Coping with Mastitis

Breastfeeding for the first time is hard. At best you’ve got one hungry little newborn who just wants to feed, feed, feed and at worst you’ve got a battle on your hands of trying to get the baby to latch correctly and not hurt you or your nipples any more than is necessary.

I was incredibly fortunate that Baby G had a good latch straight from birth. It turned out that I had a fast let down and my milk came in within the first 48 hours. By all accounts, that was great! I recognise half the battle was won based purely on luck.

However, with a fast let down and full supply of milk and one hungry little baby very quickly came heavy engorgement followed by a dose of mastitis. If you don’t know what this is, you’re lucky. It’s an inflammation of the breast tissue and can be caused by a number of things (infection, milk not being drained properly etc.) You can read more about it here: http://www.babycenter.com/0_mastitis_251.bc

After giving birth, I went from being a humble 32B to a 36DD in the space of 3 days and I can tell you that the pain, not just from the raw nipples and constant feeding, was unreal. I had been SO excited towards the end of my pregnancy about being able to sleep on my stomach again…but no such luck. With those huge and solid boobs planted on top of my chest, I could barely roll over without hurting. They were solid as rocks. Lumps = not good.

Not only were they sore but they were HOT. And I don’t mean sexy. I mean seriously warm. I looked like a much less glamorous Pamela Anderson and couldn’t get comfortable or cool no matter what I did.

And then came the red patch on my lower left breast. This is the first proper warning sign of mastitis. Soon my temperature began to rise and I started to feel unwell. My midwife had warned me of the symptoms since I was a good candidate for mastitis (with my big milk supply) so I knew it was developing. I didn’t like the idea of taking drugs while I was breastfeeding, unsure of what it would mean for Baby G, so Mr G got a non-toxic pen and drew around the area on my breast to mark its size. We decided that I’d sleep on it and if it had gotten any bigger by the morning that I would get to the doctor and get some drugs. I hopped in the shower to hand express after she’d finished feeding to try empty out my milk and then went to bed and hoped for the best.

The next morning, I woke up sore and unwell and saw the redness had almost doubled in size so I knew I had to get to my doctor straight away. She prescribed me antibiotics that were safe for breastfeeding and told me to keep taking my painkillers to help with the pain. Luckily I was still taking the painkillers to help recover from birth, so the antibiotics were just another couple of pills to be popping.

I was surprised I had to take the drugs for 10 days though. It took about 3 days before the redness started to disappear but it wasn’t fully gone for about a week. I watched Baby G like a hawk, wondering if there was any change in her while I was taking the drugs, but she didn’t seem to be affected by it at all thankfully.

So the lesson here is: mastitis is a bitch. It’s sore and it’s exhausting and it can be really serious (sometimes leading to hospitalisation). If you think you’ve got it, get yourself to a doctor ASAP and get treated.

But, the good news is there are things you can do to help yourself. And it doesn’t last forever. It can take 3 weeks after delivery before your milk supply is regulated properly to match your newborn’s needs. Some days will be better than others. Some days will be emptier than others and a lot tougher to keep up. (Did you know newborns tend to feed more at night because that’s when the hormone prolactin is produced which helps your milk come in faster? Clever little babies!)

This is not an extensive list, just a list of the things that I found helpful. Hopefully it’ll be of some help for you to!

  • Cold cabbage leaves. The dark green kind. If you buy some cabbage and put them in the fridge (towards the very back) they will be nice and cool. After every feed, or any time your breasts start to feel warm and full, reach for a leaf and place it over your breast. If you place it inside your bra it’ll help keep it in place. The cool touch of the leaf will help relieve the warmth and soreness and the cold also encourages the ducts to close which slows down your milk supply. (It doesn’t stop it, it slows it, which is a godsend for those of us who produce waaaaay too much to begin with). FULL DISCLOSURE: you will smell like Christmas dinner as the leaves heat up from the warmth of your skin. It’s not particularly nice, but it works. My midwife also told me there was no need to wash your breast or nipples before feeding again, but do what makes you comfortable.
  • Learn how to make different positions work for you. This one is SO important. I never knew that certain positions helped drain certain areas of the breast* and I am so grateful to the midwife who taught me that (seriously, I must have seen 5 different midwives but only 1 told me about this!). If you position the baby’s lower lip/chin so it’s over the affected area (or even just your fullest area) then this will be the main part of the breast that the baby drinks from. This means the baby will get the most out of the feed but it also means the area will be drained and relieved quickly and you’ll feel so much better. Just look out for a really fast let down, when I get quite full, Baby G tends to splutter a lot because the milk just pours into her mouth.
  • Cold face cloth as a compress. This is the same idea as the cabbage leaves but less smelly.
  • Cool showers. The cool water running over your breast will be a relief, though the rest of your body may not thank you for it. Might help wake you up a bit though 😉
  • Hand express. This one you need to be careful with because you don’t want to overstimulate the breast and trick it into thinking it needs to provide MORE milk. You just want to relieve the pressure building up a little or after a feed, drain the breast. Sometimes the baby doesn’t get it all out and this can lead to mastitis. Gentle rubbing motions from the outside in towards the nipple will help break up those lumps and move the milk along towards the nipple ready to be drawn out. TOP TIP: Don’t squeeze your nipples! They’re already having a hard enough time adjusting to your newborn’s needs. Gently pinch the area around the outside of your areola and this will push the milk out.
  • HEAT! I know this contradicts the first few points but trust me, if you heat your breasts up with a hot water bottle (or warm face cloth) right before a feed it will open all your ducts and allow the baby to draw down the milk that bit easier and help them to properly drain them. (Finish the feed then with a cold compress to close the ducts down).

As a side note, I also found the Multi-Mam compresses a God send for helping heal my nipples during the whole establishing-breastfeeding routine. They’re pricey, but worth it. Keep them in the fridge too for added effect! http://www.multi-mam.com/multi-mam-compresses-more.html

*You can read more about breastfeeding positions here: http://www.babycenter.com/0_positions-and-tips-for-making-breastfeeding-work_8784.bc

Two Month Vaccination (I Wasn’t Prepared For That!)

Today Baby G had to get her two month vaccinations.

I’m not sure who was more traumatised by the experience – me or Baby G.

Sure, I knew there would be tears – two needle pricks in your legs when your that small is bound to hurt. But my god, I wasn’t expecting the wails that came out of her. She cried one of those long, silent, bunched up cries before gasping for as much air that could possibly fill her lungs so she could tell me just how terrible the whole thing was through her sobs.

I almost started crying. It was awful. The doctor had to keep reminding me that all babies cry like that and that I was, in fact, doing a good thing for her.

But I’ve never wanted to cuddle her as much as I did at that point in time and tell her that everything was going to be ok.

She’s pretty much been asleep ever since – waking only twice, once to feed and once for a nappy change. I don’t know if this means she’ll be wide eyed and bushy tailed for the night or if she’s going to sleep the whole experience off. But man am I glad that appointment is behind us.

I have infant calpol at the ready, just in case.

How Being Pregnant (and Having A Baby) Changed My Relationships

This is something that I keep coming back to in my head over and over again…and I’m sure one post won’t even do it justice. Everyone knows that as life goes on, relationships and friendships change. You grow apart, you grow closer. You meet new people, find new interests. We’re continually changing, so it’s only natural that our relations with the people around us change too.

But I can tell you that nothing has changed my relationships as much and as quickly as being pregnant and having a newborn. I’m the first of my close circle of friends and it’s been a real eye opener for me.

To begin with, let’s point out the obvious: hormones. Little things can suddenly become HUGE issues because you’re feeling sensitive or SO INCREDIBLY TIRED. This is something that comes with being pregnant AND with having a newborn. There is no escaping it. Some people are more affected by hormones and fatigue than others but we all must deal with it on some level.

But beyond the hormones and exhaustion are other critical factors. I’m sure anyone who has their first baby can agree that before they got pregnant and had to think about being responsible for another life (regardless of exposure to other babies – friends, family, whomever), it’s a whole other ball game when you realise you’re expecting. I have two sisters, each of whom have a baby and I can tell you despite being around them and babysitting and helping out and listening to their stories and happiness and complaints…I was still pretty oblivious to so many things before I had my own child.

Things like – you can’t easily keep plans. Back too sore to walk? Feeling too sick to get out of bed? Didn’t sleep and feel like every little thing is annoying you? And once baby comes along – baby is too fussy? Not well? Not sleeping? (Or FINALLY SLEEPING?). Plans are for people who know exactly where they’re going to be and how they’re going to be feeling in a few days time. I was surprised how some friends gave me a hard time about not wanting to commit to big plans or worse…needing to back out last minute. I am so grateful for those people in my life who understand that I need flexible arrangements and who go out of their way to make my life easier to keep plans…like coming over for tea instead of arranging to meet in a coffee shop or inviting me over for dinner instead of wanting to go out to eat.

And then there are the plans that you can actually keep but are suddenly faced with so many logistics…are there elevators so you can get up and down with a buggy? Is there a space for you to breastfeed or is it ok for you to breastfeed in public there? Are there baby changing stations? Is there parking? I swear – I made a huge effort to attend a friends’ hen party 4 weeks post partum and when I arrived there was no elevator and I had to climb 3 flights of stairs on my own with the buggy, baby, flowers and presents. I arrived with water from the flowers spilled all over me, a dead arm from carrying everything over it and completely sweaty and out of breath. No-one thought ahead to warn me that there was no elevator – and I didn’t think to ask. Lesson learned!

