Rose’s Story: Treating Mastitis and Sore Nipples

Baby nursingRose P., USA

My breastfeeding experiences with my children were all fairly uneventful. I never faced any challenges that brought me to the point of questioning whether I could continue, and I am extremely grateful for that.

As I look back, though, I think of a couple of different bumps in the road that, if I hadn’t had the information or support to make it over them, might have ended my nursing journey before either my nursling or I were ready for that.

I experienced mastitis several times over the years, but I was able to resolve each occurrence before it became necessary to seek medical help. Mastitis is an inflammation of the breast tissue, and it can sometimes lead to an infection. For me, I would wake up with a sore breast that had a very definite inflamed area that felt hot to the touch. I usually also felt very achy and run down, as if I had the flu.

I found that what worked best for me was to hop in the shower and direct the spray of water (as hot as I could stand it) on the affected breast. If I wasn’t able to take a shower, I would fill the sink with hot water and lean over to soak my breast in the water. This worked, too, but it wasn’t quite as easy or effective as the shower.

I could also usually feel one or two hard, lumpy spots that were probably plugged ducts. Two things really helped me unplug the ducts. One was massaging those areas. The other was nursing my baby as often as possible and trying to have her chin or nose pointing in the direction of the plugged duct. This really seemed to help.

Some people may have heard that you shouldn’t nurse if you have mastitis, but I’m very glad I had heard that nursing frequently is one of the best things to do, in addition to the treatment ideas I wrote about above.

Sore nipples
I didn’t experience sore nipples due to poor latch, but I had a very painful week when my oldest was around 7 or 8 months. I developed a milk bleb or blister, which is a blocked nipple pore. My daughter was also teething at the time, and we were working through her experimenting with biting down on my nipple, which sometimes happened after she finished nursing. She must have bitten down on the milk bleb, causing it to break open and actually become an open sore. Needless to say, nursing on that side hurt quite a bit!

During this time, I would start a nursing session on the other breast so her suck wasn’t quite as vigorous. I also hand expressed on that side to relieve the discomfort of engorgement from my daughter not nursing as much on that side. I put lanolin on the sore nipple to help the healing process. Expressing a bit of milk onto the sore nipple also seemed to help.

When I think of the challenges that some parents experience in their nursing journeys, my few days of discomfort don’t seem like a big deal. But I also know that if I hadn’t been aware of the resources to help me through mastitis and sore nipples, I might have decided to stop nursing before we were ready, because I wouldn’t have known I could safely and fairly quickly get past those challenges.

I didn’t have a La Leche League Group nearby, but I was able to find information through the La Leche League website, and I appreciated how thorough and clear the information was presented.


Please send your story ideas to Amy at [email protected].

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