Elisabeth Hasselbeck's Mastitis: What it is and how to deal with it

03/06/2008 at 12:10 PM ET

Barbara Walters expressed an interest in co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck’s health today on The View, commenting that she was shivering at the end of yesterday’s show. Elisabeth replied, "I’m OK. I have, what is it called… mastitis … it’s a clogged milk duct that then gets infected." Her son Taylor Thomas will be 4 months this week.

Joy Behar might have thought it was a TMI moment, but mastitis is actually fairly common in breastfeeding moms and can be quite uncomfortable.

According to kellymom.com,

Mastitis is an inflammation of the breast that can be caused by obstruction, infection and/or allergy. The incidence of postpartum mastitis in Western women is 20%; mastitis is not nearly so common in countries where breastfeeding is the norm and frequent breastfeeding is typical. Mastitis is most common in the first 2-3 weeks, but can occur at any stage of lactation. Mastitis may come on abruptly, and usually affects only one breast.

Click continue reading below to find out more about mastitis, symptoms, treatments and how you can avoid it.

Dr. Sears lists the symptoms of mastitis as:

  • You feel tired, run down, achy, have chills or think you have the flu. A breastfeedingmother who thinks she has the flu probably has mastitis. Mothers with mastitis willsometimes experience these flu-like symptoms, even before they get a fever or notice breasttenderness.
  • You have chills or feel feverish, or your temperature is 101F or higher. Thesesymptoms suggest that you have an infection.
  • You are feeling progressively worse, your breasts are growing more tender, andyour fever is becoming more pronounced. With simple engorgement, a plugged duct,or mastitis without infection, you gradually feel better instead of worse.
  • Recent events have set you up for mastitis: cracked or bleeding nipples, stress or gettingrun down, missed feedings or longer intervals between feedings.

Treatments for mastitis can vary, and it is important that you consultyour health care provider if you suspect mastitis so they can properlydiagnose you. Simple mastitis can become a bacterial infection andrequire an antibiotic. The first recommendation for treatment is always to rest.Since you have flu-like symptoms you should treat yourself like youhave the flu. Get lots of rest and nurse often to work through theblockage. You can also try alternating warm and cold compressions onthe affected breast. Even taking a hot shower can help to increase milk circulation and make you feel alittle better. You can also try massaging the area of tenderness tohelp increase the circulation of milk and unplug the affected duct.

Because mastitis starts with a plugged milk duct, you want to drain theaffected breast as often as possible by nursing (or pumping). Mastitis should nothappen regularly, offering a variety of nursing positions can help youdrain your breasts properly and, hopefully, avoid getting a pluggedduct again. You can take pain relievers for the fever and/or pain. Bothacetaminophen and ibuprofen are safe to take while breastfeeding. Youcan also help to boost your immune system by eating better and drinkinglots of fluids.

There are several ways you can fight to keep mastitis from happening toyou. Don’t restrict the amount of nursing sessions is one key way tofight it. When you limit feeding or ignore nursing cues (like yourbreasts feeling full), you put yourself in a position where a blockedduct is likely to happen. If you’re away from your baby when you wouldnormally nurse, try to pump to relieve the pressure. Sleeping on yourstomach or wearing ill-fitting bras, can also lead to clogged ducts as your breasts are compressed andthe milk may not be able to circulate properly. Also perform regular breastmassages — gentle breast massage can help re-circulate the milk in yourbreast and make you feel more comfortable. Lactation consultants canalso offer more tips and teach you different breastfeeding holds andmassage techniques.

More resources for dealing with and diagnosing mastitis:

Have you ever had mastitis? Do you have any tips for avoiding it or dealing with it?

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Showing 17 comments

Anya on

I had mastitis with my son about 3 weeks after he was born – it was extremely painful! It started with extreme chills and a very high fever so we thought it was the flu…my doctor also told me something interesting – the redness on your breast where the infection is, is usually in a pie slice shape…it was true! I just nursed extra and pumped afterward to get all the milk out…also, putting hot compresses on the area helps a lot and helps loosen up the milk/get the milk flowing!

Jessica on

Poor Elisabeth! I had mastitis 4 times while nursing my daughter (nursed her for 16 months). It was very painful each time and I felt like I had the worst flu ever each time!I pumped alot and massaged while I was pumping as well as nursing often and warm compresses! (and of course, antibiotics!)

Rebecca on

I had it when my youngest was 2 weeks old and it was awful! I tried everything in the book to get rid of it naturally (from kellymom’s website) but after 24 hours it wasn’t any better and I needed antibiotics. I wouldn’t wish mastitis on anyone, it’s awful, especially with a young baby, I hope Elisabeth feels better soon!

Casey on

I had it with both of my children and I would say it’s is the worst I have ever felt in my life, it kinda felt like I was dying. I had it worse with my first, spiked a 104-105 fever. With my second as soon as I felt it coming on I called my dr for antibiotics ASAP and even still by the time I got them in my system I was already feeling like I’d been run over by a truck.

Can’t believe she was able to work with it!

Campbell on

Who among us nursing moms hasn’t experienced this!? Too common… it happened to me in the 10th month of nursing my son who is now 22 years old. My experience was pretty much like everyone elses. Just gotta keep nursing thru it. It is a miserable condition.

