In honor of breastfeeding support week, I share my (hopefully finished) mastitis story. Let it be known that in over a year of nursing Shlomo, I did not have one case of mastitis. Even when I changed his feeding schedule from every 3.5 hours to every 6 hours, in one day.
However, Shlomo did not have tongue tie, and Tova’s tongue tie apparently still leaves its marks, even after we clipped her tongue. On one side, she nurses too hard. A few months ago, when we were going through a super-duper-stressful period, I had no energy to correct her latch, didn’t care about the pain (because I had much more important things to care about), and soon, instead of just reddish-purple lines, I had actual cuts in the nipple. And they just got deeper.
No surprise, then, that a few weeks later, I ended up with my first case of mastitis (in the doctor’s words, the germs were having a discotek in my milk ducts). At first I thought I was simply engorged, but then it didn’t get better, there was a red spot that changed size, disappeared, and came back, and I felt really sick. When I couldn’t lift my left hand, and had a fever of 38.5, I took myself the next day to the doctor, who gave me a miracle drug: Augmentin. Within twelve hours, I was feeling worlds better. Within 24 hours, the pain was almost gone. Within 48 hours, I was practically good as new. This continued for two weeks, and then I ran out of antibiotics . . . but the deep cuts were still there. Sure enough, about two weeks later, there I was back at the doctor, with my second bout of mastitis. This time, the doctor didn’t believe it right away, because I had come too early, with not enough clear symptoms.
He sent me to a surgeon and told me to take Tylenol. I managed to freak myself out about IBC, but the surgeon checked everything, including my shoulders and neck, and didn’t find anything (thank G-d!). The next week, still suffering, I went to an after-hours clinic, where the doctor still didn’t think I had mastitis, and told me to see a breast surgeon, but gave me a week’s worth of antibiotics “because I said it was getting worse”. Well, the Augmentin worked magic, again. And I got really scared that a week wasn’t enough, and I was in for a third bout, as soon as the antibiotics had worn off.
Unfortunately, I was right. However, thankfully, this time the red spot was huge (in a different spot, but same breast) and unmistakable. I also got a different doctor, because it was my regular doctor’s day off. This doctor was younger and more laid-back, and when I asked for three weeks of antibiotics so that the cut could close, he gave them to me, telling me that maybe I should take probiotics because three weeks is a long time.
I went home (I had to nurse), and Yitzchak ran out to the pharmacy to fill the prescription . . . except that he forgot the prescription at home. The pharmacist told him to go into the clinic and ask another doctor to print it out. Well, as it turns out, the last doctor of the day to leave was our amazing, much-loved pediatrician. When she saw that I had been given three weeks worth of Augmentin, she was in shock. Yitzchak says that her expression said, “This guy should be sued!” She couldn’t touch the prescription that he had given me, so she gave me one herself: 10 days of Augmentin and a lanolin-based nipple cream called Rafael New Mother’s Ointment. She said that after the ten days were up, there are ways to keep the mastitis at bay. I guess some of those are natural remedies, but I didn’t look them up.
What I ended up doing was that two days after I finished the antibiotics, I fished out the old prescription and sent Yitzchak to fill it. The pharmacist wrinkled her nose at a prescription for antibiotics that was nearly two weeks old, so Yitzchak explained it, and she gave me 11 more days of antibiotics (10+11=21). Very soon, I was too stressed to remember to take them twice a day, and eventually settled on one a day, at night, with my vitamin. So far, so good. Except that my nipple is still not healed, and it’s been more than three weeks. Hopefully, by the time I finish my one-a-day regimen, it will be healed enough that I don’t get mastitis again. I actually thought it was getting better, but wouldn’t you know, in the past two days, Tova has managed to make it worse again. I don’t think the cut is as deep as it used to be, though, so maybe, just maybe, there is hope.
- Don’t get lazy about proper latch. Even when you’re super-duper stressed.
- Tongue tie, sore nipples, cracked nipples, and mastitis are all connected.
- Thank G-d, if antibiotics work, it means that there’s nothing more serious.
By the way: Every woman should have an annual breast examination by a qualified surgeon. Some women should be examined every six months. And yes, this applies even to twenty-year-olds. Because, prevention is the best medicine. You can do these examinations when you are pregnant or nursing; just inform the surgeon of the situation.