* I HAD CLOGGED MILK DUCTS WHEN BREASTFEEDING*
I never heard of the word “Mastitis” until the first three months of my breastfeeding journey. Apparently, mastitis is more common than I thought, and studies have reported high incidence in lactating women. I happen to be one of those women. I had two bouts of mastitis with a fever. I had tried self-care techniques like; taking off my bra for a few days, feeding on demand, feeding frequently, using different breastfeeding positions, using gentle massage and self-expression to reduce the congestion of milk in the affected breast, using a warm compress and taking warm showers.
After exhausting all my self-management techniques and experiencing very little improvement, I had to seek physical therapy from a lactating consultant. Within two visits, I received a therapeutic ultrasound, massage and expression. The pain reduced and I was able to feed my baby painlessly again. The consultation also revealed that my bra type, breast pump funnel size, and pumping frequency were some of the issues that caused my mastitis. Today, I know better and I have been given enough tips and guidance for at home care.
Here are some of the things you can do to improve your breastfeeding experience and prevent mastitis:
A good diet is particularly important when breastfeeding. According to Jane Moffett, a breastfeeding counsellor with the National Childbirth Trust (NCT), “You’re fueling yourself to fuel a baby”. She advised that lactating mothers eat a varied balanced diet. calcium-fortified foods can work perfectly for mothers who are vegan. Wholegrains, protein and vegetables will help to regulate blood sugar and may reduce your cravings for high-fat and high-sugar foods. But, with breastfeeding burning about 300 calories a day, this is not the time to cut calories. As you’ll be feeding through the night as well as the day, it may be an idea to take some lactation cookies to bed.
Take care of your emotional and mental health
Breastfeeding, like all elements of early parenting, may be different from what you expected. You may feel tired, frustrated, confused or helpless. According to research by the NCT in 2017, half of mothers experienced mental health problems at some time during pregnancy or within the first year of their child’s birth. If you feel in need of support, ask your GP, midwife or health visitor about breastfeeding clinics, drop in sessions and support groups. Help may be available locally but, if not, there are several national helplines in the U.S.
Get enough rest
The pressure to rest can feel, ironically, rather stressful when your routine is being dictated by an infant. So, instead of trying to sleep whenever the baby does, which may not always work out; simply try to do things that make you happy. Getting rest doesn’t necessarily have to be sleep. It could just be lying on the sofa, watching TV, listening to music or taking an oatmeal bath. Anything that helps you feel less frazzled.
Be breast aware
While breastfeeding, take the time to look at your breasts in the mirror, and check them regularly for signs of tenderness. If you start to feel fluey, have a red area on one of your breasts, or if your breasts feel painful, inform your doctor, midwife or health care provider. These can be the early signs of mastitis, a painful condition caused by a buildup of milk in the breast. If you suspect mastitis may be coming on, experts recommend massaging the affected area in a warm shower, continuing to breastfeed, trying different positions to stimulate the blocked area and maybe starting your baby feeding on the affected breast to try to drain any blockages. However, if this is painfully impossible as it was for me, please seek help from a professional therapist.
Look after your back
Breastfeeding can cause aches and pains, particularly if you don’t watch your posture. There are different breastfeeding positions that may suit parent and baby – from the rugby hold to the cradle hold, from lying flat to lying on your side, or even the jazzy sounding “koala” position. The Medela website has useful pictures and notes of several of these positions, or you can ask to be shown them at breastfeeding drop-ins, which are usually run by local health services.
Breastfeeding is really important for the growth and development of our babies. Nevertheless, this experience can be painful and daunting. As moms, we have to do our best to normalize selfcare, to ensure that we are in the best physical and mental health. This is the only way we can possibly do the best we can for our children.