagnosis when I had Ductal Thrush, so at least I was clued up on what to look out for. But some women are never told about these conditions and I think it’s important that they are discussed and recognised by the wider community.