I’ve been a little quiet online for the past few days because my body decided that now was as good a time as any to get mastitis. Oh yes, and what a delight that has been… But I did not know how to deal with mastitis. Would you know what what to do?
On Sunday evening, Little O, Baby E and I came back from another second birthday party and I started to feel a little sore on my left-hand side, spreading down from under my arm. I could not feel any lumps so I did not think anything more of it. However, by the time I went to bed that night, the pain was worse and I could not turn over in bed. I spent the night sleeping on one side with my hand cupped underneath my breast as that was the only thing that reduced the pain.
Each time that Baby E woke for a feed in the night, I asked Husband to check my forehead (it’s like he has a thermometer in his hand and can detect a fever at ten paces) but there was nothing. By the time I woke on Monday morning though, I felt rotten – like I had the ‘flu (aching limbs, headache, feverish) but without any signs of ‘flu in my nose or throat. When I checked my temperature (with a real thermometer this time), it was at 37.6°, so high but not that high.
I read a couple of books to check and see if it was mastitis (Baby Whisperer and the brilliant What to Expect When You’re Breast-feeding by Clare Byam-Cook, which I highly recommend) and it looked like it could be, although I had no lumps and no red streaks, both of which are typical signs. Both books stressed the importance of consulting your doctor if you suspected mastitis, since it can be fixed without antibiotics if caught early enough.
I decided to call the health information line for Stockholm, where you can get advice from a nurse. The woman I spoke to said that it might be mastitis (mjölkstockning in Swedish) but that I should not bother to go to the doctor as my fever was not high enough to justify it and I should wait and see if I got worse.
I find this reaction from healthcare providers here in Sweden so frustrating. It is just like the reaction I got from the lactation specialist about Baby E’s colic-type problems – that you don’t really have a problem, your case is not that bad and that there is someone worse off than you. Yes, that might all be true but when you’re going through a situation like this, it is very hard to be told each time that you’re making too much out of it. I asked Husband why this is the case and he said that he believes it because too many people go to the doctors, ask for antibiotics and then don’t finish the course of tablets, meaning that the bacteria become immune to the antibiotics. All fair enough, but I still believe it odd that given it is a condition where you are advised in books to head straight to your doctor, they put you off doing just that here.
Anyway, during the day I felt worse and worse, my temperature got higher and higher and the sore area got redder and redder. I defied the health line and called the doctors surgery. Unfortunately, it was too late to get an appointment that day but they helpfully gave me the number to the local drop-in clinic at the hospital a few blocks away, and I arranged an appointment for 6pm.
I was so glad that I made the decision to do this as the doctor I saw there confirmed that it was mastitis and said that it was good that I had come in at that stage as if I had left it longer I would have needed antibiotics. She told me to empty the breast using a pump and showed me a massage technique to do at the same time to try to clear the blockage. I left there so pleased that I had a way to try and solve the problem, that I had managed to avoid having to take antibiotics and also just a little bit pleased that I had been proven right (take that, Vårdguiden!) – childish, I know…
So, I did as the doctor said and hoped for a better night. Unfortunately, I had not managed to avoid the worst of the fever and an hour later I had a fever of 39° again and was wrapped up in bed in pyjamas and a fleece dressing gown with the duvet over me and a wool blanket over that. And a couple of hours after that I was drenched in sweat and kicking all of these off.
But I woke this morning feeling much better and with no fever, so I hope that the pumping, massage and pressing a hot, hot flannel against the sore area when I am feeding Baby E have all helped towards solving the problem.
As they say, things can only get better!