One of the most common breastfeeding hazards; infection. A clogged duct and mastitis are both infections, but are not the same thing. A clogged duct can lead to mastitis though and many of the symptoms and treatments are similar.
My first introduction to breastfeeding came when my sister had her first child. I was a young, childfree college student and I spent all my free time as a doting aunt! Around one month into her breastfeeding journey, my sister started feeling pain when nursing. She didn't have a fever but felt off. She went to her doctor, but the symptoms of mastitis were missed. My sister had never heard of it. I won't go into all the details, but within a week she had an excruciating abcess that needed to be surgically drained. It was completely horifying, not to mention painful.
When I became a mother, I was a wee apprehensive about breastfeeding after witnessing that! The photo above was the first day of breastfeeding my daughter. We worked really hard to improve that latch!! I invested in a lactation consultant (you can read about that here) Through research, I discovered that mastitis can be quite avoidable (not in all cases). If we, as mothers, can identify and clear clogged ducts quickly and early, then our chances are good for avoiding mastitis.
Here are the symptoms and treatments, according to Dr. Jay Gordon,
- Tender, aching breast
- Hard knot in breast
- Skin hot and red, often in a spot right above a knot
- Flu-like body aches
- Red line visible on breast
- A blister on the nipple is often associated with a plugged duct
- Increase nursings on the affected breast.
- Point baby’s chin at any red, hot spot you may have.
- Prior to nursing, immerse breast in very hot water and massage toward the nipple. As often as possible, do this in a bathtub to get excellent immersion. If needed, a sink can be used with washcloths to assist.
- Massage toward the nipple while nursing.
- Go to bed with baby and rest and nurse if at all possible
Unfortunately, through my very unscientific research as a mother, it would seem that some women are more susceptible to infections of the breast than others. One of my friends had mastitis five times! Another friend never even experienced a clogged duct.
Here are some more excellent resources for the prevention and treatment of clogged ducts and mastitis: