Larken Fierce: Erin's Story

“Larken” means fierce, like the fierce realities of motherhood: beautiful and difficult, rewarding but oh-so challenging. 

After the birth of her son, Erin Fabio anticipated her second breastfeeding journey to mirror that of her first. She anticipated the sleepless nights, oversupply, and achy breasts, but NOT excruciating midnight pain that would send her straight to the doctor. 

Like many other aspects of motherhood, mastitis is not often talked about- at least not enough. Here are five things Erin learned firsthand from her experience with mastitis: 

What is mastitis?

Mastitis is inflammation of breast tissue that can lead to an infection. The inflammation causes breast pain, swelling, redness and warmth. The infection can cause fever, chills and flu-like symptoms. 

It's not always a clogged duct.

Most breastfeeding women get mastitis from a clogged duct. The blockage leads to milk getting backed up, often leading to infection. However, in my case, mastitis was not caused by a clogged duct. I had developed thrush (a yeast infection that’s passed between baby’s mouth and mom’s breast) which caused a cracked, bleeding nipple, and the bacteria entered through there. I had no idea you could get mastitis without a clogged duct! I kept looking for the blockage trying to fix it until I learned there wasn’t one and the thrush was likely the cause of my symptoms. 

It's not just about your boobs.

I also had no idea mastitis affects more than your boobs! I very quickly had full body chills and aches, a low grade fever and felt like I had been hit by a truck. I took at-home COVID tests because I thought this was surely Coronavirus. But in fact, the mastitis infection symptoms I experienced were like the worst flu of my life, plus the boob pain. 

I needed antibiotics.

And Advil. And cabbage leaves. And APNO cream. The doctor on call (because of course my mastitis struck on New Year’s Day…) told me if my symptoms didn’t get better in 24 hours I’d likely need antibiotics. Once I started the antibiotics, relief started to appear about 24 hours later. To help with pain and inflammation, I took Advil, used cabbage leaves (yes, they actually worked!), and got a prescription for an All Purpose Nipple Ointment. By day three, I was beginning to feel like a real human again.  

I had to ask for help.

Lots of it. Mastitis kicked my butt. I had posted to my Instagram stories asking if anyone had any tips for mastitis and I was shocked how many women had had mastitis, and how many had it multiple times. Here’s what I know – mamas really are fierce, and sometimes I have no idea how we do it. I had to enlist help from family and friends to help with childcare and even meals because I was down for the count for 3 full days. If you do get mastitis (and I really hope you don’t), don’t hesitate to ask for help - you will need it and you deserve it!! 

Things that helped me most: 

  1. Cabbage leaves: to reduce inflammation 
  2. Larken Tank Top: I was advised not to wear a bra and the tank was super soft and slightly supportive so I was more comfortable. 
  3. Triple A: Antibiotics, APNO and Advil 

Have you experienced any unexpected chapters in your breastfeeding journey like Erin has? Continue the conversation over on our Instagram, @larken_shop.

The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment, and does not constitute medical or other professional advice.