Mastitis

mastitis

Mastitis is inflammation of the breast that can occur in breastfeeding women.  This condition can be caused by an allergy, infection, or an obstruction.  While mastitis is the most common in the first 2 to 3 weeks of breastfeeding, it can occur at any time during lactation.  Approximately 1 in 3 (other sources say 1 in 5) postpartum women in the West will experience mastitis.

This condition often comes on abruptly and often affects only one breast.  It may last for a few hours or up to a week or so.

Symptoms of mastitis include:

  • Breast area that is warm, hot, sensitive and may be painful
  • Red or reddish streaks on the tissue of the affected area
  • Fever of 101.3 or more
  • Chills
  • Generalized aching
  • Flu-like feelings

What causes mastitis?

Sometimes the cause of mastitis is unknown.  Possible causes or contributing factors can include:

  • Plugged ducts
  • Cracked or damaged nipples, which let germs in
  • Ineffective or infrequent nursing or pumping
  • Pressure from a baby carrier or a bra
  • Fatigue
  • Being “run down”

Other effects of mastitis, which can help indicate illness include:

  • Decrease in milk supply from the affected breast temporarily
  • Expressed milk that looks like strings or grains of thick, fatty milk; lumpy, clumpy milk (this is safe for baby, but some moms like to strain this out.
  • Milk may contain more sodium and chloride, making it saltier—baby may refuse or resist the breast due to this temporary change in flavor.
  • In more serious cases, milk can contain mucus, pus, or blood.

How to prevent mastitis

  • Breastfeed or pump frequently
  • Fully drain the milk from your breasts while breastfeeding
  • Allow baby to completely empty one breast before switching to the other breast
  • If baby nurses for only a few minutes on the second side (or not at all) begin on that side for the next feeding
  • Alternate the breast you offer first at each feeding
  • Regularly change the position you use to breastfeed
  • Ensure that baby is latching properly
  • Take good care of yourself– get enough rest, eat well, and drink enough fluids

What do to if you suspect mastitis

If you feel you may be experiencing mastitis or a plugged duct, please call or page the midwives if you are a current client.  A visit to determine the cause of your symptoms and potentially a prescription for antibiotics (if infection is present) and/or a recommendation for over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication may be in order.

There are also many things you can do at home to help treat mastitis.

  1. Apply cold or heat: apply a cold pack (frozen peas work great) or a heat pack or compress, whichever feels better to the area, 20 minutes on then 20 minutes off and repeat.  Hot showers and soaking (with the affected breast immersed) in warm water with Epsom salt can also help.
  2. Empty the breast often:  frequently nurse or pump or hand express (at least every 2 hours) on the affected side to keep the milk moving.  (Don’t neglect the unaffected breast)
  3. Rest: it is so important to rest as much as you can.  Rest means lying down sleeping or resting for as much of the day as possible.  Get help around the house as much as possible
  4. Eat well and stay hydrated, drinking plenty of water throughout the day
  5. Go braless if possible
  6. Massage:  some call this the “bag of marbles” massage.  Cup your affected breast with both hands, fingers interlaced, and massage as if you were rolling marbles around in a bag.  You can also rub the affected area in a circular motion with 2 or 3 fingers.  You can massage as baby nurses, toward the nipple, to help with milk flow and clearing out obstructed ducts.
  7. Natural remedies: speak with your midwife to see about the appropriateness of using raw garlic (2-5 cloves per day), Echinacea tincture, Oregon Grape Root tincture, Propolis tincture, and/or vitamin C
  8. Raw potato or cabbage leaves:  applied to the breast.

After mastitis has resolved, it is common for the area to be red or feel bruised for up to a week longer.

Additional Resources on Mastitis:

http://kellymom.com/bf/concerns/mother/mastitis/

http://www.storknet.com/cubbies/breast/naturalremediespt2.htm

http://www.breastfeedinginc.ca/content.php?pagename=doc-BD-M

Advertisements

Postpartum nutrition

postpartum nutrition

We talk a lot about nutrition in pregnancy, but eating well is also incredibly important in the postpartum as we heal, undergo many physical and emotional changes, and begin breastfeeding.  It is so important to take care of ourselves at this time.  It is also one of the more challenging times to practice self care, as we are busy caring for our newborns and juggling a whole new set of demands.

