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Posts Tagged ‘breast infection’

This is the second in my Nursing Tips series.  I am writing these to myself as a reminder for future needs I may have.  I also hope that any Mama’s reading may be able to glean a bit of help from it if they find themselves in a similar situation.  As always, these are simply my [not always right] thoughts, and none are recommendations for you.  Please seek professional help if you need!  Other posts in the series:

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Since I started this Nursing Tips series, a very dear friend of mine suffered a severe heart attack.  In an effort to team up with a few other ladies, I’ve been increasing my supply and pumping every day.  This has been a particular challenge for me because I thought I wasn’t a good pumper, and wondered if I still could since my struggles early on with Aury.  But it’s proven to be much more successful than I anticipated, and we feel blessed to be able to love on them in this way.  Meanwhile, focusing on keeping supply UP!

I’ve always said I struggle with my milk supply, but if I were to take a good hard look at our last several children, I’d realize it was only with Adyn & Kendra.  With Adyn, I was quite petite and fit, and probably didn’t eat enough calories if I’m being honest.  With Kendra, I became severely sick after her birth, and so supply issues were a given.  Since then, I’ve never had a problem.

Here are measures I’ve taken to proactively make sure supply stayed up, just in case:

When I was pregnant with Colby, we bought a pair of Dwarf Nigerian goats.  I figured their milk would be an excellent supplement if I needed the help. They never bred while we had them (but were awfully fun for our two littles to play with!), and I never needed their milk.  We’ve since moved [far, far, far] away from goats, and now keep a homestead flock of dairy ewes that keep me content with a back up in the event that our babes would need it.

When I feel like I’m running shy (or when I’m trying to build supply, like now, as I’m pumping for Max), I take a dropper full of WishGarden’s Mil Rich (there’s another brand called More Milk Plus) tincture every time I nurse.  I also drink a minimum of a quart of Mother’s Milk herbal tea per day (preferably more).  I have been having loaded oatmeal most mornings.  And I’ve taken fennel and blessed thistle, switching off which one daily to keep my body awake (instead of acclimated to them individually).  I’m boosting my calories, but making sure they’re nutrient-rich.  More nuts, cheeses, bone broth, pastured proteins, dark chocolate (ha!), and always yogurt to support my digestive system as it deals with the new onslaught of goodness.  Oh, and drink more fluids.  Don’t waste your fluid space: drink herbal tea. ❤

The quickest way I’ve gotten a boost in production is by drinking 8oz of beer.  I really have no favor toward the flavor, so for me, it’s an act of love and one I’ve only done a couple of times in my years of lactating.  But it does the trick quick-like.  Some gals say that adding a tablespoon of brewer’s yeast to their daily regime acts similarly as well.

Here is a list of things *I* do.  It is by no means comprehensive, suggested, or in any particular order.  I’d recommend you research and find a professional to walk you through your lactating journey, as needed.  Lactation consults are truly your best friend.  I’d recommend Amber Ham Langelier in a heartbeat.  She’s Aury & my breastfeeding hero.

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Boosting production

  • brewers yeast – 1 T. / day.
  • yeasty beer – 8oz makes for a quick boost (consider barley / hops if you’d prefer no alcohol)
  • fenugreek – 1 T. / day herb, or 2 droppers of extract
  • fennel – same as fenugreek
  • blessed thistle – same as fenugreek
  • Milk Rich or More Mother’s Milk tincture – 1 dropper each nursing, or every 3-4 hours; this is my quick, lazy go-to
  • Traditional Medicinals “Mothers Milk” tea; another lazy go-to when I don’t have better quality herbal tea at my leisure — I usually have a home-made version of this tea at my disposal

Supporting my body for increased production (I usually make into tea infusion)

  • nettle
  • alfalfa
  • oatstraw
  • red raspberry leaf
  • red rooibos

Things to AVOID while breastfeeding (or be wise/moderate about)

  • peppermint
  • ginger
  • coffee
  • lots of other herbs/etc, but these are my guilty pleasures that I need reminded against

After finishing this post up, I just decided to take an extra step and add another post to my Nursing Tips series that is simply a list of herbs that I (or others) like to use during lactation seasons, why I use them, etc.  Be patient – it’s coming!