I was also surprised at how isolated I felt when I was about 5/6 months pregnant. This was around Christmas time and everyone was making plans to go out and party or go shopping and do things and I felt really alone. I felt fat and tired and sore and I was unable to walk long distances or stand for too long. I couldn’t even go to the cinema without worrying about needing to pee 20 times. Sitting in a restaurant with a large group of people was exhausting. Only Mr G knew how I was really feeling…but he’s a man! Sometimes you just need your girlfriends and I didn’t feel I could relate to them anymore.

Some people disappeared from my life and others really surprised me. Thoughtful gifts, lovely emails and phone calls checking in on me, sharing in my excitement. Just a simple text message asking how I was feeling made the world of difference.

Since having Baby G, my relationships have changed again. Some people are so willing to call over, hold her, bring us food, check in on me or whatever – and it’s amazing. They bring things I don’t even know I need (like cabbage leaves to help with engorgement) and I’m so thankful. But that’s not to say these other friendships won’t get back on track, we’re just at different stages and one day when they have a baby, I”ll be able to be there for them in a way that some of their other friends won’t…and they’ll get it. It’s a pay it forward kind of deal.

On the flip side, I have so much respect and admiration now for my sisters and my mother and other women I know with babies. I’m suddenly on the inside of this little club and I get it.

A simple, knowing smile to another mum in the supermarket reassures you that you’re both doing a good job. It’s tough, but we’re here and we’re doing it.

And now I’m meeting other new mums in the area and I have a new group of women who are excited to talk about nappies and breastfeeding and not sleeping and baby burps and all the glorious and disgusting things that come along with being a mother. And I don’t have to share so much of that with my other friends who don’t have babies and would get bored very quickly hearing about it.

Have any of you had similar experiences? Did you go through big changes with the people in your life?

 

Weekend Round Up

Saturday was a day spent indoors…the weather here has been nothing short of miserable. I was really hoping for a lovely summer – I’d pictured going for walks in the park, having picnics just sitting in the sun, reading a book and playing with my baby…but it seems it just wants to rain the whole time. Typical! There’s still time for it to pick up though…

So a friend from work called over for coffee and brought cupcakes with her (nom)…we spent an hour or so catching up, which was great. Mr G then went for a cycle up Howth Head (the rain stopped just long enough for him to make it there and back) and Baby G and I stayed behind and bounced around the apartment because she still does NOT want to be put down.

I then decided to do something I’d be waiting my whole pregnancy to do….make carbonara for dinner!! It’s one of my favourite meals but I had it when I was about 8 weeks pregnant (didn’t make the slightly raw-egg connection) and threw up EVERYWHERE after. Safe to say I learned my lesson and spent the next 9 months (actually 10 if you think about it) craving carbonara. I also made some cheesy garlic bread…and it was all SO GOOD. I went into a major food coma after.

I should probably start taking pictures.

Yesterday we went over to Nana and Gilbert’s house for lunch. They always serve really healthy food…so I felt good after. We had a big salad with smoked salmon and freshly baked brown bread. When we got home, we attempted to make our own 3D moulds of Baby G’s hands and feet. Mr G had ordered a whole kit from amazon and it finally arrived…

Except it’s not as easy as the instructions made it sound. The idea is so simple…getting a newborn to keep her hands and feet still while gel moulds around her limbs? Disaster. It tooks us about 4 attempts before we managed to get something resembling her feet.

Here are the results..

photo 2

photo 3

We just need to tidy them up a little and add a splash of paint, but I think they look pretty good.

We were too tired to attempt her hands. That can be for another evening this week!

Once we’d done the casts, we gave her a bath and tried to get her settled for bed. It was another difficult night, she was waking every 90 minutes again. But I think she might be coming down with something because her left eye is looking a little gloopy.

Will need to keep an eye on that.

Friday’s Fussy Baby

Yesterday was one of those days where Baby G just wanted to be held the ENTIRE day. It didn’t matter how deeply she fell asleep in my arms, she’d wake up the second I put her down.

I had to go to my parents’ house to mind their dog for a few hours and we basically just bounced around the living room the whole time. By the time we got home, I was so tired! We were having friends over for dinner last night so we decided to just order in because both myself and Mr G were too tired to cook something.

Amazingly, she fell asleep before they arrived and basically slept through most of the time they were here. Last night was another decent enough night – but she was awake at the crack of dawn this morning.

I ordered my ERGObaby sling though (from koalacubs.ie) – it should be with me by Wednesday, I can’t wait. My back and shoulders are in bits.