For many women, postpartum eating needs to be as simple and quick as possible.  Women are greatly helped in the postpartum when others are able to spend more time preparing and offering her healthy meals and snacks regularly throughout the day.  Preparing meals ahead of time to freeze and make later is a good idea, although we want to take care to choose foods that are going to serve the body best.  Loved ones may also offer to make healthy meals, which can be organized by a close friend or family member or with the help of online services such as Meal Baby, Take them a Meal, Food Tidings, and others you can find via a search for “meal registries.” Check out our post on preparing for the postpartum.

Here are some principles of optimal nutrition for the postpartum.  Our midwives can also talk with you about postpartum nutrition in greater detail during a prenatal or postnatal appointment.

Caloric Intake

During the later months of pregnancy, women need to consume about 200 to 300 more calories than their pre-pregnancy requirements, as a general rule.  Breastfeeding women need even more than this. Women generally need about 500 extra calories to make enough milk to feed baby and to get the nutrients they need.  As we mentioned in a previous post, consuming less than this does not help mamas lose weight, but actually encourages the body to hold on to fat reserves.

Drink lots of water

Most women need 2 to 3 liters of water a day in the postpartum to heal and to make milk.  A new mama’s support team should be aware of her need to stay well hydrated and ensure she has access to water at all times.  Make sure glasses or bottles of water are stashed anywhere in the house where mama and baby spend time throughout the day and night.  New mamas typically get an intense feeling of thirst each time they begin to breastfeed, a cue from our bodies that we really need to drink lots of water during this time.

Snack

To get the recommended additional calories in the postpartum and to avoid hunger, it can be helpful to have little snack stations wherever you plan to breastfeed throughout the day, or bring a basket of snacks around the house with you.  These stations or baskets should include water and easy nutritious foods such as trail mix, dried or fresh fruit, high-quality bars (such as Pure bars), or the like.  (You may also want to include in your stash a book to read and/or your phone…nursing takes time!)

Iron

For many postpartum mamas, getting enough iron is huge.  Pregnancy often depletes a woman’s iron stores and bleeding during and after birth can further deplete her stores, so replenishing iron is important to healing in the postpartum and to preventing anemia.  Ways to increase iron include:

  • Eating red meat, eggs, blackstrap molasses and other good sources of iron
  • Increase vitamin C to help absorb more iron from your food.  Take C with your meals and don’t exceed 3000mg a day, or as directed by your care provider.
  • Avoid black tea, as the tannins in tea decrease iron absorption
  • Cook using cast iron pans and pots, iron from the cookware actually gets into the food you eat while cooking.

Keep taking your prenatal vitamins

Women are encouraged to continue taking their prenatal vitamins until they are done nursing.  This extra nutritional support helps mama and baby.  Extra B vitamins can give you a boost in energy and stamina.

It is also a good idea to regularly eat low-mercury fish (the most bioavailable forms of DHA are found in coldwater fish and algae) and/or take an Omega-3 fatty acid supplement with a higher DHA to EPA ratio (taking a supplement is a reliable way to make sure you are getting enough).  Studies have found that infants benefit neurologically when moms supplement during pregnancy and throughout the breastfeeding relationship.  These healthy fats also benefit mamas by helping them heal and by replenishing the nervous and reproductive systems.

Ideal foods

In general, whole, organic, protein-rich, nutrient-dense, warm and nourishing foods are ideal in the postpartum.  It is best to avoid cold, processed and high-sugar foods as well as dairy, and peanut butter (at least for the first few days as these latter two are hard to digest).  You may also want to avoid foods two which babies can be sensitive (a topic for another post!

Good postpartum foods include:

  • Warm soups
  • Warm/Hot foods (avoid cold)
  • Soups, stews and braised dishes (can be made ahead and frozen or prepared in a crock pot)
  • Ginger
  • Whole grains
  • Fermented foods, such as yogurt, kefir, and sauerkraut. These foods promote “good” gut flora in mama and baby and may help prevent colic and the development of allergies in babies.
  • Beans, such as kidney beans, black beans, black soya bean
  • Meats, such as beef, lamb, offal
  • Nuts, such as walnut and almond
  • Eggs
  • Fruits, especially black grapes, plums, cherries, cooked raisins
  • Veggies such as tomatoes, beets, yams, spinach, sweet potatoes, winter squash, leafy greens, avocado
  • Plain Greek yogurt with honey, nuts, fruit, and/or seeds
  • Milk supply supporting foods

New Mama Self-Care

Woman Lying in a Bathtub Holding a MugSelf-care can be a real challenge in the early postpartum and throughout early motherhood.  With a little one needing care 24/7, a home to keep somewhere in the realm of clean, adult relationships to nourish, maybe other kids to care for, and often additional work inside or outside the home, it can be hard enough to get food in our bellies and count on more than one hand how much sleep we had the night before.