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This is the second in my Nursing Tips series.  I am writing these to myself as a reminder for future needs I may have.  I also hope that any Mama’s reading may be able to glean a bit of help from it if they find themselves in a similar situation.  As always, these are simply my [not always right] thoughts, and none are recommendations for you.  Please seek professional help if you need!  Other posts in the series:

***

When Aury was born, the midwife checked his mouth and said that he had both a tongue and lip tie.  If you know me, you know I balk at this ‘silly nonsense’ as trendy lunacy.  Well, not anymore.  If you remember, his poor latched caused bleeding inflamed swollen nipples within a few days of his birth, leading to infection and mastitis, and almost ten weeks of recovery.  But we prevailed!  Despite some rather bleak moments when I wasn’t sure we’d succeed at breastfeeding, I can report that we are still at it – and everything is going swimmingly at last!

On Day 6 postpartum, the first bit of relief arrived.  With an injection of local anesthetic, Aury had both his lip & tongue tie corrected.  He cried for 10 seconds.  I cried for 20 minutes.  I couldn’t even fathom doing the every-two-hour exercises to making sure things healed correctly.  Scott did it as often as he could, and Adyn did when Scott couldn’t.  After almost a week, I finally built up the courage to do it, and took over.  It wasn’t all that bad.  By then, the heebeejeebees were minimal, and Aury really didn’t have much of a problem with it, even from the beginning.

The next two nursings after the tie corrections were slightly better.

My midwife had suggested using a nipple shield to keep things better protected as they healed; and to keep pain just a little bit less.  Scott left in the late night hunting some down.  He came home with several, all the same size, but different brands.  I was surprised that they all fit very differently; one just right.  Because of the poor latch and angry nips, I was incredibly swollen (I may have referred to myself as an “amazon woman” at one point as I cried to our lactation consultant), which made for fitting a bit different during this time vs. after things settled down.  I was glad for the variety.

I’ve never used nipple shields, and it made no sense to me at first.  I did some internet searching about how they work, and how to use them, and found them to be a real psychologic buffer that made nursing much more … well, less petrifying (the pain was intense).  Because of Aury’s poor latch, I had scabbing, which plugged the shields at the beginning of each nursing.  I’d have to take them off and clean out in order to finish nursing.  Also, for several weeks due to my initial infection, my milk was very stringy – but usually passed through the shields holes.

I’ll be honest… I cried the first several (and randomly after that) times that I used the shield.  It felt like a breastfeeding loss.  I had to grieve a bit before I could accept that it would help.  I didn’t like having this “fake” nipple being what my baby learned to nurse.  I was jealous of it.  I was mad at it.  But I definitely learned to love it!  I was concerned it may become a necessity for our entire breastfeeding journey, but am thankful that with time we were able to wean away from it completely and back to al la natural.

That night, feedings became incredibly painful again.  I was so discouraged.  After midnight, I emailed a lactation consult an emergent request for help.  I really felt like I was at my wits end.  I was a huge mess.

Amber Ham Langelier, the lactation consult, arrived at 9am the next morning.  We talked about the ties. We talked about the infection and the damaged nipples.  She was calm.  She was kind.  And she found the fix: positioning.  I thought I had tried it all, and yet her simple solution was perfect.  It was the big turning point on our breastfeeding journey.  Apparently Aury had been tucking his chin while nursing, due likely to his lip and tongue ties, which was irritating my nipples and was causing the pain.  We moved away from the cradle position (she mentioned this is actually not a very good position in general) to either Aury “standing” in front, or the “football” position or both of us laying down.  In all of these positions, I could really make him stretch his chin upward and reach for the nipple, which was exactly what we needed.  Even now, months later, his natural tendency is still to tuck his chin.

I continued using the nipple shield for more than a month, longer for my damaged/infected side.  The first time I didn’t use it, I was so scared.  It took several days to wean from it entirely (mostly because I wasn’t psychologically ready).  I continued having latch-on pain in my left side until Aury was almost 10 weeks old.  The pain went deep into my tissue, all the way to my ribs.

I wasn’t sure whether or not the damage was permanent at this point.  I had some pretty intense (and deep) scabbing for a long while.  It got smaller and smaller oh so slowly until at last it all [tissue, not scab] sloughed off after a nursing.  It was disgusting.  And horrifying!  But after that, milk flowed much more freely.  I’m happy to report that I’ve successfully pumped on that side again as well – A feat I thought literally impossible after that roller coaster!

