My baby was four weeks old when I began to notice a stinging sensation in my left breast each time he would latch on. I thought that this was normal, since I had only started feeling comfortable breastfeeding my son, Vito, when he was about two weeks old. In fact, my cracked nipples had only just started to heal at this point.
I thought I had gotten breastfeeding down pat. After all, I had been expressing milk with a mechanical pump and breastfeeding every one to two hours. Everything seemed to be fine until one day, I noticed that my left breast was significantly larger—and notably more engorged—than the other. It felt tender to the touch, hot, and I felt acute pain each time Vito latched on. What was worse, I began to experience cold sweat and waves of nausea.
And then I knew the worst had come: I had developed mastitis.
Askdrsears.com defines mastitis as an inflammation of the breast due to clogged ducts and restricted milk flow. Normally, mastitis occurs when the baby has not mastered the correct latch, which was the case in my situation.
Nursing in tears “I can’t…I can’t,” I wailed one Monday morning, at the height of the infection. Vito was trying to nurse, but I was in too much pain to let him latch on. I was told by my ob-gyn that the most natural solution and relief for mastitis was to rest and let Vito nurse as often as he could on the engorged breast. However, I seemed to lack the willpower to do so.
My mother, bless her soul, came to tend to me and Vito, showing me and my husband how to apply warm and cold compresses to the swollen breast, and how to stimulate let-down with a gentle massage. She coached me gently each time I needed to feed Vito, stroking my head with each tear that fell from my eyes as the baby nursed.
Click here to read more about Martine De Luna's experience breastfeeding with mastitis.