What I wouldn’t give for a bit of time to go get a lovely deep tissue massage….

At least that’s something to look forward to!

A busy Thursday with my baby

Baby Girl is growing really fast. But I think she has big feet because her body is still a bit small in the next-size-up baby grows, but her feet fit them perfectly. Which also means that the stuff that does fit her body, her feet are all scrunched up in.

So this morning I decided to brave Dundrum (the local shopping centre) to see if I could find some in between baby grows. I also thought I’d do a little shopping for me because it’s been SO long since I’ve bought clothes and I feel like nothing pre-pregnancy I used to own is compatible with breast feeding. But of course I found nothing that I was happy with…but I did manage to get some cheap baby grows from Penneys. It looks like she’ll outgrow them in a matter of days – but we need something to tie us over until I can pull out the next set of clothes I have for her.

After Dundrum, we went over to my parents’ house for lunch with my mum, my sister and my niece. It was just a quick hello before leaving to drop my mum to the airport. She’s going to meet my dad in London – it’s their 34th wedding anniversary this weekend (wow) and they’re spending it at the Heineken Cup Final in Cardiff. (Too bad Leinster didn’t make it to the final!)

On the way back from the airport, I decided to risk it and do a quick run around the supermarket before Baby G woke up for a feed. It was the first time I wore her in a sling around the shop and it worked amazingly. She woke up just as we made it back to the apartment, so that was perfect timing. She was a little fussy after she fed so we just bounced around the apartment until Mr G came home and then it was time to start the dinner! We had to tag team it a little, taking turns cooking and bouncing the baby.

A friend from work came over to join us for dinner and meet Baby G for the first time, which was really nice. But I had to walk around the living room with the baby the whole time because she just wanted to be held and rocked, so that was pretty exhausting. I have a Baby Bjorn carrier, but it’s got no waist strap so it’s killing my back. My shoulders are numb when I wear her for more than 20 minutes, so I think it’s time to get a new one. This one is just on loan from my sister – she never used it, she got it as a gift but always preferred using the wrap she’d bought herself.

So after dinner, Mr G took our friend and Baby G for a spin in the new car. I was hoping the car ride would put her to sleep because it was 10pm at this point and she was showing no signs of settling. But when they returned 30 minutes later she had vomited all over herself on the walk up from the car to the apartment…so we had to change her and I had to feed her again before trying to settle her.

The last time I looked at the clock it was 11:45pm, so we must have fallen asleep soon after that…which is why I’m only posting this now and didn’t get to post yesterday. I actually started the post 3 times but never had enough time to finish before Baby G was looking for my attention.

Man, babies are exhausting! But so lovely. She only woke up twice in the night to feed, so that was a little bonus on the back of a very busy day.

Hopefully today will be a little easier!

Daily Round Up – May 21st 2014

Today was another good day…but on the back of a bit of a restless night. Baby G woke up 4 times to feed and when she woke up at 3am she went straight back to sleep which was amazing – but I couldn’t get back to sleep for an hour! There is nothing more frustrating than not being able to sleep in the middle of the night while your newborn snoozes peacefully.

Anyway, we managed to stay in bed until 8am, so that was a small victory in the sleep department!

Today:

  • I started off the day by making Clean and Lean pancakes – made from oats and cottage cheese. They sound disgusting but they’re surprisingly tasty. (Though they were also covered in maple syrup and most things are tasty when they’re covered in maple syrup…)
  • We registered Baby Girl’s birth!! It took an hour and the registry office was seriously over crowded but it’s done. Our baby girl is now a full Irish citizen. Mr G took the day off so we could do it together without rushing, so that was really nice.
  • We then went to collect a package that Mr G had sent to his office. It’s a new born cast kit so we can make our own casts of her feet and hands. I wish it had arrived sooner – she’s really growing the last few weeks – but I can’t wait to do it this weekend! It’ll be a fun project to do together.
  • We then went for lunch in Ashtown Castle in the Phoenix Park. The food was so good and the sun decided to come out while we sat in the courtyard…hopefully it sticks around for summer!
  • Bloom is currently being set up so we were watching all the gardeners work on their areas. We strolled around the walled gardens as well – so nice.
  • When we got home, Baby G was really unsettled so I took her for a walk around the park before dinner.
  • After dinner, we gave her a nice bath. As soon as we had her in her sleepsuit, she threw up all over the bed, herself and Mr G so I had to feed her all over again and get yet another load of laundry on. Thankfully we have a spare duvet on hand!
  • I’ve finally managed to get Little Lady down to sleep, I’m hoping she stays asleep for a few hours now because I can hear my bed calling my name! Can’t wait to get some sleep…