Thankfully, right around his 3 month bend, I remember one day realizing: “huh!  it hasn’t hurt for a while!”  What a blessing that the pain slipped away like that!  Now we are nursing well, things have healed back miraculously (IMO) nicely – the tissue filling back in – and our little chunk of a fellow has apparently thrived!  I chalk it up to God’s great provision.  He is in the 90% for weight, and 75% for height, weighing almost 17 pounds at his three month check up.  His older siblings weighed that at one year old!  And have never been anywhere near his height percentile.  We may have a football player on our hands.

I learned a good lesson about my mockery of tongue ties: it’s real, folks, and it can be awful.  I still think babes are diagnosed (or rather, treated) too often for it, but also realize that I need to get off my soapbox and admit I’m wrong: I need help.  I’m thankful for the gals in my life that supported me through that, and especially Mary & Pita who were able to correct it, and Amber who taught me how to form new habits out of it!  I’m especially thankful to our Creator who made all things so adaptable and unique.  I’m so thankful that my body was able to heal from that whole ordeal and for being able to nourish my wee one in this way through it all.  I count both a huge blessing and privilege!  I’ve learned I cannot expect these things ‘just because,’ but instead thank God each day for the gifts we have, day by day.

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I just wanted to provide an update, and a whole lot of notes for myself – and any other gals out there who could use this information in their own lives.  NONE of it is a recommendation to you.  Please do your research as you pursue health and wellness.  Also seek professional help, as necessary.

Other posts in the series:

Aury and I have been progressing nicely since his birth and our nursing woes.  The infection that I got early on led to some fairly long-term issues.  In fact, it’s only now (he’s 9+ weeks old) that I can honestly say nursing is going “normal.”  I’m so thankful for that!

In an effort to clean out the infection and (Lord willing) keep supply up, Aury and I were working hard at nursing as often as possible for the first several weeks.  This left us hunkered down at home most of the time.  The side effects were that nursing was still painful since I was recovering from his early poor latching, and the tissue in my infected breast had been severely damaged to the point of zero milk production by one week postpartum; yet [lots of] fluid draining (never have had this for more than a day or two).  This caused a lot of belly aches for my poor nursing babe.  We were both frustrated more than once.  But neither of us were about to give up at this point.

It literally took over 5 weeks for my milk ducts to clear, and for milk to begin to return (no more stringy-ness; no other fluids; exterior bruising gone; nip swelling diminished).  I’ve never had an infection have such long-term effects.  Only this week do I finally feel like it’s back to full production.  Despite all of this, praise God, we have a very healthy chunky monkey, and have been pleasantly surprised that there has been so little scarring.

As we carried no schedule during those weeks, it’s took a week or two to get into a good rhythm.  Aury is definitely a more happy baby with a clear cycle.  We both have really appreciated the calm we now can enjoy.  We both appreciate the freedom to leave as well, him and I both emotionally (ha!) doing outings smashingly now.

So I wanted to talk a little bit about the healing measures we took during the time of engorgement, infection and poor latch, as well as what I’ve done to work on maintaining a good supply during – and after!  I’ve decided to go at it one subject per post, so check for my others in this Nursing Tips “series” if you’re interested.  Perhaps start here to get a full view of what we were dealing with.

#treeoflife

#treeoflife

There are many techniques and recommendations to treat mastitis (breast infection), milk fever, and nipple health (poor latch, etc).  I cannot cover them all here, and do not hope to.  I want to share what worked for me, tho’, in hopes that it can offer some practical help to your own toolbox of information.  I also want to keep records for my future benefit.

I’ve had a lot of breast infections in my lactating years, and so at the onset of my first with Aury – only 3 days after he was born – I knew what was coming.  I got a flax seed bag warmed up, removed restrictive clothing, filled up a water canister and went to bed.  Unfortunately, Scott was laid out on the bathroom floor with a migraine, hugging the toilet all night long.  So Kendra slept in our bed all night, getting up and helping so much during the night.

I was delirious.  Hot.  Cold.  Sweaty.  Headache.  But we had to press on.  The sweet fresh babe would need new milk as I was also just starting to become engorged.  The combo was quite the trip.  Not realizing yet that it was a poor latch that was contributing to the infection, I went at it with my normal tricks:

Nurse as often as possible.  I realize that when you have an infection, it’s hard to want to let a baby nurse it out.  It’ll hurt like the dickens.  But it’s so important!  If your baby won’t take it, try pumping to clean out the infected duct.  Make sure that the pump, however, isn’t exacerbating the problem.  It was with Aury because of his poor latch and the damage it was inflicting on my nips, and after Day <5?>, I was pumping a shockingly scary amount of blood.  My mammaries were mad.  Aury was gassy and belly-upset (this continued into his 4th week of life, thanks to this infection).  All that to say: Stick with hand expressing and nursing if pumping is problematic.

