I noticed a small lump in my breast directly behind my nipple in my baby's second week. I suspected it to be a plugged duct so rigorously tried to rid myself of it using the traditional methods of moist heat, breast compressions, lots of nursing, nursing in crazy positions etc. The pain lessened but the lump still remained. I was overwhelmed at the time with my recovery from the c section so since the pain was gone I figured it was fine. Every successive week the "plugged duct" would reoccur and the process to stop the pain would resume and succeed, only the lump kept getting bigger. In my dd2's seventh week the lump had grown to about the size of an egg and things started getting serious.
Enter Mastitis...if you have never experienced it, it is its own brand of hell. It started with feeling terrible, then the chills and nightsweats and the fever of 104. At one point my dh was afraid I was dying because I could not stop shaking and this is AFTER I started antibiotics. After 3 days on antibiotics (Keflex) the lump had grown to the size of an apple and I could no longer nurse because my nipple was completely abstructed by the lump. My breast was an angry red and very hot and 3 times larger than my unaffected breast. At this point I went back to the Dr. who sent me for an ultrasound and changed my antibiotic to dicloxacillin. It was at the u/s that the abscess was diagnosed and confirmed with a needle aspiration (needle stuck in my breast under local anesthesia) of pus, plus 40cc's of blood and milk were drained from a galactocele that had formed.
The liquid was sent for culture and I was sent home to see if I improved. I did not. The next day another u/s showed an even larger galactocele and I was sent to a surgeon. Here is where I want to give advice. At that point he looks at my breast and tells me, point blank, that I will have to stop nursing immediately because my breastmilk is "feeding the infection" and he cannot operate on a lactating woman. This is plain and simple ignorance and bullshit. Luckily I had consulted with a lactation consultant prior to this so I knew that I would not need to stop nursing. I told him this so he said he would give me the weekend for the new antibiotic to start working and I rented a hospital grade pump where the LC there also confirmed that there was no reason the stop nursing.
Monday came around with no improvement so the surgeon said to send me to surgery the next day with his colleague to insert a catheter into the abscess to drain it. Again he said that I would need to stop nursing but this time I refused, telling him what my LC had told me. The next day I went in for my procedure, an I&D (incision and drainage), at the hospital under general anesthesia. I took my baby with me so I could nurse right away and even marked out the lines of my breast pump so the surgeon could know where to avoid. I met him and we discussed this. Unfortunately he had no plans of actually doing the I&D so I woke up from anesthesia only having had another needle aspiration. I was confused and frustrated.
Three days later at my post op appointment the surgeon tells me that he didn't feel that he could work on a lactating breast and I would need an injection to dry up my milk. Otherwise they were going to do twice weekly aspirations in the office until this clears up, which may take weeks or even months. I had my third aspiration at the office that day. BTW that is a miserable procedure.
That was last Friday and my breast is much the same. I am unable to pump more than 5 oz. a day from the affected breast but luckily my other breast has taken over much of the production and we only needed a little bit if donor milk to keep dd from losing too much weight. She is gaining again, thank goodness.
I am glad to have stuck to my guns about continuing to lactate as I have been backed up by numerous sources including the experts and women who have undergone the same procedure. I am discouraged at the ignorance of these surgeons who not only refuse to consult with lactation consultants but also wont even read the protocols for dealing with this. I see another surgeon tomorrow and this time I will not back down. I will demand the I&D so I can finally start to heal.
Please, if you ever have to deal with this, don't let yourself be bullied into stopping breastfeeding.