What I miss most about the first three years of being a new mom is the special time bonding with my baby during breastfeeding. I’m so lucky to experience such a sentimental time once in my life. There were some difficult times I thought would never end though when I was dealing with the painful cycles of mastitis.
It’s been so long, and I never thought about it ‘til I got a phone call from my friend who was taking the same Spanish class with me last night. She has 2 daughters: one is almost 3 years old, and the other just turned 1 and is still nursing. Her family just moved from Hong Kong and is new to town like us so we became friends instantly. She needed my help taking care of her daughters, while she was going to see a doctor. She told me that something serious might happen to her as she found a few lumps on her left breast and they were so painful.
I was fine taking care of her daughters, but what she was telling me brought back memories. It’s hard to believe that many years have flown by since I stopped breastfeeding, but everything during that time was still clear in my mind. I was pretty sure that she must be having mastitis as her little one, who is still nursing, had been sick and couldn’t nurse like normal.
So, that’s it, her breast was clogged from not being drained thoroughly, and the clog caused the painful mastitis. I told her not to be worried and shared what I did when it happened to me 12-½ years ago. The next morning she called back, and said she didn’t have to go to the doctor. She’d done what I told her, and it worked!
I was so glad to be able to help her. As a preemie, my daughter never learned to nurse while she was in the N.I.C.U. Her mouth was too small, and she was not strong enough to suck the milk out of my breast. I had to pump from day one, and give the milk to the nurses to feed her through her nose with a tiny tube. When we brought her home, she was big enough to nurse but she refused to do it as it’s so much easier to take milk from a bottle. I wanted her to grow strong and was completely dedicated to giving her breast milk. If you saw how tiny she was, I’m sure you would agree with me.
I kept pumping and feeding her with a bottle like that for two and half months. I had to work like a robot, pumping, washing the bottles and the machine, and feeding her every 2 hours. I was so relieved when she was finally able to latch on and nurse, although that wasn’t the happy ending of my breastfeeding journey.
Not too long after she could nurse I had my first mastitis, yikes!! Just like my friend, I was so scared. It happened to me almost every other day, and it lasted for a few hours every time, Nobody could tell me why, or what to do. I had to go see my doctor to ask for help, but whatever he told me to do didn’t work. Then, I went to see my naturopath doctor, and again her advice didn’t work either. I gave up seeing more doctors and started doing research online, but there weren’t very many blogs about this issue at the time.
However, I came across a breastfeeding forum, and the forum led me to the La Leche League website which had a form to submit questions about problems with breastfeeding. I never thought anybody would care to write me back, but I submitted my question anyway. Two days later I got an email from a lady who lived far away in Florida. Her advice was a life-saver, and my mastitis was gone like magic. I was so grateful for that nice lady, even though I don’t remember her name or have her email anymore, but the advice she gave me is still clear in my mind.
Here is exactly what I learned from her:
She told me to have my daughter nurse like normal, and change to the second side after feeling it’s been long enough. You should be able to tell when it’s the right time to change sides from your own nursing routine with your baby. When done nursing, she told me to remember the side that was nursed last by pinning my sleeve with a safety pin so I wouldn’t forget. When it was time for my daughter to nurse again, I had to start her on the same side I had pinned. She said babies empty the breast of the side that they start with very well, but they don’t do a good job on the second side because they get full before the breast is emptied. So, when we nurse again without knowing it, we tend to put the babies on the side we feel most comfortable with first, and the side we are less comfortable with is always left without being emptied. When a breast never gets emptied, it clogs, and that’s how we get the painful mastitis. It sounds so simple but I never would have thought of it on my own.
As new babies are born every minute, and more women become new moms, I’m sure some of them are having or will have this same issue. I hope they find this simple tip soon enough to make their breastfeeding smoother and more enjoyable throughout their nursing journey.
Please share this with breastfeeding moms you know. Also share your experiences with me. I’d really like to hear from you!