Drink lots!  Your body needs to flush out the infection.  You also are at risk for becoming dehydrated as a breastfeeding Mama, and as your body fights infection.  Drink water if it’s easiest, or have an herbal tea nearby – always, infection or not!

Take a hot shower.  Or warm bath with epson salts!  It will help your milk let down, stimulate blood flow, soothe your body and calm your nerves.  Add some essential oils or herbs (below), if wanted.

Use compresses.  In the same light as showering, hot compressing is fantastic, as well as cold.  Some gals will use boiled cabbage leaves alone (there’s conflicting information that cabbage leaves can help diminish supply for weaning – so I avoid it) or grated raw potato.  I like to soak a cotton cloth (or nursing pad!) in an herbal tea and place over my whole chest.  I had a pot warm on the stove that I’d just dunk, squeeze a bit and repeat all day long.  When using cotton, I’d start with a layer of plastic wrap, put on the compress and top it all with a hot pad (I use a flax seed bag, but sometimes the weight of it isn’t my friend if I have an infection).  I’d use any of the herbs listed under “herbal oils” below.  Raw apple cider vinegar compressing also has been known to be helpful.  It’s cooling effect was soothing, but the smell… I just couldn’t do it for long.  Be sure to clean your nips before next nursing so babe isn’t getting anything other than your milk.

Tuck in hand warmers.  A sort of hot compress “cheat,” Scott bought a box of 10 that served an awesome help.  I was in no position to leave my house, but when I did (or if I was up and at ’em), I’d stuff one of these in my top against the infected area.  Often with a soaked nursing pad (compress).  I keep one in our diaper bag at all times just in case.

Herbal oils.  Y’all know I’m not a huge proponent of using essential oils excessively, but this was a particularly useful time that I put them to work.  I didn’t have a lot of energy to make up concoctions all day, so infused some olive oil with a few herbs and applied generously on my chest, particularly the affected areas (but away from my nipple so Aury wouldn’t be consuming any of it).  I used rosemary, sage, lavender, garlic, marshmallow, calendula and comfrey.  Nearly all of these herbs would do well for you/Mama in tincture or tea (internal) form as well except those noted.  I’d use comfrey internally with caution, at best.

Massage.  This is one of the first things I do if I feel an infection coming on.  That, heat and rest.  I massage the affected area in a circular motion as often as I think of it.  It will help work out your ducts.  This was a good time for me to use the infused oils (above).

REST.  I know, I know.  You have a baby (and possibly a passel of children besides that).  Responsibilities loom.  But it is SO important that you rest.  Now is one of those times that you should plug in a movie (or twelve in a row) and let the kids chill as you do.  Give you nips a rest, too.  When not in a compress, leave them exposed as much as possible.  No bra or restrictive clothes.  No shirt.  Fresh air.

Coconut oil. I adore lanolin.  I’ve used it on my nips (and lips!) for a decade and a half now.  I love how thick it is, and how healing it is.  BUT I had to let it go when I had this rough time with Aury.  It’s tackiness was not helpful.  It caused me to stick to my nursing pads (tearing off scabs from poor latch – shiver), and also is so thick that it doesn’t allow your nipple to breathe.  I switched to coconut oil and instantly noticed improvement – and it was sooo soothing – and good for the little man nursing, too!  Once things are under control with nursing, I suspect I’ll go back to lanolin just because I adore it.

Antibiotics.  I use propolis because it has a lot of antibiotic properties.  I sprayed (YEE-ouch!) a tincture straight onto my tips right after each nursing session when I had cracking, preventing further infection, and hopefully getting into my ducts to work some magic.  If natural remedies aren’t working, your doctor will recommend antibiotics.  I’ve resorted to this once early on in my mastitis years when I didn’t know how to work on it myself and it got way out of hand.

To help your body fight the infection, consider boosting your Vitamin C, echinacea, and probiotics.  You’ll want to boost your immune system as it fights and to prevent further infections.

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