Happy International Women’s Day! I Have Mastitis.

EDITED TO ADD: OK, so things have gotten MUCH better. I thought I should mention. The pain is almost entirely gone and we’re breastfeeding 75% of the time. I just thought I’d share the update. This is not a boast, however. I still went through Stupidville to get here. But now that I’m here, it’s OK. Things are OK.

About a week after I brought Elliot home, I started feeling sick. Chills came on with such intensity and at random times, I knew something was wrong. But I assumed it was hormonal and would eventually pass.

A few days went by and the aches set in. I ached all over my body. They took root deep within my body and radiated outward. I was having trouble walking. Was it my thyroid again? I took Advil around the clock so I could continue living a relatively normal life and caring for two kids.

The Advil worked, but as soon as it began to wear off, all the pain came rushing back again.

I still just figured it was a hormonal thing. I would work through it. It would get better.

Then Friday rolled around. I woke up at midnight after 3-hour power nap. I woke up covered in sweat, freezing. I moved from the bed to the couch where I would spend the next 5 hours. I didn’t know what was wrong so I began to google signs of mastitis.

I took it to Twitter.

Several people wrote back with mastitis stories and as I read through them, I became more and more sure that’s what I had.

People mentioned chills, fevers, aches, flu-like symptoms, intense breast pain, the red slap. People mentioned how they went from feeling OK to not fine within seconds.

Yes. All the above.

At 5 AM on Friday morning I woke up weeping. I was so sick I wanted my mommy. I could barely move. My entire body ached and I was freezing. I put the baby in his crib and crawled into our bedroom to wake up Toby.

“I’m so sick. I need your help. Something is very wrong.”

He got up and took over. I decided a hot shower was in order. Someone mentioned that heat would help my right breast, which was still in so much pain. That’s when I noticed the “Red Slap” people had mentioned. It was HUGE. It ran all the way from my right nipple out into my armpit. Even my lymph nodes were enlarged.

It would be hours before the doctor’s office opened, but I knew I had mastitis. And I knew I needed antibiotics immediately. Things were getting so much worse by the day. Not only did I feel like I had the flu, but my right breast was pumping out mucous with traces of blood and had been for over a week.

Fast forward to midday Friday. My doctor diagnosed me with mastitis and prescribed antibiotics. I have been on them since Friday and things have gotten MUCH better.

But still. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little pissed off. At what? Breastfeeding in general and why I seem to run into so many obstacles. I know it’s not supposed to be easy, but still. Dude. COME ON. Frustrated, I wrote the following.

I like breastfeeding, but this does feel stupid. I’m still going to try and make this work. I’m still feeding Elliot breastmilk, although, he’s frustrated by the slowness of my breast and much prefers the bottle. And I was warned that this might happen. But I pumped a lot while I was sick because my right breast hurt so bad. (Plus, I wasn’t too keen on the idea of feeding him bloody, mucousy breast milk. TMI? Sorry.) I fed him when I could on the left and pumped the rest of the time.

We do still feed via the breast, but he can’t be really hungry because he gets super frustrated and starts yelling. And that’s OK. I feed him pumped breastmilk and formula and give him the breast whenever possible. And I’m OK with that.

I promise, that no matter what happens, I will never, ever become one of those mothers who boasts about about “making it work” and “dealing with the pain”. Because, seriously? This just feels stupid to me.

But I’m going to give stupid a few more weeks. Because I’m kind of stupid.


  1. I hated breastfeeding. I can’t say that too often here because the women look at me as though I’ve gone completely insane and if I don’t shut up they are going to lynch me. If formula wasn’t so expensive I would have gone that route and then my partner could have helped more.

    I’d love to say it gets easier with time, but it just becomes different. Like, instead of your breast hurting from bad latch, it hurts because the kid has clamped down and won’t let go. Even with just gums, it HURTS! Not to put you off anymore than you probably are. :S

    I do hope it gets easier for you enough so that when you stop it’s not on a bad note.

    And I’m glad you are starting to feel better.


