Got mastitis? Tips for nursing and nursing woes.
Mastitis is breast inflammation caused by an obstruction from plugged milk ducts, infection from bacteria that enters through a cracked nipple, or allergy, and is most common in the baby’s first 2 months of nursing. Stress and fatigue can increase risk of mastitis (what new mom doesn’t experience stress and fatigue?!!).
I suffered from mastitis 2 weeks postpartum (read about my experience here) and have some suggestions about how I could have been better prepared to deal with mastitis or other new-to-nursing maladies such as engorgement, sore nipples, or blocked ducts. While mastitis only affects 20-30% of nursing mothers, it pays to be prepared just in case.
Treatment for mastitis includes antibiotics, ibuprofen or tylenol (for fever), warm compress/showers, massaging towards nipple, frequent nursing/pumping to empty breast, and lots of rest. You probably need to have someone around to help for a day or two – I know I couldn’t have managed if Lo wasn’t still home from work. I was literally useless for 24 hours, other than for nursing Jenson and probably slept for 22 of those first 24 hours.
- Get your pump sterilized and set up as soon as you get it, even if you don’t think you’ll need it right away. Have your supplies for storing breastmilk ready too (I use Lansinoh breastmilk storage bags and like them so far). Don’t forget that if you have health insurance you should be able to get a free breast pump from your insurance company. All policies are different, so call or email your company to find out what is covered and how you can order it.
- I also recommend having a manual breastpump if you get a double electric. I didn’t get one until the mastitis was all cleared up and it would have been so nice for when I didn’t feel like setting up the double electric pump after I’d already nursed since I was only going to pump an ounce or two. It’s also a good backup in case something happens to your electric pump. I bought the Medela Harmony Manual Breast Pump because my electric pump is Medela and the bottles, shields, and valves are interchangeable for cleaning purposes. It’s kind of become my go-to pump now because I usually just want to pump a little from one side after he’s nursed on the other side. It’s nice to be able to be mobile while I’m doing it too. When I go back to work, I’ll definitely use the Medela Double Electric Pump more regularly since I’ll need to pump both sides completely a few times a day.
- Have your cleaning supplies for bottles ready too. I didn’t have our dishwasher basket, drying rack, or bottle brushes ready. Luckily it wasn’t difficult to get everything out of the packages. (We have the Boon Lawn drying rack and love it).
- Have a hands-free pumping bra to use for all of this pumping. I didn’t bother with this until after the mastitis and wished I would have. This one has great reviews on Amazon, but what I ended up doing was cutting two small “nipple” holes in a cheap cotton sport bra. Cut the holes just big enough to fit the stems of your nipple shields…they’ll stretch, so you don’t want to cut them too big at first. It’s just nice to be able to mess around on the computer or phone, or even read a magazine when you’re using a double pump.
- You’ll want some sort of nipple cream for the start of breastfeeding, because if nothing else, you’ll get a little sore from nursing so often in the beginning. Lansinoh Hpa Lanolin is the go-to solution for this, but I also have Boob-ease Nipple Balm and like it better. The Lansinoh was too sticky to rub on since I was really tender. To be honest, I didn’t use either that often…I’ve always been bad about applying lotion of any sort, but I probably would have been less sore if I did more often.
- You’re supposed to use moist compresses to treat mastitis and the easiest solution is to fill a diaper with hot water and gently squeeze it out. Make sure it’s not too hot and then hold the inside of the diaper against your breast. It stays warm much longer than a washcloth. When it’s not convenient to shove a diaper in your bra, Lansinoh TheraPearl 3-in-1 Breast Therapy is a good option. These gel pads can be chilled or heated to help with soreness, engorgement, or mastitis. I didn’t get these until a few days after mastitis, but I warmed them in the microwave and used them before nursing or pumping to help let-down and milk flow until things were back to normal. Using them cold can help with soreness and engorgement after nursing.
- I was given Lansinoh Soothies Gel Pads as a gift and they were great for the first several days of nursing when my nipples were SO sore. The pads can be rinsed and reused for up to 72 hours, so I’d put them on after nursing and leave them on until it was time to nurse again. They helped so much because the gel was soothing and they also keep your nipples from rubbing against your bra or clothing.
- You’ll definitely need some comfortable nursing bras and tanks. It’s recommended that you don’t use underwire, especially in the beginning. You’ll end up needing to sleep with some sort of bra or tank (because you’ll need to wear nursing pads or you’ll leak everywhere), so they should be comfy. So far my two favorite nursing bras are Bravado Body Silk Seamless Nursing Bra and Basics Stella Nursing Bra (from Target). I have several Medela nursing bras that I thought I was going to really like, but they are a little itchy and I don’t like the fit as much – the cups are plenty big (maybe too big?), but the band doesn’t lie flat underneath my breasts. By the way, the Medela sleep bra is way undersized…I ordered an XL and it looked like a training bra. No way it would fit or support bigger than a C cup.
- Nursing tanks are great because your stomach is still covered when you pull your shirt up to nurse. I have a few different varieties from target, but my favorite option is the Nursing Tank By Undercover Mama. It’s actually a tank that has no straps and attaches directly to the outer flaps of any nursing bra. I like that I can wear one of my favorite (more supportive) bras and still have the stomach coverage for nursing more discreetly. It’s also helps keep my stomach tight under clothing and is longer than most nursing tanks. Nursing tanks with the shelf bra didn’t fit me great. In order to get the boob shelf big enough, the tank was too loose on bottom…and I just prefer a little more support than that.
- You’ll need nursing pads for leakage, pretty much 24 hours a day. Disposable nursing pads aren’t great…I mostly use washable ones at home because it would create so much waste to change the pads between each feeding this early on. With the washable ones, I can take them out before nursing and if they are still dry I can put them back in again afterwards. The disposable ones aren’t as easy to reuse because the stickiness wears off or sticks to itself, and I found them really itchy. That’s not what I want when I’m already raw. I have some natural cotton washable nursing pads, but they soak through more easily. My favorites are the Bamboobies Super-Soft Washable Nursing Pads. I have a pair of the pink heart pads and the blue overnight pads and they are excellent. They don’t soak through and they aren’t itchy. I’m tempted to buy more, but since I don’t actually leak that much except for overnight, I don’t know if I can justify it. That’s probably stupid and I should just get more pink ones anyway. (edited to add…I got more…many more. These things are amazing and totally worth the price – plus they often offer freebies or sales on the website.
- Speaking of leakage, my sister-in-law loaned me her Milkies Milk-Saver Breast Milk Collector Storage and it’s pretty awesome. Most women leak from the non-nursing side when nursing or pumping, and this is a contraption with a nipple hole that goes in your bra to collect the leaks. I don’t use it every time that I nurse or pump, but if I use it when both breasts are full (if he hasn’t nursed for several hours), I end up collecting 1/2 – 1 oz of milk from the non-nursing side. It’s a much better option than letting it leak into your nursing pad! It’s not super-comfortable to wear, but it’s fine for short time that I have to wear it. Just be careful that you don’t bend over when you are wearing it because it will pour out the top.
That wraps up my tips and gadgets that will help with breastfeeding, mastitis, and other nursing issues. Do you have any other recommendations? Please leave them in the comments…I’m definitely open to other suggestions and tips! Since I haven’t gone back to work yet and am not fully immersed in the pumping/bottle feeding scene yet, I know I still have a lot to figure out.