Breastfeeding moms are bombarded with myth after myth about what they should and shouldn’t do while breastfeeding. From pump and dump to the notion that they must stop nursing when sick. A lot of this stems from misinformation. So it’s important for a nursing mother to educate herself fully.
One common myth that breastfeeding moms hear, is that wearing underwire bras can cause mastitis. But is this truly the case?
A Nursing Moms Journey
I got mastitis twice when breastfeeding both my boys and I did NOT wear underwire bras.
My breastfeeding journey was painful both times. Like many women, breastfeeding did not come naturally to me. It took a lot of practice and patience and I navigated my way the best I could with the use of pillows to help support the boys when I fed them.
I found feeding covers hard to use, so I avoided them and would find a quiet place to feed if out and about.
My nursing bras never felt like they fit me properly. Nursing bra fabrics used to be rigid, the foam stiff and I tended to spill out over the top closer to feeding time. My breasts never felt comfortable with the standard bras.
A vivid memory during my breastfeeding days that comes to mind was mastitis and the pain it caused. I didn’t know what hit me the first time around. Feeding on demand was a struggle with my cracked nipples and throbbing breasts, ill-fitting bras, tiredness — and not to mention the fevers.
After going to the doctors and getting some much needed antibiotics, the infection began to subside.
As time went by, breastfeeding became easier, but I will never forget the start. Part of that was because no one warned me about it. I just assumed it would come naturally and that it was easy.
What is mastitis?
Mastitis is an inflammation of the breast tissue caused by a blocked milk ducts. Milk ducts can become blocked when they are not properly drained. Think: when baby refuses to finish nursing for one reason or another or you are away from baby and suffering from engorgement. As a result, the milk spills into the breast tissue causing infection.
Symptoms of mastitis
If you develop mastitis, you will not feel well.
The initial symptoms are similar to that of the flu and include:
- High temperatures, aching body, shivers
- Red swollen area on the breast
- Breast is hot and painful to touch
If you do experience any flu-like symptoms, it is recommended you see your help care provider as an antibiotic may be needed to treat the infection.
The doctor will typically recommend:
- Plenty of rest
- Draining the breasts after each feed — this may mean pumping if baby refuses to nurse
- Using cold packs to help sooth the swollen area (cabbage leaves are also a welcome relieve and can be worn in side your bra)
- Removing your bra and any restrictive clothing
How to avoid mastitis
Early on in your breastfeeding journey your breasts are full and will usually produce an over-supply of breast milk. Neglecting to empty the breast fully can cause blocked ducts and sore, hard, swollen breasts. Even if you are weaning earlier than expected, it’s important to be careful how you do so as you want to avoid developing mastitis during the process.
Avoid tight restrictive clothing and bras that cut into your breast tissue. They will not only feel uncomfortable but could exacerbate developing mastitis.
Seamless bras are a great option as they will stretch and move with your changing body – especially initially. A good seamless bra will provide just enough support and will also provide room for growth.
Ensure your baby feeds well. Alternate and feed baby on both breasts ensuring you drain at least one breast well at each feed. Use a breast pumps after feeds should one breast still be full.
Breastfeed baby exclusively. Try not to supplement in order to ensure baby is hungry and will feed well.
And most importantly, feed on demand to ensure you aren’t missing a feeding and thus making it less likely to develop mastitis.
Like many women out there, Tracey Montford is an exceptional multitasker! Apart from steering a global business, managing 2 young boys & keeping the clan clean and fed, Tracey still finds time to provide creative inspiration and direction to the exceptional designs of Cake Maternity. From the branding, presentation and delivery, creativity is a big part of what Tracey does so naturally and effectively. Find out more at www.cakematernity.com or catch up with her on social @cakematernity
Ana, a mom to three rambunctious little boys, has supported thousands of women throughout their pregnancy and motherhood journey since 2012 as a prenatal and postpartum educator at MommysBundle.com.