  2. Ok I SO SO SO SO hear you. With #2 (who is 21 months now) I nursed him for close to three months. With number one, I didn’t even even make it to three WEEKS! I had great nurses this time around and was more confident so I was able to “make it work” for those close to three months, but I was plagued with mastitis and/or blocked ducts. What you described above happened to me and hit me so suddenly I didn’t know how what the hell it was. The fever was particularly difficult to deal with – I mean, you’re already sleep deprived and emotional and taking care of a new baby and then you get an infection like this and all you want to do is lie down with a heating pad on your boob? My mom actually WAS here but I still felt like garbage. And my doc advised me to nurse through the whole thing. After that infection got cleared up I got another one. And then just kept getting blocked ducts. I felt like I lived my life for nursing. Finally I just said enough is enough. You’ll do what works best and don’t let anyone piss you off if they criticize your choices. They are not you, they have no clue.
    Hey, a rhyme.
    Take care. Oh, and when I was on antibiotics the pediatrician advised me to amp up the baby’s probiotics. I would mix a little powder probiotic in with water or pumped milk and give it to him in a syringe twice a day, between feedings. Helped keep his gut healthy since he was getting antibiotics through the breast milk. I also took a probiotic several hours after my antibiotic to keep myself healthy. Worked well. GOOD LUCK!


  3. I had a love/hate relationship with breastfeeding. My boys seemed so hungry all the time so I did start supplementing with formula fairly early and I am not ashamed of it. I only breastfed my oldest for 8 weeks because I was DONE. I held on a little longer for my youngest, 4 months, but didn’t enjoy it as much as I “should” have.

    I hope it gets easier for you and I hope you feel 100% soon!


  4. See, this right here, THIS is one of the many reasons I like you. You tell it like it is, based on your own experience, and you don’t judge others for their choices.

    Wishing you a short bout with the mastitis and several very long, restful naps….


  5. I can understand your frustration, this stupid process which is supposed to come so ‘naturally’. It really is a joke, out of all the mothers I know who have breastfed ( which is lots), only 1 was able to make it through without any pain, discomfort, or medication. I hope things start to level out soon, my son is not quite 2 weeks old, and the cracks and blisters are just now starting to heal. It is some form of sick torture….a design flaw if you ask me. This kid likes sucking on my finger as much as my nipple, which leaves me wondering why breast milk couldn’t have been administered via finger tip (fingermilk), leaving breasts as just something nice to look at, and giving us 10 options for feeding instead of just 2…..I digress…


  6. I had mastitis with all 3 of my children and I never regained my milk back after it. At first, the lactation consultants told me I wasn’t pumping/nursing enough so I just kept trying and trying until it hurt so much I cried. For whatever reason, one of my breasts simply can’t maintain a milk supply after mastitis. It’s weird and uncommon, but it happened. Anyway, sometimes weird shit just happens, you know? We can only do what we can do – nothing more. I’m so glad you’re feeling better.


  7. I hope you are feeling better! I had mastitis with my oldest and it was miserable. It was 13 years ago, so the details are fuzzy, but I think I started feeling better right away when I finally went to the doctor and got my antibiotic. Luckily I skipped it with my little one. We had ALL the other problems, but not mastitis. Good luck!


  8. So glad you’re feeling better! I never got mastitis, but the first few weeks of breast feeding for me were really, really hard. My nipples were cracked and so sore, I wanted to cry when my daughter latched. I saw a nurse who helped with her latch and told me to wait it out until after the 3rd week. She promised that it would become easier and less painful. And somehow, she was right! I’m so glad that we got through it and I ended up breast feeding for a year…mainly because of the money we were saving but also because it was so easy. I never had to worry about taking along bottles, formula, water, etc. As long as she was with me, she could be fed. (After a couple of months I starting pumping and freezing some breast milk so that my husband could help with feedings).

    Either way, good luck! Do what you feel is best and it will be.


  9. Sorry I never experence mastitis.

    Coffee is on.


