When lactating breasts become blocked in the early weeks and months after birth the mother feels very unwell, very quickly. A fever, severe flu-like aches and pains, a red painful quadrant of the breast, a very sore nipple - and often at a very inconvenient time.
This happened to 'Annie', whose baby is six weeks old, and she phoned on Sunday evening when I was out and another birth was imminent. Noel, my husband and No1 helper/supporter, took the call and said he would contact me. "'Annie' has a temperature of 39.5 and wants to know what to do."
I didn't have time to ask questions about other symptoms, and assumed that it might be mastitis.
Noel gave my instructions - "keep on feeding baby, massage the blocked part of your breast, take 2 Panadol, and a big drink, and have a bath. Then go to bed."
The next day I received an email from Annie:
"Thank you and Noel for bringing me to health again. Just talking to Noel decreased my temperature one degree! and then it started slowly getting back to normal. I feel better today, the temperature is normal, the breast hurts less. I'm little bit weak after a high temperature, but still can do all my usual things. I am happy to continue breastfeeding S... - she needs it very much. Thank you for your advice very much."
Breasts are one main point of vulnerability in an otherwise healthy woman postnatally. A blockage can occur very quickly. If the blockage is relieved quickly there is no need to treat with antibiotics, and the mother is able to recover naturally.