But self-care is paramount, especially in the postpartum and first year of motherhood when we are often depleted and giving far more than we are receiving.  Mamas need a full well of their own to keep giving as motherhood requires.  They also need a full well because they deserve to BE well.

We probably all have enough checklists of things we need to do.  Here is a simple little check IN list for mamas—a way to become more aware of how well you are nourishing and caring for yourself.  Notice where you fall on the spectrum (how many “yes” and “no”s) and allow this to guide you towards greater self-care.

Check IN list for Mama Self-Care

Yes           No

____           _____    I allow myself to rest when I am tired

____           _____    I nap regularly or as often as I can

____           _____    I drink enough fluids daily

____           _____    I am eating well—I am able to eat when I am hungry, I eat often throughout the day, and the foods I eat are healthy and nourishing, particularly for me as a postpartum (breastfeeding) mother

____           _____    I eat something fresh and natural at least once daily

____           _____    I spend time in nature at least once, if not several times, a week

____           _____    I get sunlight (nearly) everyday

____           _____    I take care of my physical needs and wellbeing

____           _____    I get help or take measures to address physical issues that may arise.

____           _____     I take good care of my teeth

____           _____     I am able to keep up on personal hygiene as I’d like (bathing, nails, hair, etc)

____           _____    I exercise regularly and in ways that replenish (not deplete) my body and make me feel good

____           _____    I make time to relax and slow down

____           _____    I find time for things I really enjoy

____           _____    I regularly engage my creativity in some way

____           _____    I ask for help when I need it

____           _____    I speak up when my needs are not being met and seek solutions

____           _____    I forgive myself and others

____           _____    I take time to laugh

____           _____    I make time for my partner, my friendships, and other important relationships

____           _____    I practice kindness toward myself and my mothering, knowing I am doing the best I can in every moment

____           _____    I release expectations that don’t serve me

Take Action

Answering these three questions after checking in may also help to clarify what action you might take to enhance your self-care:

  1. What are three to five ways I could improve my self-nourishment?
  2. Whom can I ask for help or support to improve in these ways?  What would help or support look like?
  3. I deserve to take these actions because:  (you fill in the blank).

Be as kind to yourself as you are to your child. 

Give yourself permission. 

Advocate for yourself.

Ask for support. 

Forgive.

Breathe deeply. 

Laugh daily.

Be well. 

Three easy postpartum soups (or anytime!)

Soup season is upon us…and soup can be an excellent nutrient-dense and nourishing meal or snack for busy new mamas.  The beauty of soup is that is can be made ahead of time, even frozen, one batch can last several meals, and its fairly easy to reheat and consume (we just have to circumvent baby’s head as we heap spoons of hot soup into our mouths!).

Here are three great soups recommended by master herbalist, midwife, and medical doctor Aviva Jill Romm for the postpartum.  Dr. Romm has other great postpartum meal recipes and many other rich resources for new mamas in her book Natural Health after Birth.  (She also has a fantastic pregnancy book called The Natural Pregnancy Book.)

Barley Stew

barley soup

Okay, technically a stew and not a soup, this stew is great for encouraging good milk production.

  • 2 carrots*
  • 2 celery stocks*
  • 1 parsnip*
  • 1 yellow onion, sliced
  • shiitake mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 cups of dried pearl barley
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 8 cups water
  • salt, to taste

*diced

Sauté all of the vegetables in the olive oil for 3-5 minutes.  Move to a large pot, add the barley and water.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer for an hour or until barley is tender.  Season as you wish and enjoy warm.  This stew will keep for three days in the frig.

Sesame and Shiitake Mushroom Soup

shiitake soup

  • 1 t toasted sesame oil
  • ½ inch fresh ginger root, peeled and diced small
  • 1 carrot, sliced
  • 4 oz. shiitake
  • 6 cups of broth
  • 4 oz. of soba or somen noodles
  • 1 T tamari
  • 4 oz. of tofu (optional, good for milk production)
  • 1 T cilantro
  • salt to taste

In a soup pot, sauté all the vegetables (not the cilantro) for 4 minutes.  Add broth, noodles, and tamari (and tofu if using).  Turn off the heat after 10 minutes.  Add the cilantro and serve.

