mastitis and engorgement--whatever it's painful!
I had a big problem with engorgement and mastitis when I had my second baby, a girl--she wasn't as hungry an eater as my son and therefore would only eat from one side each time...ugh! so there I was with these GIANT breasts and this little tiny eater of just one side at a time. Which led to painful engorgement far too frequently...I think in total about once a month. The first time I got it we were traveling, and I think this is typical because, if you are just beginning breastfeeding you may not notice this in your stupor of tiredness but breastfeeding is really a lot of work for your body and it does tire you out in addition to the frequent sleepless nights of breastfeeding and general taking care of a newborn. So traveling can add an extra level of stress and just a plain worn-out feeling which can easily lead to engorgement or mastitis, in this case it had lead to mastitis (I think that mastitis can also come from a bacteria in a babies nose of some sort...but however you get it it's painful!). Also, typical to when you are traveling is the issue of no doctor, not much on the internet, and it's hard to diagnose with your doctor over the phone without them seeing your breasts, which is why I am writing this.
First I am going to tell you all about my troubles because you will either laugh or cry but it's good to know the whole story so that you know what to expect. We were traveling and so my daughter was eating on a very weird schedule (even less than usual) so by the time we arrived in California I thought that I had the flu, as it had been going around and we had been on a plane..result: the flu, right? After my fever progressed to delirium and lots of sweating, I finally got up and looked at my monsterous breasts and one that was hard like a melon and very red. I tried to pump and breastfeed but neither resulted in much milk, but I did manage to work on the other side, luckily. By the time we called the doctor I had a high fever and really sweating and it was REALLY painful. It was suggested that I had mastitis and so I had to take antibiotics, and I hated that, but when traveling there is not much choice, and it did go away pretty quickly once the antibiotics were working. I got really frustrated though because this stupid doctor that I called said that there was NOTHING else that I could do but antibiotics, and he was wrong, he didn't even tell me to get into the shower and massage my breast...
What you really need to remember is that you need to catch engorgement before it gets painful and troublesome. The first thing to do is to try to stay relaxed and remember to rest as much as you can, get in the shower and let the hot water massage your breast and then also massage with your hand, you will almost be able to feel the lump and just keep massaging on it and around it with the hot water running on it. When you get good at this massage you will almost be able to feel when you massage it out....then breastfeed immediately afterwards, this will loosen things up. I think that the cabbage trick works really well and feels so good on your breasts, you take a piece of cabbage and put it into your bra or top and just sit back and let the coolness soothe your breast and relax you a bit. I also think that Bachs rescue remedy can work if you are stressed out and having trouble relaxing.
I really believe in la leche league as well, they are a terrific source of help while breastfeeding and all you need to do is find a group meeting nearby, they also have local numbers that you can call if you are having a specific problem and can't wait until the next meeting. And I must say that there is something really reassuring about sitting around with a bunch of moms breastfeeding and talking about breastfeeding, especially if it's your first time around.
good luck and please share and remedies that you have with other moms by making a comment!
ps. I just remembered something else... my swedish cousin gave me these pads that were thermal to put on my breasts to keep them warm, it's important to keep them warm when you have engorgement trouble, so I would just put these pads in my t-shirt to help keep my breasts warm in the winter.