I came down with a bout of mastitis a couple of days back. At least, I think it was mastitis. The symptoms weren’t quite as clear cut as I remembered. I’ve always thought it had to occur in both breasts for it to be mastitis. In this case, I felt the pain on the right side of the right breast. There was no accompanying lump to signify a blocked duct or engorgement. It came out of the blue – I went to sleep feeling fine and woke up shivering with a mild body ache and feeling tenderness in my breast. My breast wasn’t particularly painful but it felt sore upon palpation. It was the letdown that gave it away.
Perhaps I had somehow mistakenly assumed I would be exempt from mastitis and blocked ducts this time around having an over eager and expert toddler to help keep the milk excess under control. Then again, mastitis sometimes occurs for no other reason other than being run down. Ironically, I have been resting more than usual – the boys have been kind to me allowing me to sleep relatively undisturbed through the night. Neither had I been staying up late. However, the days preceding I had been burning the midnight oil and receiving less than the minimum required hours of sleep so it seems like this was merely the latent effect of running on empty.
Do I recall correctly that it is often the case that many people get sick during the holidays because they no longer have the adrenaline to keep them going? When the holidays arrive, they take the break that their bodies have been so desperate for, the adrenaline goes, and BAM! They’re sick. Doesn’t it go something like that? It’s kind of like my Dad and his weekend migraine. He used to only get migraines on the weekend. After a multitude of tests, one doctor suggested it might be the weekend migraine which is cured by ensuring that he woke up at the same time on the weekend as he did during the weekdays instead of sleeping in. True enough, his migraine was cured after that.
But I digress… shivering, fever, muscular and joint aches right down to my fingers, and a painful right breast especially on letdown – it had to be mastitis or at the very least some funky kind of flu bug. I suspect it was partly due to being run down and partly to the fact that both boys had been sick with stuffy noses which often makes it hard to suckle properly. Plus, Gavin seems to have returned to sleeping through the night without waking to nurse except just before it is time to wake up for school.
What do they say when you have mastitis? Get plenty of rest and take the baby to bed. That I did – but the rest was limited because Gareth, still suffering from his stuffy nose, was going through periods of fussiness. His highness had Mummy pacing up and down the room, carrying him in aching arms, to help him settle. I decided then I needed to be medicated and double-checked the medications while breastfeeding. Commonly used drugs for fever and mastitis are paracetamol and ibuprofen, and according to the NHS, both are fine so long as you have a full-term and healthy baby.
While we’re on the topic, since cough and colds are frequent ailments that also plague breastfeeding mothers, the NHS advises against taking cough and cold medications when breastfeeding. You can click on the link to read specifically what was said about each specific medication usually taken for coughs and colds. It was also interesting to note that cough suppressants are not recommended these days because it suppresses the coughing reflex which is important for helping the body expel excess mucous from the airways. May I be so bold now as to extrapolate from this that we can forget about the old wives recommendations to avoid foods and drinks that aggravate the cough? If coughing helps us clear unwanted, excess mucous, shouldn’t we be encouraging the coughing reflex? Anyway, I’ll leave that one open for debate.
I only wanted to cover the general medications that a breastfeeding mother might need to take, but if you need more information on drugs and breastfeeding, Le Leche League adds the following questions for consideration:
- Has the drug been given to infants? A drug commonly prescribed for infants is usually a good choice for a breastfeeding mother.
- Has the drug been given to other breastfeeding mothers? A drug that has a history of use by breastfeeding mothers is a better choice than a new, possibly untested drug.
- What is the duration of the drug therapy? The duration of the drug therapy can affect its compatibility with breastfeeding. A drug considered compatible with breastfeeding when taken for a few days might not be compatible when taken over a long period of time.
- Is the drug short-acting? A short-acting form of the drug may be a better choice for a breastfeeding mother than a longer-acting form that stays in the mother’s system for a longer period.
- How is the medication being given? A drug given by injection or by mouth is less concentrated than one given intravenously. However, a drug may be given intravenously because it is inactivated or not absorbed by the digestive system, so the baby’s digestive system would also inactivate or not absorb the drug.
- How well can the baby excrete the drug? Some drugs accumulate in a baby’s system and can potentially build to toxic levels. A drug that is quickly eliminated by the baby is more compatible with breastfeeding.
- Does the drug interfere with lactation? Some drugs should be avoided by breastfeeding mothers because they affect breastfeeding itself (the let-down or milk supply).
Further information can be found at:
Can I Breastfeed My Baby If I Am Sick? Another FAQ article.
Maternal Medications and Breastfeeding, NEW BEGINNINGS article by Gwen Gotsch.
Medication and Breastfeeding, LEAVEN article by Pat Sturges.