When getting ready for the arrival of my first baby, mastitis was very low on my list of concerns. I might even go as far as saying it didn’t even have a spot on that list. As it turns out, it ended up being one of the more significant challenges I faced during my son’s first weeks, and I was woefully under-prepared. To put it simply, there are plenty of things I wish I knew about mastitis before I had it.
For me, it felt like a whopping case of the flu, complete with fatigue and body aches. The first time I was struck with it happened to also be the first full day I was to spend at home alone with my newborn. I know, kind of dramatic, right? My partner was headed back to work, and my mom, who’d been visiting us, had left the previous day. It was just me and my weak, infected body, trying to do the best I could for my son.
Thankfully, a phone call to my mom brought me back to life in the ways I needed, but still, I think I could have handled it a bit better had I been better prepared and more informed. Here's what I now know:
I’m Allowed To Trust My Instincts And Recognize That Something’s Off
Ugh, my poor spouse. I can only imagine how tough I made it on him to leave for work that morning. I didn’t know enough about my condition to clearly explain my needs that morning, but I suspected something — beyond my nervousness at being solely responsible for the most precious thing I’d even been entrusted with — was wrong that day.
It Might Not Be The First Thing That Comes To Mind When I'm Not Feeling Well
I thought I had simply reached a rough patch in my postpartum recovery. Or, maybe I’d come down with the flu or some kind of virus. I thought my body was giving in to nerves and stress over caring for my son. I thought a lot of things before I recognized what was actually happening.
It Can Feel Like The End Of Everything…
This sounds dramatic, but I questioned my ability to parent that day. I questioned my ability to breastfeed, and I even questioned my ability to get through the day without failing miserably in other ways. I was only a few weeks postpartum, but fighting mastitis with my already-fragile body felt insurmountable (spoiler alert: it wasn’t).
...But It Doesn’t Have To Be
My son and I had enough hurdles to overcome when it came to breastfeeding, and I had my doubts that I’d manage to make it through another one with our new routine in tact. Shockingly, we managed (and, it was quite the boost my shaky new mom confidence needed).
It Can Be Quite Simple, And Quite Quick, To Cure
Of course, always check in with your own medical team. In my case, I managed to get through it by resting and continuing to breastfeed, and I was feeling better within a day. While that may not always be the case (I know other moms who’ve required antibiotics, or who had different experiences), it was a relief to realize that my care wasn’t anything I couldn’t handle.
My Baby Might Not Even Notice
To be fair, my son was a few weeks old, so he wasn’t noticing much to begin with. However, I seriously doubt that he picked up on anything unusual while he laid next to me in his swing, as I sprawled on the couch inches away. I pulled him to me when he asked to nurse, I gingerly changed diapers, and I let him sleep as much as he wanted to, not unlike the other days of his life up until that point.
I Have To Keep Breastfeeding. Like, A Lot.
I suppose it’s a good thing that continuing to breastfeed was a requirement, since it forced me not to roll over and give up on the process which, believe me, I considered numerous times. I was still at that point in my breastfeeding experience where I was taking it day by day, and had it not been necessary, it could have easily made me throw in the towel.
It’s A Wonderful Excuse To Snuggle With Baby…
If I had to find a bright spot, it’s that there are worse ways one can spend a day than laying next to a (fairly) calm newborn. Of course, I had to be careful about when and how I dozed off, but we managed, and though my memory is fuzzy, I’m pretty sure there were at least a few cuddles involved.
...Because They Can't Catch It
Praise all that is holy, and even a few extra things that aren’t holy, because, according to BabyCenter, babies can’t catch mastitis. If that wasn’t a nice, gender-neutral silver-colored lining, I don’t know what is.