Lentil Soup

lentil soup

  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion*
  • 1 carrot*
  • 1 red bell pepper*
  • 1 cup of dried green lentils
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 16-oz can or jar of tomatoes
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 T fresh mint, chopped
  • 1.5 t salt
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • black pepper to taste

* diced

Sauté in oil, the onion, carrot and pepper.  Add lentils, tomatoes, bay leaf and water.  Bring to boil, then reduce to simmer for 1 hour (until lentils are soft).  Add mint during the last 5 minutes of cooking.  Add pepper as desired.

15 Cool Facts about Breastfeeding

We all know the saying “breast is best” but here are some of the colossal benefits, and a couple quirky facts, about breastfeeding.

1.  Human milk boosts a baby’s immune system big time—helping baby fight viral, bacterial, and parasitic infections, including:

  • Respiratory tract infections
  • Ear infections
  • Bacterial meningitis
  • Pneumonia
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Infant diarrhea
  • Common colds and flus

2.  Breastfeeding can actually reduce baby’s risk of disease later in life, including:

  • Type I and II diabetes
  • Hodgkin’s disease
  • Leukemia
  • Obesity
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol levels
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Asthma
  • Eczema

3.  Breastfeeding reduces mama’s risk of ovarian and breast cancer, heart disease, and osteoporosis.  The longer she breastfeeds, the higher the benefit.  In fact, a woman who breastfeeds for 8 years has nearly a 0% risk of breast cancer.

Get this—breastfeeding a baby girl actually reduces her lifetime risk of breast cancer by 25%.

4.  Breastfeeding saves a family approximately $2 to 4 thousand dollars annually (compared to cost of formula).

5.  Breastfeeding helps mama heal faster in the postpartum, helping her uterus return to pre-pregnancy size faster and lowering overall postpartum blood loss.

6.  Breastfeeding can help mama return to her pre-baby weight.  It takes 1000 calories a day on average to produce breast milk.  Women are advised to consume an extra 500 calories a day, and the body dips into reserves it built up in pregnancy to make the rest (it’s important to consume those extra calories or the body actually goes into “starvation mode” and holds onto the reserves).

7.  Producing breast milk consumes 25% of the body’s energy; the brain only uses 20% by comparison.

8.  On average, babies remove 67% of the milk mama has available—they eat until fullness, not until the breast is emptied.

9.  Almost 75% of all moms produce more milk in their right breast, whether they are right- or left- handed.

10.  Mama’s body is constantly making the perfect milk for baby.  Milk changes its nutritional profile as baby grows (milk made for a 3 month old is different than for a 9 month old).  Milk can even change day to day—for example, water content may increase during times of hot weather and baby-sickness to provide extra hydration.

11.  Human milk contains substances that promote sleep and calmness in babies (who doesn’t love that?)  Breastfeeding also calms mama and helps her bond to baby.

12.  Breastfed infants are at lower risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)

13.  Mama’s breasts can detect even a one degree fluctuation in baby’s body temperature and adjust accordingly to heat up or cool down baby as needed.  This is one reason skin-to-skin contact in the early days is so crucial.

14.  Breastfeeding reduces baby’s risk of cavities later on and may lower the chance they will need braces as kids.

15.  Breastfeeding mamas sleep on average 45 minutes more a night, compared to those who formula feed.

Oxytocin in Childbirth: A Labor of Love

Last week, we talked about the role of endorphins in natural childbirth and today we turn our focus to oxytocin, another crucial hormone in the symphony of chemicals created naturally in the body to help mom and baby through childbirth.

There are four major hormonal systems active during labor: endorphins, oxytocin, adrenaline and noradrenaline, and prolactin.

What is oxytocin?

pregnancy oxytocin

Oxytocin, known as the “love hormone,” is a hormone and neuropeptide that causes both physiological and behavioral effects when produced in the body.  It is produced in the hypothalamus of the brain and is released into the bloodstream via the pituitary gland.

Our bodies produce oxytocin when we are attracted to a mate, during lovemaking (it assists with arousal, fosters bonding and may facilitate sperm and egg transport), following positive social interactions (it can even potentially improve wound healing following such positive interactions, say experts), and with other positive experiences.  It is thought to enhance our capacity to love ourselves and others.

