photo credit: I’m George
One minute you are nursing away and the next you start to feel:
- very cold
- very hot
- very tired
- very tender
- very sick
- very scared
Mastitis can strike any nursing mom, and it happens even more often when you are nursing twins. (Congrats on nursing those babies by the way – keep it up!) Between the abundant milk supply and training 2 babies to latch correctly (usually at the same time), it’s no wonder nursing mothers of twins battle mastitis more frequently.
Mastitis is also more common:
- in the winter months (being cold doesn’t allow for full emptying)
- when mama is under any type of stress
- when there has been a hiccup in the nursing routine
- if there is any pressure to the breast tissue that might cause a milk duct plug
Milk duct plugs can be from:
- an ill-fitting bra
- a too-tight nursing tank
- an improper latch
- babies who like to push against the breast to steady themselves
- holding a baby too often in the same position against your breast
- not drinking enough water
I had a couple of plugged ducts when I was learning to nurse my singleton first born, but they were quickly resolved with frequent nursing and pumping. No infections. No biggie.
Nursing my twins, however, I had 3 – three – breast infections in the first 6 months.
Mastitis is your body’s way of saying SLOW DOWN.
Before each of my bouts of breast infection, I was feeling plucky and accomplished with all I was (foolishly) juggling…and then – crash – into bed with mastitis and regret.
Each infection presented with a different set of symptoms, but each was resolved quickly using the same natural treatment. No doctor’s visits and no antibiotics.
- My first infection happened within the first 6 weeks of nursing. I started to feel suddenly very hot and then very cold. Shaking under a heavy blanket cold. I had a fever that spiked, lowered, then hovered around 101 degrees F, then lowered and hovered around 90 degrees F. But I didn’t show any redness or blockages in my breast tissue. I felt tired and “strange”.
- My second infection hit with a sudden and severe chill and a hard blockage on one side. I had classic flu-like symptoms: fever, chills, nausea, body aches, sensitive skin, fatigue, etc.
- My third infection left me so tired I could hardly believe it. I had 3 blocked areas on one side. They were hard, red, and “angry”. Nursing was very painful.
Using the same natural treatment, each of my infections cleared within 3 DAYS.
Here’s the 10-step plan:
- Unplug your life and call for backup. Husband, Mother, hired neighbor, trained pet – whatever. Just get help! You need to hunker down and heal up for the next few days. Someone needs to feed you, keep you hydrated, change baby diapers, hold babies, feed your family, fetch and carry – the works – so that you can do nothing but get well. Seriously.
- Ask your helper to quickly go to your nearest health store and buy 3 things: Boiron Oscillococcinum Homeopathic medicine, Boiron Phytolacca Decandra Homeopathic medicine, and a bottle of castor oil. You’ll also need some old rags, clean cotton or flannel cloths, plastic wrap, and a hot water bottle or heating pad, so grab those things, too, if you don’t already have them at home. Extra: Having this type of thermometer is SO helpful. Useful for the whole family, too.
- Immediately drink a at least 2 quarts of water. (It might seem silly, but drinking out of a favorite water bottle helps get much more water into your body than drinking from a glass. Bonus: If you get a good one, you can sleep with it next to you in bed and it won’t spill. This is my favorite. The liter size makes it easy to keep track of your water intake.) Continue to drink water and stay hydrated.
- Take the Homeopathic remedies Oscillococcinum and Phytolacca Decandra as directed on package. The former is to treat the flu-like symptoms and the latter is to treat the inflammation.
- Keep nursing! During my infections, it was always the baby who eventually got things unplugged. If you are nursing a singleton, start each feeding on the infected side. If you are nursing twins, start your stronger nurser on the infected side. You may find that the infected side does not release enough milk to satiate your baby. After offering the infected side as much as possible, nurse that baby on the other side if he/she is upset, then offer the infected side again. Offer – don’t stress you or your baby/babies. Nurse or pump every 2 hours on the infected side, no matter if you are normally scheduling feedings. You can get back on track with your routine in a few days. For now, do what it takes to get well.
- Rotate your baby’s/babies’ position on the infected breast. Some advice says point the nose to the plug, some says point the chin to the plug. Do it all. Keep rotating. Be creative with positioning yourself and your baby/babies. If it isn’t too painful, you can also gently massage the plug with a circular motion while nursing.
- Pump when you can with a good electric pump. When I was feverish and exhausted with my second infection, I pumped through the night to have breastfeeding-friendly bottles ready for each nighttime feeding. My husband would hold and feed one baby and I would hold and feed the other. This saved my energy and was less painful than tandem nursing. I would go straight back to bed and Mega Dad would comfort the babies back to sleep. You must rest to get well.
- REST. Sleep whenever you can. Stay completely down until you are completely well. If you can get a good latch by nursing lying down, do so! I set up the twins’ bassinets downstairs and slept on the couch nearby. The kitchen was right there, too, for easy access to food, water, remedies, and breast pump supplies. Think survival mode and let others help you.
- Apply a hot castor oil compress to any red, inflamed, or hardened area. Do this twice a day and remember to lie down and rest while applying it.
- Use a heating pad or hot water bottle on the infected area, especially before feedings to encourage thorough emptying of the breast. This is particularly helpful during the winter months (a common time for mastitis) when you need to keep your body warm.
Keep nursing! Don’t give up! When you are fighting mastitis, things can feel bleak. If you take time to read up, rest up, and heal up, you’ll be back to nursing as usual – with a fresh appreciation for that miraculous body of yours.
Like Mama always says, prevention really is the best medicine.
The temptation to get back to your normal agenda after having twins is strong. Resist that temptation and lay low because this is your chance to give your babies the very best nutrition and comfort that will help them thrive now and give them a healthy boost for the rest of their lives. It’s totally worth it – you can do it!
Did you get rid of mastitis using this plan? I’d love to hear your nursing survival tips in the comments!
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