by Caryn McAllister, PT, DPT / President & CEO of High Quality Home Therapy
Planning to nurse? Health experts agree that breastfeeding is the healthiest option for both mom and baby. Most healthcare experts recommend nursing for the first 6 months of the baby’s life, and then continuing to have breast milk in baby’s diet for 1 year. But what happens if breastfeeding doesn’t go as smoothly as you planned? For instance, what if you develop mastitis?
Mastitis is a condition that affects 20-25% of women in western countries and usually affects women 2-3 weeks postpartum. It includes a hot, tender, swollen breast area, along with myalgia pain, fever, and flu-like symptoms. Alicia Teitelbaum, MS, physical therapist at HQHT, who herself suffered with mastitis after giving birth to her first child, stated that although she didn’t need any medications when giving birth, mastitis hurt her so much that she required medication for it. The most agonizing aspect to this diagnosis, she laments, is that she had to travel 45 minutes, leaving my 3-week old infant at home, to go to the nearest women’s health clinic for treatment. Alicia said of the experience, “This is absurd. No new mom, especially when sick, should have to leave her newborn to care for this commonly occurring infection. There should be easier and better ways to provide care.”
Don’t worry, there is! Physical therapy can help treat mastitis in a much more convenient way. At High Quality Home Therapy, we can come to your house or you can come to our spa-like office located in Stamford for care. We are a family-friendly facility, so no need to leave your baby at home. And since Connecticut is a direct access state, you don’t even need a prescription to come see us. This means that if you think you have mastitis, you can come to see us directly without seeing your medical doctor first.
Although medications fix the infection, they don’t get rid of the clog. Thus, mastitis recurrence is quite common, and happens to 20-35% of the women who develop it. However, physical therapy can help by providing ultrasounds and massage to get rid of the clog in milk duct, as well as educate new moms on range of motion in the shoulder and posture and positioning with nursing to ensure that it doesn’t come back. New moms are already under so much duress, so by making treatment easier, as well as educating them on ways to reduce mastitis from happening again, they can be more attentive to their own child.
It is essential to note that if you are having issues with breastfeeding, you are not a failure. If it doesn’t work for you and your baby, that does not mean you won’t be an amazing mother! Learning as much as possible ahead of time to arm yourself with information that can help you be successful in breast care throughout those early stages of motherhood is the best thing you can do for you and your child, as well as knowing all about High Quality Home Therapy and the ways that we can help you out with this challenging yet incredible new chapter of you and your baby’s life!
Kvist, L.J. Re-examination of old truths: replication of a study to measure the incidence of lactational mastitis in breastfeeding women. Int Breastfeed J 8, 2 (2013) doi:10.1186/1746-4358-8-2
Foxman B, D’Arcy H, Gillespie B, Bobo JK, Schwartz K: Lactation mastitis: Occurrence and medical management among 946 breastfeeding women in the United States. Am J Epidemiol. 155: 103-114. 10.1093/aje/155.2.103.
Kinlay JR, O’Connell DL, Kinlay S: Incidence of mastitis in breastfeeding women during the six months after delivery: a prospective cohort study. Med J Aust.,169: 310-312.