I learned the hard way that feeding or pumping on a regular basis is important.
My husband is a hard working DJ and entertainer. At times when he is traveling out of town I will accompany him; and now that we have a son, sometimes his gigs become family road trips–especially when he will be staying overnight.
On the very first trip we did like this as a family I was able to feed and pump once every 1.5-3 hours, which is usually my maximum–except on the day we came home. We were in a rush, so I let son gobble down some nutrition from bottles for a few feedings and thought that letting the pumping or feeding sessions go “a bit longer” inbetween wouldn’t be a big deal.
By the time I got home my breast were getting hard and achey, and there was a small white spot on the tip of one of my nipples, and it was a bit sensitive. My little boy was a bit off his schedule from all the excitement of the day and didn’t eat from both breasts as heartily as I would have expected. I ended up pumping; and while I was able to get one breast back to normal, the one with the white spot didn’t quite drain all the way no matter how long I pumped.
The next day the spot had gotten bigger and more painful. I tried to allow my son to nurse from it, but it was too painful. I was feeling sluggish, though I had no fever. I was starting to think the worse–mastitis.
After looking up the symptoms, I found out that I had a milk blister. Basically it is when the skin grows over a part of the nipple where milk exits, and the white spot I was seeing was actually trapped milk. Blisters often accompany clogged milk ducts, which was what was happening to me. Left untreated it could lead to mastitis and lots of pain. Think of a milk blister as a whitehead on your nipple. Lovely thought, right? One cause of a blister is allowing milk to back up in your ducts by not fully draining on a regular bases–sort of like what I had allowed to happen the day before.
Once I had followed the advice to pop the blister, including letting my son nurse on it and using a hospital grade pump (which may I add is probably way worse than you could imagine) I had to care for my breast tenderly for days. Fortunately I did avoid mastitis.
What a hard lesson I never want to have to repeat–pumping and feeding on a regular basis isn’t optional if you want to breastfeed. From now on when we hit the road, we’ll just have to make time for me to handle the business of directly feeding our son. I know first hand that for a breastfeeding woman’s own health and well-being it is a big deal to repeatedly let pumping or feeding sessions go “a bit longer”.