Danielle, Celebrity Baby Blog Publisher on

I had it once and managed to prevent it a second time. It was pretty bad- like the flu. I was out with Josh at a party and got the chills something fierce and had to leave early. I was then in bed for a couple of days.

The thing that really sucks is that once you’ve had it, you’re more prone to getting it!

Caroline on

I got mastitis and again 6 weeks later with the same breast and it was horrible. My doctor prescribed me an antibiotic and I was much better by the second pill. I dreaded nursing that side in between the 2 infections because it was so painful but as soon as I changed the positioning, it became very easy. I am so glad I didn’t give up!

tracey on

I had mastitis in both breasts 4 days after my son arrived – it was the WORST i’ve ever felt, even the labour was heaps better than having mastitis.. I had 2 weeks of antibiotics and was OK after that. I was never really told about mastitis. Breastfeeding is already hard (for some) and when you throw in cracked and bleeding nipples, engorgement and mastitis, it’s a minefield. Props to the women who get through it though x

M on

i had it with my son,and i woke up telling my husband i was ‘still shaking’,and it freaked him out..i actually had not been shaking when i went to bed,he didn’t know about it and neither did i..except perhaps in my dreams,since i was confused and thought i had gone to bed shaking. i was a bit out of it at first,but then i realized what was happening. i tried to take care of it,and was taking a warm bath..when i saw a read area with pink streaks radiating out away from it. i knew then as natural as i like to be,i needed the antibiotics,it had gone too far too quickly and it was not going to go away by itself no matter how hard i tried (i actually stopped breastfeeding then. my son was 10 days old i believe,and could not breastfeed. i blamed myself so much,still wish i would have tried harder and in fact tried now and then even when he was 5 months old but he would not latch. i later learned that is common with children with autism. w e had to explore many different bottle nipple shapes and formulas for him before we found something that worked so he could feed properly:/ however,my daughter is three and still nursing strong and has from the start. i just wish it would have worked that way for my little guy. in the future,if i notice a newborn of mine having trouble it will make me nervous i am sure.)

Whitney on

I actually had mastitis when I was 15. I’ve never had kids and my pediatrician was puzzled so he sent me to an OB/GYN and he diagnosed it. He said he has treated several teenagers with the same problem, likely from wearing too tight sports bras.

It was very painful and I had to stay home from school for a week because I couldn’t wear a bra (that was a requirement at my school). Hot compresses are definitely your best friend if you get mastitis.

crunchy domestic goddess on

thanks for talking about this.
wishgarden herbs makes a mastitis remedy that works pretty well if you catch it in the early stages. another key to getting rid of mastitis is rest. lots and lots of rest and continued breastfeeding. hot compresses can help to relieve some of the pain as well.

islaygirl on

i had full-blown mastitis once and i have never felt so sick. i thought i was having morning sickness again. I had one duct that was always the one that would get plugged and i got very good at using a sewing needle to break the plug before it turned into mastitis. (that sounds horrible. but nothing as horrible as having mastitis!)

Mtoo on

Count me in. I went through this twice, with one of my sons and then with one of my daughters. I would have rather had gone through labor again. Labor with a 15 pound baby.

UggaMugga.com on

I had mastitis once with my son and then WAY too often with my daughter…my second child…which was much more difficult because my son was running around and I couldn’t get the rest I needed.

I would read, “just lie in bed with your infant next to you and nurse throughout the entire day.” Sounded like a dream!!! I think it came on more with my second too because I wasn’t getting the rest I needed.

But we made it through…15 months for each child…my greatest accomplishment outside of giving birth to them!

Leslie on

I had mastitis with my second son. I had the flu like symptoms and my breast was extremely engorged and hurt to the touch. My midwife told me to take golden seal and vitamin C and it was gone after 24 hours. It was actually kind of nice b/c I got to stay in bed with my 2 month old and my 2 year old went to grandma’s while hubby worked around the house. I got to watch TV and nurse the baby and sleep with him all day! I’m really lucky it wasn’t as bad as most, but I’m certain it’s b/c my midwife told me to take the herbs and vitamins. Anyway, thought I’d share my experience!

Jennifer on

I had mastitis yesterday. It started at 2 p.m. with a sore breast and slight chills. By 4:00 I was shaking, and by 4:30 my fever was 104.8. I felt incredibly hot, and my body was aching terribly. I had red marks on my breast.

This is how I treated it and was completely better by 7:00 a.m. when I woke up. I drank many glasses of water with sodium ascorbate (vitamin C powder) mixed in. (About 2-3 grams per glass, wasn’t real scientific about it). I took NO Tylenol or anything for the fever. Hot disposable diaper compresses on my breast, massaged the sore spot on my breast, and nursed my baby whenever he was willing. I stayed in bed, and slept a lot, which was fairly easy since it was nighttime. My fever went down throughout the night, and by morning, it was completely gone.

Katy on

I have a 4 month old baby and now am on my 4th bout of mastitis. I have been weaning for 1 month now, and am almost dried out. I guess I needed it one more time as a reminder of my miserable BFing experiance.
I started taking antibiotics (doc gave me 5 days worth incase my mastitis came back because I was hospitalized for 4 days last time) as soon as I felt the pain, and so far I am not getting much sicker.

It is hell and I cant wait till I am dry!

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