Mastitis Round 2 and Breast Massage

Four weeks to the day of my first round with mastitis I was struck again! This time in both breasts at the same time. I knew exactly what it was this time when my fever spiked to 103.9. I started massaging my breasts and tried feeding as much as possible. I pumped and added it to my storage in the freezer. I knew I needed to see the doctor though. So we walked up to the hospital again. When the nurse saw me and felt my breast she too knew right away. She told me she would massage the lumps out again for me and called in another prescription. This time was double the pain since I had to have both breasts cleared of lumps. Poor Violet cried and cried. Luckily, they took her to another room so that I could cry too. Finally that release came and my milk again flowed through my nipples. I nursed Violet and let her empty both breasts. While she nursed the midwife told me that a lactation specialist came once a month from the neighboring city of Sendai. Every month she came to give advice and breast massage to nursing mothers. I had never heard of routine breast massage before but decided to give it a go. She told me that it would help keep me from getting clogged ducts. Some women use it to help produce more milk and others use it because they make too much milk. I fell into the ladder category. I have always produced an abundance of milk and the midwife was certain this was what was causing my mastitis problems. So I made an appointment for the first available time slot. The only day that month that she would be in town was the day we were leaving for the US to visit family for Christmas. I knew I had to make time to do this so we adjusted our travel schedule and I went in for my hour 2 hours before our scheduled departure from Ofunato. My hubby packed the car up and got everything ready to go while I was getting my treatment.

First time patients were given a discount and charged only 2,000 yen (roughly $23). I was instructed to bring my own hand towel. The room was much like a classroom and was set up with cushions on a tatami floor with a moveable curtain partition. Behind the curtain the floor was lined with soft mats for lying on. I could hear the LS talking to the current patient and she sounded so joyful and kind. She didn’t speak English but luckily my dear friend, Mutsuko, had come with me to help translate. When it was my turn I was asked to go fill a small basin with warm water and bring it back to the massage area. When I got back there the LS was waiting with a smile on her face. She asked me to lie down on my back and remove my shirt. She then covered me with my hand towel and started to work. She told me that it was going to hurt at first but that it would help me in the long run. So I braced myself for another painful hour. It did hurt quite badly at first but after about 10 minutes the pain turned into more of a slight discomfort. She constantly wet her hands in the warm water and kept my breast warm the entire time. She started working from my armpit area first and then worked her way in to the center. When I was first nursing my breasts sprayed like fire hydrants every time I let down. (Just like my dream during pregnancy!) I often sprayed my daughter in the face by accident and a couple of times my husband was caught in the crossfire. As I started to feel my self let down I began to get nervous that I would spray the LS in the face. When she started to laugh, I knew that was just what had happened. She laughed so hard but in a kind way. She told me “No wonder you keep getting clogs. You have enough milk to feed triplets!” We both laughed and she continued to work on my breasts. The towel that covered me was soon soaked with milk and she repeatedly rinsed it in the warm water and placed it back on my breasts. She gave me tips on feeding like changing the position often and trying upside down (meaning while laying down have my daughter’s feet in my face as she nursed lying down) to get all the ducts cleared out frequently. She also asked me about my diet and what I ate. She told me that rice turns straight into milk. She said to try to stay away from oily meats and fish, fried food and sweets because these things can cause clogged ducts by making the milk too “sticky”. She also asked me about my sleeping position. I told her that I frequently fell asleep while nursing so I usually slept on my side. She told me to try to sleep on my back as often as possible because the pressure on the breast while sleeping on it could cause clogs as well. She was very kind and informative and I was so thankful to be able to receive treatment before my big trip. Knowing that I was going to be traveling to the States for Christmas, before I left she reminded me to watch what I ate while on vacation and to try to eat as healthy and as normally as possible. The massage was so helpful and I could hardly believe how soft my breasts felt when she was finished. She took my hand and said “Here touch your breast now. Doesn’t it feel like mochi now!” And it did! My breast felt like soft fluffy pillows. I couldn’t believe it! I smiled so wide and she gave me a big hug (which is not common in this culture). I started to cry. I felt so relieved and so light. She hugged me and told me what a wonderful thing I was doing for my baby. She encouraged me to keep on going even when it felt hard or painful. She was an amazing, motherly woman. I was so thankful and promised to be back in a month. At the end of my session I was asked to go rinse the towels that had been used in my treatment and also the basin of water. The towels smelled like sweet cantaloupe and the water was milky white. My little angel was sitting there resting sweetly in her Auntie’s arms and woke up just as I was finished. I nursed her there and before we left she rolled from her tummy to her back for the very first time. She was almost 3 months old. I felt so relaxed and so happy. Now if only they offered these breast massages in the US.

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