  10. Oh man, I feel for you. I had mastitis at 7 weeks pp with my first baby and almost was admitted to a hospital for dehydration! After you have it once, you get much better at recognizing when you have a clog and getting it out before it goes that far. I had several more clogs with my first baby. I knew that meant I had to rest, apply heat, drink plenty of water and touch the hell out of that boob. I had it once with my daughter and got a fever. I always take it as a sign that I am pushing myself to hard.

    So rest rest rest


  11. So sorry it’s been such a rough road. I had a very mild case of mastitis with this baby but fortunately I knew the signs and caught it really, really early. I remember posting something on Facebook like, “I either have mastitis, or the flu + a sore boob.” It’s weird how it so closely mimics the flu! I finally Googled my symptoms (aches and chills, sore boob) and figured it out. Fortunately, I was far enough down the road with breastfeeding that I just had her feed on that side like crazy and it eventually subsided on its own. *Un*fortunately, I think nursing problems and mastitis go hand in hand (b/c if you have open wounds [!] on your boobs there is more opportunity for bacteria to get in and raise a ruckus).

    Hang in there. Or don’t! Do whatever makes you and your sweet son happy. Enjoy him and don’t sweat the BFing thing if it’s not working out. My SIL pumped exclusively with both kids and actually came to prefer it b/c it meant somebody else could feed the baby (and get up with her in the middle of the night)! I thought it sounded like an awful lot of work (I vowed not to pump this time) but she thought nursing every two hours sounded pretty dreadful. Tradeoffs!


  12. I thought you might be interested in this post I just read (courtesy of my local bf-ing support network). I, too, am breastfeeding and experiencing the ups and downs of it.



  13. I’m sorry. Mastitis is the worst. I had a clogged duct and it had to be irrigated! Like it was a corn crop or something! I hope it gets better for you.


  14. I’m so sorry you have Mastitis. It is the WORST. Hopefully the antiboitics have started kicking in and you’re feeling better.

    Did your doctor mention anything to you about taking probiotics, too? There can be some possible problems (thrush?) for the Mom and baby when on antibiotics.

    If your doctor didn’t mention anything, maybe LeLeche League would have some information or the lady who came over to assist you with BF.

    Love your blog. Best to you always.


  15. I had a terrible time with breast feeding and tortured myself for 4 months to do the “right” thing. I would have cried if I had read this blog at that time. Thanks for giving a voice to the women who are struggling, painfully. Sometimes Bf’ing doesn’t “get better” and that’s okay.

    Hope you recover soon.


  16. So sorry you’re not feeling well. My good friend has mastitis and it was awful! FWIW She found out from her doctor that fair skinned women suffer more from this. Enjoy the baby and his big brother.


  17. Your story sounds SO FAMILIAR! Ack. I had such a rough start to breastfeeding. It was AWFUL. I got mastitis and nursed my daughter through clenched teeth, bloody nipples and MANY, MANY tears. It was so incredibly hard. And? I felt so alone. It was miserable. But, I powered through and ended up nursing her for 13 months. It got easier and easier. I am happy to hear you’re feeling better and things are working out. Whew. Sometime ask me about eating Christmas dinner topless…with my parents. Good times!


  18. YAY on the update! Great news :-)


  19. Mihow,
    So happy to hear you survived the horror of Mastitis. It is such an evil thing us moms have to deal with on top of the crazy hormonal stuff we deal with after the baby along with everything else…… Gah! I figured out something was not quite right as I was in the middle of Costco with both kids and Mike was at an all day event at Google, or was it Yahoo….wait I think it was Google. At any rate he was not around….. Basically I got my butt out of the store the best I could and finally decided to drive myself to the Dr’s office. I didn’t have an appointment but my Dr. is amazing and she saw me right away. At first she was not sure what was wrong but the symptoms came on fast and right then and there she was able to diagnose me. However b/c was in such a state she would not let me drive home. After taking a large dose of Advil and calling a friend to come get Isabel, I was able to make it home on my own w/ baby in tow. Luckily Mike was home by then. I just passed the baby to him and made a bee line straight to bed. I can’t remember ever being that sick so quickly in that short of time.
    Sigh…… the things we go through as moms…


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