It was 2012 and I was a new mum
Around 3am I woke with shooting breast pain, rolled over and went back to sleep. I had felt the beginnings of mastitis, but I had no idea…yet. To be fair, I had no idea what mastitis was.
Over the next 12 hours, I pushed through an increasing frequency of intense stabbing breast pain, just figuring the pain was just part of the breastfeeding gig, right? Wrong.
By 2pm that afternoon, the pressure in my breast had escalated rapidly, and I thought it was just a bad case of engorgement. But it was getting worse. My skin began to crawl with a terrible all-over flu-like body ache. Feeling drawn to the thought of a warm shower for relief, I stood there under the spray, passed-out, regained consciousness and now couldn’t get up.
What on earth was this?
The living breast nightmare.
The next 6 days were a time when a fever of around 39 day-in, day-out was standard. Whimpering in constant pain, I was a wallowing mess. All I could do was cry while shuffling around the house with this sledgehammer-like jab in my left breast with every step. With a complete lack of ability to look after myself, let alone a 3-week-old baby, this mastitis thing is an overwhelming experience.
With a complete lack of ability to look after myself, let alone a 3-week-old baby, this mastitis thing is an overwhelming experience.
Antibiotics were prescribed by a doctor and I’d read to massage the mastitis. This piqued my interest being an Osteopath. I’d massaged many body parts for aches and pains before but never the breast. What do you do with the breast? Is it different to muscle massage? Is it the same? I didn’t know.
I asked around but no one seemed to have any solid massage advice. Even trusty Google had nothing specific about breast massage.
So what are you supposed to do? How do you even start?
You can treat mastitis with a breast massage
If only I knew then what I know now about breast massage for mastitis. It’s how I developed understanding and answers treating other women for mastitis in my Osteopathic clinic in Melbourne, Australia.
Investigating massage technique during my own mastitis nightmare, there was no plan, no guidance or rationale for how, why, or how often. It’s that detail that makes all the difference with mastitis treatment. My team and I, in the past 6 years, have since developed dedicated techniques for mastitis based on how the breast brings fluid in, makes fluid, and drains fluid. It’s all about tissue structure and the specific physical qualities of mastitis itself.
With regard to the breast, mums just don’t know how to self-assess or massage their breast when they have an issue because it’s simply not a skill that’s taught. And worse, many women unknowingly massage incredibly firmly, like muscle massage, and cause trauma to their breast tissue. Please don’t do this!
Mums just don’t know how to self-assess or massage their breast when they have an issue because it’s simply not a skill that’s taught
3 top tips for breast massage
So our hot tips for basic mastitis massage are:
- 5-10% pressure – light & gentle
- Massage from the edges of the lumps, not the firm centre
- Use massage like a medicine – no less than 4 times/day
And the extra 4th tip is a really important one, be kind to yourself no matter what.