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So you have a baby – yay! She’s cute, you’re pumping for her, everything is good: and then you get mastitis. Mastitis, in short, is terrible – you are knocked down as if you have the flu (complete with a fever, chills, and pain), you boob feels like it’s going to explode, and oh, you still have to take care of a baby and pump every two hours.

I was lucky enough to not get mastitis with my son, but I got it twice with my daughter. Here is everything you need to know about it.

What is mastitis?

pain-in-the-boob-mastitisMastitis is an inflammation of the breast. Generally speaking, it has two causes: obstruction of milk coming out of the breast (essentially, a clogged duct), or infection. Mastitis that is caused by obstruction can lead to infection, so it can be one or both that is causing the issue.

How can I tell if I have mastitis?

There are two kinds of symptoms – those specific to your breast and those that affect all of you.

Your breast (the affected one – normally mastitis only hits one breast at a time) will feel painful and very tender to the touch. Sometimes you can feel a lump, which is likely the clogged duct that caused the mastitis. You may see red streaks on your breast, and it might be warm and a bit swollen.

The rest of you will feel as though you have the flu, minus the nasal congestion – generally, if you have mastitis, you’ll have a fever, chills, and aches. (I also had a dull headache and what I would describe as “general malaise”: I just did not feel well. That was the only way I could describe it.)

How do I treat mastitis?

If your symptoms have been present for less than 24 hours, only one breast is affected, your baby is more than two weeks old, and you are not acutely ill, you should rest as much as you can, pump as much as you can, drink a lot of fluids, and take ibuprofen for your breast pain.

Regarding pumping as often as you can – the goal is to keep the breast causing the mastitis as empty as possible. Use a warm compress on your breast before you pump. (If it makes it easier to get more pumping sessions in, you can hook yourself up for some sessions on just the affected side. Just make sure you don’t forget about the other side and get yourself a double case of mastitis.)

It can be painful to pump on the affected side, especially in the beginning before letdown. Try hooking yourself up to pump only on the good side (cover the “bad” side with a breast pad of something) and then hook up the affected side after letdown.  Then make sure you empty the “bad” side by doing breast compressions.

If your symptoms have been present for more than 24 hours, both breasts are affected (you poor thing), your baby is less than two weeks old, or you are very sick, call your doctor. (You can call your OB/midwife or primary care doctor, whatever you prefer). It is likely that he or she will put you on an antibiotic, usually for 10-14 days. You should also continue to rest and keep your breasts as empty as you can.

Untreated mastitis can lead to an abscess (which can require surgery to resolve), so be sure to call your doctor if you feel sick for more than 24 hours or are really ill.

How can I make sure that this never happens to me and my boobs again?

To avoid mastitis as an exclusive pumper, your best bet is to avoid obstruction of milk ducts (i.e., clogged ducts) by sticking to a pumping schedule and making sure that you empty your breasts completely. (Unless you are weaning - while weaning you should stick to a schedule but not empty your breasts, just very gradually decrease the amount that is “left” in them after pumping.) In addition, if you do get a clogged duct, do everything you can to clear it before it becomes mastitis.

If you are prone to getting mastitis only in one breast, one option is to wean from just the affected breast and continue pumping on your other side.

Have you had mastitis? Share your tale of woe with us.

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Flying as a breastfeeding mother can be stressful! Nursing moms have to worry about privacy and whether or not the airline will allow them to nurse uncovered. Moms travelling without their babies have to figure out how to navigate TSA regulations, where to pump in the airport and on the plane, and how to store their milk in transit.

how-to-pump-on-plane-with-your-babyExclusively pumping moms travelling WITH their baby have to figure out not only where and when they can pump, but how to take care of their baby at the same time. In this post I’ll cover a few different scenarios of flying with your baby when you are exclusively pumping.

One important thing that applies to all of the below scenarios: no matter how short your flight is, if you are an exclusive pumper, I would strongly recommend that you carry your pump on.  Even if your flight is half an hour long, or if you have a serious aversion to pumping in an airport, or if you don’t have room for it with all of your other stuff, it’s still a good idea. You never know  when the airline is going to lose your bag, and you don’t want to have to haul your exploding boobs to Target to buy a new $300 pump when you arrive at your destination.

(Also, remember your battery pack and your charger!)

Scenario #1: You are flying with your baby and another caregiver (i.e., your partner, a grandparent, etc.)

This is the easiest scenario, as you have someone else to hold the baby while you pump. If your flight is on the short side (less than however long you usually go without pumping), you can either plan to pump before you get on the plane or on the plane itself.

If you choose to pump before you get on the plane, one option is to do it in the car on the way to the airport. Taking care of it then makes it easier to focus on checking in and everything and taking care of your baby once you’re in the airport, but there’s still a chance that you’ll need to pump again at the airport or on the plane if you get delayed.

Your options if you decide to pump in the airport are the women’s restroom, a family restroom, or empty gate area. If I had my choice I would choose the family restroom, but I’ve pumped at a gate and it went fine (no one paid any attention to me). The most important thing is to use a cover and act like you know what you’re doing.

If you decide to pump on the plane, you can pump in either the restroom or your seat.

If you decide to do it at your seat, pull everything that you need (breast shields, bottles, pumps parts, caps for the bottles, a Ziploc bag for used pump parts, your pump, hands-free bra, and your cover) out of your pump bag. Put on your cover, set up the bottles and pump parts, and start the pump. Again, act like you know what you’re doing. It’s unlikely that anyone will be able to hear the pump due to the noise of the plane.

