How mastitis almost ended my breastfeeding journey

how mastitis almost ended my breastfeeding journey

I had read about mastitis early on in my breastfeeding journey so knew the signs to look out for. As soon as I felt my breast became sore I tried to prevent the blocked milk duct from becoming infected. I constantly massaged it, offered the painful side first during feeds, and used a warm flannel to help relieve some of the pain. I took to a breastfeeding support group on Facebook to look for other useful tips and tricks to unblock the duct. But despite my best efforts, I just kept feeling worse.

My symptoms became more severe

It was as if I had a bad case of the flu – buy body ached and I felt freezing, yet had a really high temperature. I knew I needed antibiotics, but because it was the weekend I rang the NHS emergency number for advice. Due to the severity of my symptoms I was advised to go to my local urgent care. My baby, now 15 weeks, was left at home with my husband, who promptly defrosted my milk from the freezer (thank goodness for my freezer stash). I was seen quickly and it was confirmed I had mastitis. I was given antibiotics and sent home.

Due to the severity of my symptoms I was advised to go to my local urgent care

After being home only an hour I started vomitting and couldn’t even keep water down. This meant the antibiotics weren’t staying in and the paracetamol that was helping with my pain and temperature weren’t working. I went back to urgent care, was given different antibiotics and some anti-sickness medication to take together.

My temperature reached 41⁰C and I couldn’t move

I came home and napped on the sofa, but I woke suddenly feeling very unwell. My temperature was now 41⁰C, I was so fatigued I couldn’t move and I was struggling with my breathing. My husband decided to call an ambulance and I was taken to A&E and put on a sepsis pathway. I was given IV antibiotics, pain relief, and fluids. Bloods were taken and I was having regular monitoring. 

how mastitis nearly ended my breastfeeding journey

After about 3 hours in hospital I was starting to feel better but my breasts had become very full. Luckily, my husband had packed me a bag and had thought to put in my breast pump. A&E was extremely busy and now that my observations (blood pressure, pulse, temperature) were more stable I was on the corridor not a private bay. I asked my nurse if there was somewhere private I could go to pump, and she was more than helpful.

I asked my nurse if there was somewhere private I could go to pump, and she was more than helpful.

I was given my own room, with a door that could be locked and a jug of water. My nurse regularly checked on me and although she didn’t know much about breastfeeding she was very supportive. She even offered to store the milk for me, but I declined, knowing a lot of my breast milk had already been defrosted. I was really impressed by the thoughtfulness and didn’t expect it at all. 

If I was admitted to hospital it would end my breastfeeding journey

As time went on and I was given more fluids and IV antibiotics, my observations kept improving and my bloods had come back ‘OK’. I was seen by a doctor and told my options. Either I could be admitted to hospital and continue IV medications but my son would be unable to stay with me due to Covid-19 restrictions, or I could go home and monitor myself. I was exhausted and emotional – what was the right decision?

Although I probably would have been better staying in hospital to continue IV medications, I knew if I was admitted to hospital it would end my breastfeeding journey. If my son couldn’t be with me, I couldn’t feed him and we didn’t have enough milk in the freezer to sustain him. Therefore, I made the difficult decision to go home as I didn’t want my breastfeeding journey with my son to end. Looking back now, I wish I had the energy to fight and question my care a bit more. Were these really the only two options available to me? Did I have to be separated from my son?

I was on the verge of becoming septic

I was told if my temperature spiked again or I felt as unwell as I did to come straight back. They said I had been on the verge of becoming septic from my mastitis. I honestly had no idea how unwell mastitis can make you and how quickly things can deteriorate. From feeling some pain to being taken to hospital via ambulance, it had happened in less than 48 hours.

It took me over a week to recover properly at home, taking oral antibiotics and resting lots. It was very difficult caring for my baby while I felt so unwell and managing the pain. Luckily my dad was working from home so was able to check on me every day while my husband was at work. Without his support, I think I would have given up on breastfeeding due to soreness and exhaustion. I am so proud that in end we are still breastfeeding through blood, sweat, and tears!

how mastitis almost ended my breastfeeding journey

I am so proud that in end we are still breastfeeding through blood, sweat and tears!

What is mastitis?

Mastitis is a condition whereby the breast(s) become inflamed and engorged. They’ll likely feel very warm to the touch and look ‘angry’ and red. You may experience flu-like symptoms; feeling hot one minute and cold the next. 

Sometimes there’s an obvious reason why mastitis takes hold, such as skipping a feed or baby repeatedly feeding off one breast and not the other (which can lead to a painful build up of milk in your breast) but sometimes there doesn’t appear to be a reason why mastitis occurs. 

Needless to say, it’s a very painful condition and can come on very suddenly and quickly. If you’re lucky and can ‘catch it early’ there are some home remedies which you can do to combat it. Things like a hot bath or shower whilst massaging the breasts can alleviate the engorgement and swollenness. It’s also important to continue to feed your baby from the sore breast(s). Hand expression, manual or electric pumping in between feeds can often remedy things. 

If you’re still in pain even after trying these things, then you should contact a doctor immediately for a course of antibiotics as it’s likely an infection has taken hold.

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