While breastfeeding is a beautiful experience for many mothers, it can also be incredibly painful and difficult. In fact, many celebrity moms have been open about their struggles with mastitis, a breastfeeding infection typically caused by blocked milk ducts and can lead to unpleasant symptoms like swelling and chills. Between feeling intense amounts of aches and pain and turning to their partners for remedies, these famous mamas have shed awareness on this common struggle and shown fellow moms they're definitely not alone.
As National Breastfeeding Awareness Month, which is celebrated every August, enters its second week, it's important to recognize all the ways we can support breastfeeding families, like shedding light on a common condition like mastitis as several celebrities have done over the years.
If you’re not familiar with mastitis, it’s an inflammation of breast tissue that can cause a new mother's "breast tissue to become painful and inflamed," according to the National Health Service (NHS), which added that it typically develops within the first three months following childbirth. The condition is typically caused by either a blocked milk duct or bacteria that gets into the duct through the nipple or a crack in the skin, which can then lead to an infection, the NHS explains. Symptoms of mastitis can include breast pain, redness and warmth, fever and chills, and a flu-like feeling, according to the Mayo Clinic.
As as these celeb moms' experience demonstrate, mastitis is really no joke and perhaps more common than some may have realized.
Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi
In May 2019, Jersey Shore star Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi gave birth to her third child, Angelo. A few months after welcoming her baby boy, the reality star took to her Instagram Stories to share how she was feeling, according to the Philly Voice. In June, Snooki told her followers she "felt the onset of mastitis starting" and "had the worst chills and fever the other night."
"I’ve been pumping and feeding my boobs off all day. Jesus, take the wheel," Polizzi went on to say, as the Philly Voice reported. Though she has not since confirmed whether she was diagnosed with mastitis, the symptoms Polizzi described are pretty common.
Teen Mom star Chelsea Houska gave birth to her third baby in 2018 and within weeks was stricken with mastitis, according to Hollywood Life.
"Mastitis is no joke,” she shared with her followers on Twitter. I felt so bad being sick on Aubree’s birthday but I’m so grateful for my parents who helped make her feel special and I can’t wait to give her the BEST day once I’m over this nastiness.”
Houska's followers on Twitter gave her lots of ideas to help ease the pain, such as taking lecithin to thin the milk and help drain clogged ducts. According to the Canadian Breastfeeding Foundation, lecithin is a food supplement that's "safe" and "inexpensive," though moms should always check with their doctors or a trusted health professional if they have any concerns or questions about treatment options.
Meghan King Edmonds
Back in July 2018, Meghan King Edmonds of Real Housewives of Orange County took to her blog to share her experience with the condition, along with tons of advice she received from her midwife and fans.
"Mastitis is a nasty, cringe-worthy word no woman ever hopes to utter. I, unfortunately, have gotten to know that word well," Edmonds wrote in a blog post entitled "Boob problems: Mastitis."
Edmonds went on to share in the post that when it came to treatment, she decided to start on an antibiotic, but after two rounds things still weren’t abating. A few other suggestions she tried were vigorous massage, drinking pure pineapple juice, warm showers and compresses, lavender oil, and oregano capsules.
Not too long ago, the Very Cavallari star shared her experience with mastitis on her E! reality show. Back in April, Kristin Cavallari shared with her friends, in a clip for the show, that her husband, Jay Cutler, swooped in to help clear her clogged ducts, according to Newsweek.
"I had, like, major clogged ducts," she said in the clip. "Jay had to get them out for me. Sucking harder than he’s ever sucked before. Ya know what, Jay saved my life."
Clogged ducts are typically what lead to mastitis, according to Women’s Health, and can sometimes be treated with Epsom salt baths, heating pads, massage, and breastfeeding on hands and knees to allow gravity to help milk flow.
Kristen Bell had mastitis three times, as she shared on her YouTube show #Momsplaining. The actress shared that she went on antibiotics twice to clear it up, and the third time was right after her daughter had stopped nursing, so she turned to her husband, Dax Shepard, for help.
"I said to my husband, I said 'I’m going to need you to suck this out.' We could talk about it, we could be weird about it, or you could just go ahead and nurse." As Bell explained, Shepard kept a cup next to him and would suck and spit out. "And I’ve never been more in love," she shared in the video.
In 2014, Jaime Pressly shared that she’d had to undergo a mastectomy as a result of her mastitis, according to ABC News. After her son was born in 2007, she had incredible pain but thought it was a normal part of breastfeeding, according to The Mirror, but four years later she noticed lumps in her breasts and visited a doctor who diagnosed her with scar tissue. She underwent surgery on both breasts to remove the scar tissue and was grateful to learn it wasn’t cancer.
"When I had my son, I got mastitis but I didn't know, cause I thought it was just regular breastfeeding pain," she shared on The Talk, as ABC News reported at the time. "I still have some breast tissue left, but almost a full mastectomy. [But] thank God it wasn't [cancer]."
Back in 2018, Lauren Paul got candid on Instagram with a thoughtful post about what it’s like to be a new mom and her struggles with mastitis.
"While [breastfeeding has] been one of the most beautiful experiences of my life, I have developed Mastitis twice within 3 weeks... Yesterday I was fighting a fever that almost hit 104. It was the sickest I have ever felt. The pain and aches were unbelievable," she wrote on Instagram. She went on to share that she felt like some of those common, but negative, experiences that happen soon after childbirth don’t get discussed enough.
"I’m feeling a responsibility to share this so that any new mamma-to-be reading this is aware of these potential issues," she continued on Instagram. "If I could give an upcoming mother any advice for this chapter it would be to become well educated about breastfeeding. Take a class, do your research or have conversations with other mothers."
Emily Maynard Johnson
Emily Maynard Johnson made the choice to stop nursing because of the pain of her mastitis, a decision she says was a tough one. Back in 2017, in an interview with People, she described the condition as "the worst – worse than childbirth I feel like" which led to her choice.
"I just quit. I didn’t want to tell anybody that I quit. I was trying to hide formula. I saw all of these beautiful breastfeeding pictures, I don’t know if I would post a picture like that, but I would love the option. I want to so bad," she told People at the time.
Still, for some women, the pain of mastitis makes nursing impossible. One lactation consultant and physician, Dr. Joan Younger Meek, told SELF that mastitis is especially painful when the "let-down reflex" kicks in, which is a cellular-level contraction that pushes milk through. "It feels like pins and needles or a squeezing sensation," she said, adding that it can be "exquisitely painful."
Actress Troian Bellisario honored World Breastfeeding Week with a post on Instagram about her experience nursing her daughter, including the painful parts.
"I would never have thought something so simple would be so complicated. My milk came in immediately (so lucky!) my daughter has always eaten well (little bit of reflux but all good) and breastfeeding her was never painful or frustrating (SO RARE) but the mastitis, waking up in the middle of the night to pump, pulling off on the freeway to pump, or hiding in dark corners of houses while pumping or else I can’t sleep it’s SO PAINFUL." Bellisario added that she is grateful her body has made things easy for her, all things considered, and she realizes "not every mother gets that."
Kudos to these mamas, and mamas everywhere, for powering through their experiences with mastitis and being candid with their fans.