One afternoon last week I wasn’t feeling so hot. I felt sort of flu-ish, I was all achy and I felt a little bit feverish. It occurred to me that as long as I’m breastefeeding, I will never be able to just crawl into bed on a whim and heal myself. At least not when I’m home alone. It was that same feeling we flight attendants get when we get sick at work but we’re 2000 miles from home. Knowing we have to go up and down repeatedly and be cheerful when we just want to die is a real downer.
So I was having these aches and lethargy. Then, seemingly from out of nowhere, half of my right breast became engorged and hard as a rock. I fed the baby but it didn’t seem to help. It was hurting really bad, too. At first I didn’t think anything of it because in the past I’ve squeezed a little too hard when I’m trying to get him to latch on. I was left with a bruised feeling but it usually wasn’t very intense. This sensation was just weird.
As half my breast became incredibly sore, I remember reading about mastitis and plugged ducts in Nursing Your Baby by Karen and Gale Pryor. I looked up “plugged duct” in the index and turned to the passage that described all my symptoms. A plugged duct is just as it sounds, a blockage in the milk duct that traps the milk in the breast. It can be accompanied by fever and a swollen or hot breast. The book said to get the milk out by any means necessary, even if you have to “stand on your head”.
Fortunately I didn’t have to do that. I popped two Tylenol and fed Henry constantly for the rest of the day. Thank God he’s an eater! I tried to work out the lumps with my thumb as he ate. It was time consuming but eventually all the milk was expressed. I was still sore the next day but it did go away.
Even though it hurt to try and get the blockage cleared, I knew it had to be done. An untreated plugged duct can lead to infection and mastitis. Mastitis is a much more serious condition that causes severe pain and swelling and needs to be treated with antibiotics.
Since then, Henry hasn’t had much interest in eating. I’ll get about five minutes out of him then he’s done. I can’t blame him. I probably put a months worth of calories in him the other day.