Monday, June 9, 2014

My Toddler gave me Mastitis?

I have mastitis.

My nursling is 15 months old and he is my second breastfed baby.  I'm shocked that I'm finding myself in this condition.

My situation is extremely uncommon and unpleasant. Around 10% (reference) of breastfeeding women in the United States develop mastitis and most will develop it soon after the birth of their babies. Mastitis can occur because of an improper latch, not nursing on demand, and not frequently removing milk from the breast. I enjoyed more than three years of breastfeeding bliss before getting an infection that required antibiotics.  Although I had one close call with mastitis in the past, I recovered easily and continued to breastfeed.

The problems started on a Wednesday. Baby E was sent home from daycare with a high fever. My husband took him into the doctor and they ran a test for strep throat. Baby E stayed home from school on Thursday, but he was developing some strange bumps on his face. He suddenly developed a large, wet sore near the crease of his mouth. We called the doctor and he advised that baby E was probably showing signs of having "hand, foot, and mouth" disease. The highly-contagious virus that causes it was going around. There wasn't anything to do except wait for baby to get better, so I continued to nurse him in the morning and evening.

Baby's mood deteriorated quickly as he erupted into pimple-like welts on his face; hands; and creases of his arms, legs, and neck. Nursing became a challenge because he was uncomfortable and had open sores on his mouth. I developed a small sore on my right nipple. It was painful, but I ignored it. By Sunday, the sore had gotten worse and baby was refusing to nurse. I went online to discuss weaning baby E. I was upset that my toddler wasn't feeling well and was going on a nursing strike: was this a sign that our nursing relationship was ending? Nursing and pumping felt terrible because of the sore on my nipple. I wanted to wean slowly to avoid mastitis. I was being so smart, or I thought I was. I tried pumping the sore breast, but had no luck: the nipple was completely scabbed over.

By Tuesday, we had managed to sneak in a few nursing sessions to drain the sore breast and I thought I could fight the pain. However, I started feeling fatigue while at work. I didn't have a fever, but I had that feeling of mind-numbing exhaustion. I needed to see a doctor ASAP, and I was seen on Wednesday morning. The nurse practitioner took one look at my breast and was amazed I wasn't screaming in pain. 
"You have red streaks, you have scabs, you have other obvious signs of infection." 
"Oh. OK." (Did I really ignore obvious symptoms for this long?)
I filled my prescription for topical and oral antibiotics and headed to work. I was waiting for the fever to hit, but it never came. I swallowed some pain killers and regained use of my right arm. 

Two days later, I was still not feeling better.  I returned to the doctor where I was promptly shot with a large dose of antibiotics and placed on another oral antibiotic for MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphyloccoccus aureus).  The urgent care doctor sympathetically advised me to keep doing what I was doing: warming the breast and trying to empty milk.  I had a large hard spot which she worried was the beginning of an abscess (thankfully, it did soften after two hours of heating and a 20 minute pumping session). 

Now what? Mastitis? Breastfeeding? Was this really the way I wanted to end my breastfeeding chapter? I don't think this is the end, but it's certainly a challenge. I originally considered weaning from the affected side and continuing to nurse on the healthy breast. Unfortunately, the affected side "lets down" every time I nurse on the opposite breast.  Instead, I'm nursing on the unaffected breast and while heat-packing and pumping the side with mastitis.  If I truely have MRSA, I want to keep emptying that side. Things are slowly responding to treatment and I'm regaining some of my energy.

At the moment, I can use as many digital hugs as possible. Any real hugs will definitely cause excruciating pain. I give my sympathies to other moms going through this. I must admit, I never fully understood how painful mastitis is physically and emotionally. Now I know.  I never suspected a case of baby's "Hand, Foot, and Mouth" could develop into terrible sores and mastitis for me.  Breastfeeding mothers should watch for early signs of infection when nursing a child with an illness.


  1. Oh no, what a nightmare. I never knew mastitis could occur without a fever.
    I hope you and baby continue to heal so that your nursing relationship can continue. *hugs*

  2. Nissa, I am so sorry you're going through this! I've had mastitis several times and it was horrible. There's something especially difficult about infection when nursing because it's not just "being sick," it's all tied up with feeding and comforting your child, too. No wonder you are drained both physically AND emotionally. What a relief that the treatment is starting to take hold! I hope today brings less pain and that in the days to come the two of you can make a fresh start. Prayers for you!

  3. Hugs to you! I had a blocked duct once, and that hurt enough. Keep doing what you are doing, and you will get better!