Oxytocin is produced in pregnancy, levels increase significantly during active labor and childbirth, and both mom and baby produce oxytocin after birth and as long as baby breastfeeds.

Oxytocin evokes feelings of contentment, trust, empathy, calmness and security and reduces anxiety and fear. Under certain circumstances, oxytocin can hinder the release of cortisol, or stress hormones.

What are the functions and roles of oxytocin in childbirth?

Oxytocin plays a major role in the following:

  • Uterine contractions that help facilitate dilation in labor
  • Facilitating the milk let-down reflex
  • Fostering the mother-baby bond
  • Encouraging maternal behavior in the first hour after birth
  • Released during breastfeeding, oxytocin causes mild uterine contractions after birth to expel the placenta and close of many blood vessels to prevent bleeding
  • Assisting the uterus in clotting the placental attachment point postpartum

What helps to facilitate the production of oxytocin naturally during labor?

Unhindered production of oxytocin is important in labor because oxytocin is responsible in large part for uterine contractions.  Oxytocin initiates labor and helps it keep going strong.

Because the production of oxytocin is so connected to our emotions, it is paramount that a laboring mama feel calm, secure, and uninhibited in her environment and that she trust those around her.  A dim room without too much excitement or distraction is an environment conducive to the unhindered production of oxytocin.

happy birth

Natural ways to stimulate oxytocin production in labor include:

  • Caring, non-medical touch
  • Nipple stimulation (this can be helpful in getting labor started in some cases, or to increase strength and frequency of contractions)
  • Laughter and humor
  • Kissing (Ina May, a famous midwife, touts “smooching” as a great way to keep labor going)
  • Gentle exercise, dancing and rhythmic movement
  • Feeling grateful and loving (a partner’s words and actions can be so instrumental in helping mama create oxytocin and so help her labor along)
  • The repetitive use of mantras, prayer or sounds
  • Meditation, positive visualization and hypnosis
  • Relaxation
  • Warm bath

What can diminish oxytocin levels in labor?

Again, because of the emotional connection, any experience of fear, anxiety, stress, tension, discomfort, or distrust can negatively effect oxytocin production during labor.  A feeling of being watched can also hinder oxytocin release.  The use of synthetic oxytocin (Pitocin)—which also stimulates contractions and is used to induce labor—can also slow the body’s own production of oxytocin.

Oxytocin in Breastfeeding

oxytocin breastfeedingOxytocin, also called the cuddle hormone, is released by both mama and baby during breastfeeding.  It can cause slight sleepiness, mild euphoria, a higher pain threshold, and increased love for one another.  It also helps build the attraction and strengthen the bond between mama and baby.

As you can see, oxytocin is an amazing gift and tool our bodies make to help us through childbirth and postpartum.

Free Essential Oils Classes this Fall!

essentialoils2We are thrilled to be offering two free essential oils classes this fall– one on October 28 and the second on November 11, both the same class and both from 7 to 8 pm at Health Foundations.

Details:

This informative class will help you learn the basics of how pure, therapeutic grade essential oils can be incorporated into your everyday life. We’ll share real-life testimonies about how these amazing natural products have helped heal, soothe and enrich the lives of those who use them and discuss ways they can be used to improve your physical well-being and the health of those you love.
Brochures will be available outlining the benefits of using essential oils during pregnancy, with infants and children, and to transform your medicine cabinet..

Presenters:

Stacy Tiegs
Stacy Tiegs is a self-made entrepreneur, a mother to three grown children, and a wife of twenty-five years to her wonderful husband Tom . For six years Stacy has created, owned, and operated  Something Savvy in Buffalo, Minnesota. After being introduced to essential oils several years ago, Stacy used them to help heal herself and her family.  She watched her youngest daughter relinquish herself of many medications because of daily oil use.  Now, Stacy cannot stock her store shelves fast enough. She hears testimonies daily of how quickly these oils work and has decided to make it her full time mission to let others know there are healthier alternatives to pharmaceuticals that can often have serious side effects.
Betsy Kelly
Betsy Kelly is a mother, reading specialist, self-proclaimed cloth diaper guru, and a firm believer in natural medicine. After having been raised in a chiropractic family, she has become a woman passionate about preventative health and medicinal healing rooted in all that is natural. The power of essential oils is something Betsy has always believed in and now she is sharing her knowledge and love of them with others. Betsy lives in Hopkins with the love of her life, Paul, her daughter Ruby (born at Health Foundations Birth Center) and her son, Clyde (born at home).