The other option is the plane bathroom. If you decide to do this, wait until there isn’t much demand for it, and have everything ready to go ahead of time so that you can hook and unhook yourself quickly. It’s also not a bad idea to let a flight attendant know what you doing. I would suggest limiting your pumping sessions in the plane restroom to 10 minutes or less. If you would normally pump for 20 minutes, then maybe you can go twice for 10 minutes.

Scenario #2: You are flying by yourself, and your flight time is less than you would usually go between pumping sessions.

How to handle this depends a bit on whether or not your baby has a seat. If you bought a seat for your baby, you have most of the options as in the first scenario, with the exception of pumping in the airplane bathroom. (I don’t think juggling both a pump and a baby in the bathroom is possible, but maybe I’m wrong?) If you choose to pump in your seat, you’d most likely want to wait until your baby falls asleep in her car seat, so that you don’t have to quickly unhook yourself to take care of a crying baby.

If your baby is a lap child, probably the easiest thing on a short flight would be to find a quiet place in the airport, such as a family restroom or an empty gate, and hook yourself up to pump right before boarding the plane. Then do the same right after you get off of the plane. It might be a good idea to bring a blanket for your baby to lay or sit on while you pump, depending on her age.

Scenario #3: You are flying by yourself, and your flight time is more than you would usually go between pumping sessions.

In this scenario, I would strongly recommend buying a seat for your baby.  The best way to handle this is to get your baby to sleep in her car seat and then immediately pump in case she wakes up before you would expect. If it’s a really long flight, it’s a good idea to pump every single time she falls asleep in case she gets fussy later and you don’t get another chance to pump. And if you get desperate, see if you can find a grandmotherly type to hold the baby while you pump. It might not be ideal, but it’s also not like they can run off with your little one!

Have you had to fly with your baby as an exclusive pumper? Share your experience!

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I have two questions today – very exciting!  (Have a question about pumping breast milk? Ask it here!)

First of all, let me just say that I LOVE your site! I can’t believe how well you’ve documented all this stuff – extremely helpful for an exclusive pumper like myself! And made me feel WAY less crazy, guilty, and alone! 

Anyway – I had a couple of questions and I hope you can answer them when you have time. I’ve cut down to 5 sessions a day and am finding that I have a big output in the morning… sometimes more than 12oz. What do you do with the bottles when they’re full? Do you stop pumping and switch bottles? I’m worried that my letdown will stop altogether if I do this. Any tips/techniques for pumping like this? This will be especially helpful to me when I cut down pumps further, because I’m expecting (hoping, at least) to pump around that much per session.

Another question: When did you notice a significant change in your supply? I’m doing 5 sessions a day right now, but hoping to go down to 4 when my baby is 6 months, followed by 3 a few months later and then 2 towards the end (let’s hope I last that long, though!)

overflowing-bottles-and-dropping-pumping-sessionsI had the same problem in the mornings! At first, I did switch the bottles. I’m not sure what kind of a pump you have but on the Freestyle (which is what I have) you can turn off just one side. So I would turn off the side I needed to change, and kept pumping on the other while I switched the bottles (which I had brought over before I started and had ready, so it was pretty quick). Since you letdown on both sides at the same time (based on messages from your boobs to your brain), this makes any concerns about letdown less of an issue.

But! Then I discovered these 8oz Medela bottles and started using them for my morning pumping session, which totally solved the problem. (I’m not sure what kind of pump you have, but even if it’s not Medela you might be able to find bigger ones that will screw into your pump).

As far as what happened to my supply when I dropped pumping sessions, I would say that I didn’t experience any drops in supply until I dropped from 4 to 3 pumps per day. The supply drop each time was very slow, but also kind of a lot, as you can see:

  • Going from 4 to 3: gradually (over 3 months) lost about 10 ounces
  • Going from 3 to 2: gradually (over 2 months) lost about 10 ounces
  • Going from 2 to 1: gradually went down to 3 ounces before I dropped the last pumping session

However, another thing that I’ll mention is that I also got my period back around the time I dropped to 3 pumps per day. With my second baby (the one I nursed), my supply took a few ounce hit every time I got my period and never recovered from it, like it’s supposed to, so every month I would lose a few ounces. I didn’t drop any feedings or pumping sessions, the only variable was my period. So I think that probably played into it with my first baby as well, though there’s really no way to know. Obviously, this is just my experience, and other people’s will likely vary.

Hiya thank you so much for this post. I am a new mum to a week old baby and am exclusively pumping and want to use a routine, I am just wondering do you just pump from one breast per sessions or bit of both, currently I am doing 15 min alternating each breast per feed e.g. 15 min right at 3pm then 15 min on left at 6pm (I currently get 3-4oz each time) .. I don’t know if that’s right. Only started it today, also what do you do if your going out for the day do you take pump with you or just use saved milk?

Congratulations on your brand new baby!

Do you have a double electric pump? If so, I would definitely recommend pumping both sides every three hours. It sounds like your supply is great for having a one week old! Since it will probably regulate in the next week or two, it’s best if you are pumping as much milk as possible now, so that when it does your supply will still be strong. (Basically, when your milk comes in, sometimes it comes in with a lot at first, and then your body will decide it knows how much you need and then cut back to that.) If you have a manual pump, I would still try to pump both sides, but since it’s more labor intensive it might be harder to do that.

As far as going out, I would always bring pumped milk for my baby, and only bring my pump if I was going to be gone more than 3 hours or so (or during a time when I would normally pump). I wouldn’t bring my pump and no milk because I was always nervous that he’d get hungry before I could pump and then I’d be stuck out in public with a crying baby and no food to give him and it would be a disaster.

Please feel free to add any suggestions or thoughts in comments!

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