Monday, August 20, 2012

Fire Boob

Saturday evening, around dinner time, my boob started hurting.  Not like SUPER painful, just kind of sore in one spot on top.  I couldn't feel a bump or lump or anything, but I still figured it must be a clogged milk duct.  I hadn't done any of the things that can contribute to a clogged duct--the baby's sleeping patterns hadn't recently changed, I wasn't wearing underwire bras, I wasn't pulling her off the boob early during a feeding.  My legs also felt really sore and tired, which seemed weird since we hadn't walked all that far, but I didn't think much of it.

I looked up "clogged milk duct" in a couple breast feeding books I have and followed their directions (nurse frequently, apply warm compress, massage boob while nursing) and thought it was sort of feeling better.  Caroline has been sleeping long stretches at night (knock on wood) so around midnight, I decided to take a hot shower and pump before I went to bed.

It didn't matter.

I woke up at 7 the next morning, under the sheet, blanket, and duvet cover, FREEZING cold.  Except for my right boob, which felt like it was about to spontaneously combust.  I was shivering, my teeth were chattering, and I knew something was very, very wrong.

By 8am, we'd determined I had mastitis.

I had all the classic symptoms--painful boob with a red splotch on it (although it actually wasn't that painful compared to the other symptoms), fever, shakiness, weakness, chills, and sweats.  I never run a high fever, but my temperature didn't drop below 99 degrees all day long, even with antibiotics and ibuprofen every four hours.

I laughed because the first instruction under "Mastitis" in The Nursing Mother's Companion is to "Go to bed."  Dude, there's no way I could get OUT of bed.

Fortunately David was able to call in to work and stay home with me today, because there is no way I could take care of the baby by myself.

I called my doula/lactation consultant later in the day to ask her about probiotics (because the LAST thing I need to experience now is thrush) and was trying to explain to her that I don't understand why I would have gotten this or what I did wrong.  She told me that there was probably nothing I could have done--infections just happen sometimes.  It's possible my immune system was down (I did have a sore throat the previous week) but she said there's no specific cause.

I spent all day yesterday nursing Caroline every two hours, as instructed by my doctor, my doula/lactation consultant, and everything we read online.  (This was unusual for us, because even when she was first born, she never demanded to eat every two hours.  She quickly settled into a routine of eating just 7 times a day, which of course was a concern for me since everything I read said 8-12 times a day, but our pediatrician assured me she's doing just fine.)  At first, nursing was miserable, and GOD FORBID she flail her arm around and hit the sore boob.  If she was sound asleep, I pumped, which was also miserable just because pumping is not super fun.  But I was doing anything to keep the boobs feeling soft and empty.  Eventually the boob pain subsided, and I fully expected to be feeling better by last night since I'd been on antibiotics and ibuprofen all day long.

But that was not the case.  Basically, mastitis is like the worst flu symptoms ever, plus boob pain.

Around 9:30pm, I'd nursed the baby and she'd fallen asleep in my arms.  I was sitting and holding her in the recliner, and all of a sudden, I was FREEZING cold again.  I had two of our warmest, fuzziest blankets on my lap, but I was still so cold I was shaking.  David put another quilt over me.  I wanted to keep holding the baby because she was so sweet and sleepy and comforting, but finally it got to the point where I was shaking too hard and my arms felt completely weak.  I told David, "Something is wrong.  I feel worse."

David picked up the baby, and her poor little legs were sweaty from being held against my furnace of a body (she sleeps very soundly, though, with Mommy as a heating pad).  He put Caro in her bed and helped me move to the couch, where I curled up in the fetal position under all my blankets.  I knew that I was burning up, but I felt so cold that I couldn't stop shaking, my teeth were chattering like crazy, and all I could do was sort of moan pathetically.  We took my temperature, and my fever had gone up to 102.7.

David was pretty freaked out as he'd never seen me like that before.  I've never had a temperature over 100 degrees since he's known me.  In fact, I don't think I've ever had a fever that high in my entire life.  He  told me this morning that he was really scared when he saw the thermometer.  So then he kept searching online to read about what to expect, and I tried to watch TV but couldn't focus on anything.  At one point I wanted to go to bed, but when I stood up I felt like I was going to pass out, so it was back to the couch.  I took a short nap there and then my fever had gone down a little bit (around 100) when I woke up, so then I made it back to bed.

