Aussie model Erin McNaught is reminding mothers not to try to "push through" or ignore symptoms of mastitis, after she was almost hospitalised over the weekend.
The mother-of-two, who gave birth to her second son Ennio Stanley on 12 September, took to Instagram with a warning after her mastitis "returned with a vengeance" and her health quickly deteriorated.
"[I] wanted to talk about it a bit as I had NO IDEA 1) how painful it can actually get, and 2) how serious it can be," she shared with her 161,000 followers. McNaught described that she had been feeling "pretty crappy" with flu symptoms in the week prior, adding that she was "really achey all over, super-fatigued and had a splitting headache."
Initially suspecting she had a bout of "mild mastitis", McNaught explained that she thought it had cleared up. Instead, she attributed the "fluey feeling" to only clocking around three hours of sleep a night - and just generally feeling "really run down".
Despite feeling a little bit better on Friday, by Saturday afternoon, McNaught's condition had quickly deteriorated. "I could barely even stand up," she wrote,describing that she was "in agony". The exhausted mama called an emergency doctor who came to the house and prescribed a "strong antibiotic", which she had to take immediately.
"If I had've left it even until the next morning," McNaught admitted, "I most likely would have been hospitalised and an IV antibiotic given for 24 hours."
It was a situation she was grateful to have avoided.
"Imagine being back in hospital with a newborn baby, hooked up to an IV, simply because you ignored your symptoms and tried to push through". McNaught then issued a plea to fellow mums to please, get themselves checked out, "If you don't feel right."
"It's better to be safe than sorry," she said.
The response to McNaught's post shows the mama is far from alone when it comes to dealing with the horrors of mastitis, while caring for a newborn baby.
"I had same thing happen one week after going home with bub," one mum wrote. "I had to take her back in with me, trying to breastfeed her and hooked up to IV antibiotics with no sleep and trying to recover from a C- section. Was the absolute worst time but made me realise how strong I actually am."
"I hear you!" shared another. "I was hospitalised for one week with an 8 day old baby. 43 degree temps and also felt the exact same as you say. It's a horrible feeling. Only us who've experienced it, know. Just know each day gets better and better. I had to have the midwives come into my room every 2 hours to manually milk me coz i was that bad that, feeding the baby and pumping wouldn't work."
According to the Australian Breastfeeding Association and the Royal Women's Hospital's clinical guidelines for mastitis, the condition is usually caused by a blocked milk duct that hasn't cleared. Other causes include: poor attachment to the breast, ceasing breastfeeding too quickly, long breaks between breastfeeding and wearing a bra that is too tight. The majority of cases occur during the first six weeks of breastfeeding.
Feeling as though you're getting the flu with shivers and aching joints. It is common to feel ill very quickly.
A sore breast that is red and swollen, hot and painful. Skin may be shiny and there may be "red streaks." Mastitis literally means "inflammation of the breast".
To treat mastitis, mums should:
- Rest as much as possible. If you can, take your baby to bed, along with nappies, food and drinks so you don't have to keep getting up. If you've got older kids, set up in the lounge room.
- Keep the sore breast as empty as possible by feeding your baby often (breast milk is not affected by mastitis.) According to the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine, positioning baby at the breast with their chin or nose pointing to the blockage will help drain the affected area.
- Apply warmth to the sore area before a feed using a heat pack or warm cloths.
- Drink plenty of water - at least eight glasses a day.
- Feed from the sore breast first
- Massage the breast gently while your baby feeds
- Hand express if needed, before, after and between feeds
- Use cold packs (frozen peas also work!) after a feed to help relieve pain and reduce swelling
- Gently massage the affected area towards the nipple while in the bath or shower
- Breastfeed often.
- You can take pain relief such as paracetamol or ibuprofen, which are safe to use while breastfeeding.
- Ask family and friends for help with housework, cooking and childcare.
- If you don't start feeling better, seek urgent medical attention as you may need antibiotics.
- If antibiotics are prescribed, take as directed. You can continue breastfeeding while taking antibiotics.
You can also contact the Australian Breastfeeding Association's Helpline on 1800 686 268.