When I woke up at 4am to nurse the baby (we had to set an alarm to wake all of us up ever 2-3 hours during the night), I felt the best I'd felt since Saturday--and I didn't have a fever.  But by 8am today, my fever was back (although it was down to 99.6).  It's hovered around 99 all day long and I just feel absolutely exhausted.  Like it takes an internal pep talk for me to get up and go to the bathroom.  I did manage to shower today, though, because my fever broke a couple times yesterday, leaving me hot and sweaty.

I know I should be grateful to have a nursing baby and two working boobs and all that, but I'll tell you that I did go ahead and have a little bit of a pity party because WHY would this have to happen to me (and, apparently, just 20% of all nursing moms, usually in the first three months, most commonly in the first 1-2 weeks)?  Why can't my body function properly?  And of course when things happen that are out of my control and yet occurring within my body, it always goes back to my pregnancy with Eliza, where it seems as though my body failed her.  Why can't I ever fall on the fat side of statistics, where you DON'T get "milk fever" and your babies all live?  So that train of thought, along with a brutal fever and severe body aches led to some tears that probably would have been more extreme except I was so freaking exhausted I was too tired to cry.

Fortunately, I slept pretty well last night, in between waking every 2-3 hours to make the baby nurse.

The most surprising thing is that my boob wasn't nearly as painful as everything else (for some reason I just expected a boob infection to keep the boob at the center of Everything Awful).  The muscle aches from the fever were the worst.  I still feel sore, like I rolled down a hillside full of rocks after hiking for ten miles and every inch of my body is tired and bruised.  My back and legs and arms just hurt.  And I'm still so weak that I don't really feel comfortable walking around with the baby.  David has run to the store to pick up a few things and took Caroline with him because I'm scared that I can't take good care of her by myself.  It's awful.

So, in summary:  I'm 24 hours into my antibiotic, my boob still looks red and angry, and I'm weak, sore, tired, and cranky (evidence of crankiness:  David deleted a show from the DVR that I hadn't watched yet and I yelled at him and told him he was "insensitive and disrespectful").

We're both hoping I'll feel loads better by tomorrow.

Between me, the baby, and the dogs, he's dealing with four helpless, needy creatures who desperate for attention and relying on him to deliver food, drink, and entertainment.  Just in case you thought his day off work might be a vacation... yeah, not so much.  At least the worst appears to be over.  Hopefully I am on the mend.

Anybody out there had mastitis and lived to tell about it?  Can you offer me some hope here?  I just want to be able to keep nursing my baby and never experience this again.  Is that really too much to ask?

A cute baby is the best medicine of all.  Unfortunately, it does not cure mastitis immediately.


  1. OMG, that picture is the best!

    I had mastitis for about 2 days, not as bad as you it sounds like. I nursed and slept and nursed and thankfully got better quickly without antibiotics and without any other issues. Hang in there!

    You should make David bring home some offi ce referrals so you can write him up when he is disrespectful! :) And I think it's good for daddy's to get a little taste of the fun running errands is with a baby in tow! Hope you feel even better soon!

  2. Oh no, that sounds terrible.

    Fever is awful. We get high ones in our house - a couple of months back I almost hit 105 and I couldn't climb the stairs. I was cranking in ibuprofen and tylenol, alternating every 2 hours, but didn't get below 102.5 for several days.

    I called my doctor at ten one night - the night it spiked to 104.8 and I couldn't walk and she asked me what I was eating. I thought I was doing well to be eating so many fruits - seemed like good logic to stay hydrated. She told my husband to get me some granola with whole milk while we were talking on the phone - fat and carbs - and I'm not kidding you, I could walk a few minutes later. Feed your body to fight the infection - sounds like yours is working overtime, so maybe when you feel particularly week pump up the fat and carbs.

    Just my two cents... Hope you feel better soon.

  3. Oh my goodness, I hope you are feeling better soon! How awful!

    What a sweet picture though!

  4. I'm almost too distracted by that adorably squishy baby to respond.

    And really, this is sharing nothing that google hasn't already told you, but my poor sister-in-law had mastitis twice with her youngest and once with her older son. Did your mom get it? Apparently it's genetic. My mom never got it and I was lucky enough not to either (but she does have lots of moles that I notice I too am getting as I age, so genetics can really be a drag sometimes. . . but I digress). Anyway, my SIL usually felt much better (close to normal) within three days of starting her meds. Also, babies suck the hardest initially, so I have heard it's good to always start nursing on the more problematic side as they will do a better job draining that boob.

    Anyway, I hope you feel better soon.

  5. Most adorable baby picture ever!

    Holy crap that sounds horrendous!! I got clogged milk ducts on multiple occasions but never mastitis, so I am of no help. Sending healing thoughts to you!

  6. I'm with Amelia- I've had a couple clogged ducts but aside from swollen, sore boobies and and thanks to a hard-sucking baby, the problem was solved rather quickly.

    This sounds HORRIBLE. Hope you're feeling better- so glad David is nursing you (ha!) back to health.

  7. Horrid! I've had a blocked duct but Not mastitis. But... At least you are on the mend. I got thrush with Kai for no particular reason and that hurt and was a Pain in the... Boob, for at least a month. Thrush is a bitch to get rid of especially with mom and baby passing it back and forth so make sure you're taking probiotics with the antibiotic. Hope you are 100% very soon.

  8. Oh, your poor boob. Your poor you! I hope you feel better very soon.

    And (OMG!) that is a ridiculously adorable photo of your adorable baby.

  9. Dude, that sounds horrible! I definitely support you, my friend, but that bebe at the end is obviously worth all the pain (speaking from someone who knows you understand as I recall a certain friend who chose against the epidural).

    I was wincing right along with you. Hoping for you to make a full recovery stat!

  10. What a beautiful sleepy face! So cute.

    I had mastitis last October -- boy, that sucked. I was totally lazy and did not take probiotics, but didn't get thrush after the antibiotics. (Instead, I got thrush after giving Margo antibiotic eyedrops when she got pinkeye.) You should have lots of hope! There's no way out but through, and if you keep putting her to the breast, you will get through this. I think mastitis is more painful than thrush, but it is way easier to get rid of.

    Major props to David for taking such good care of everyone, even if he did disrespectfully erase a show.

  11. you have my total sympathy. when I got mastitis I thought I was dying. it was SO terrible!

    There is a product by wishgarden herbs called "happy ducts" (I think they have one specifically for mastitis too) and it was totally miraculous for me. It's at whole foods and pharmaca. After mastitis I used it whenever I felt a knot in a breast, and rubbed the knot toward the nipple while nursing.

    Some people are just more likely to get mastitis than others, and it doesn't mean you did anything wrong. Sometimes you do everything right and things still turn out bad, as you know better than most anyone. I wish it were true that effort and attentiveness = good outcome.

    Hang in there--it gets much better when the flu part passes.


  12. Sweet baby cheeks... so sorry you got milk fever my friend... hugs- except not tight ones that might squish the boobs. Yipes...

  13. I got mastitis when Gwen was 18 days old, the day we moved. I packed up the pump earlier than I should have because I thought things would take less time than they did, and then Gwen had an amazingly long nap while we packed the van, and I think that was the trigger. It didn't kick in until the next evening, though, when Joel was back at the old place giving the final clean-up and thus I was too fevered to realize that I was sick and by the time he got back, I was better, but my supply pretty much dried up (we'd been having nursing problems already before we reached this point, and the whole "nurse your baby every two hours" solution wouldn't have worked for us anyway). That was pretty much the death knell for us and nursing. But we survived, both of us, and though I'm still mad and disappointed at my left breast which is sagging and floppy as a result of weaning so quickly, Gwen is clearly thriving some 8 months later on.

  14. I'm so sorry :( That's terrible! Keep up with the Probiotics for sure. We had a round of thrush already and it is not fun.

    Caro is just the sweetest. I'm a sucker for chubby cheeks...

  15. I have had mastitis with all of my is pure misery. I was even hospitalized once for I.V. Antibiotics , but I managed to nurse through it. I have accepted that I am just prone to it, but with my last baby and this one I would just nurse on one side per feed and that seemed to minimize the number of times I got it because I made sure it was fully drained. I really hope this is a one time thing because to be honest it is very hard to want to continue nursing when you feel so bad.

    Keep your head up, my doctor told me most likely the bacteria was coming from the babies mouth and unfortunately can't be prevented