Breastfeeding can be a tricky task even in the best circumstances, so it's probably safe to say that breastfeeding twins would present its own unique challenges. Meghan King Edmonds, who recently had twin boys, confirmed that assumption is correct: In a new Instagram post celebrating the twins’ first month, the former Real Housewives of Orange County star revealed that breastfeeding her twins gave her “big time boob probs.”
Edmonds elaborated on her issues in a recent blog post titled "Boob problems: Mastitis." In the post, she said she had mastitis, which is painful inflammation of the breast tissue that’s usually preceded by a plugged milk duct. Edmonds also experienced a plugged duct with her daughter Aspen, so she “knew right away” when it happened again recently.
“I did everything I did last time: massaged it, hot shower, pumped, fed the babies from my breast,” Edmonds wrote in the post. “But then another plugged duct popped up the next day and I really started feeling sick.” Edmonds said she called her doctor, who put her on antibiotics. But she still woke up in the middle of the night “feeling the worst I ever remember feeling in my adult life."
She continued, “I didn’t know how I was going to take care of my babies, every joint ached and I couldn’t sleep because of how terrible I felt. I finally woke up a few hours later drenched in a puddle of sweat so soaked that Jimmy asked me what the heck happened. And this was AFTER two rounds of antibiotics.” She said she ended up developing four clogged milk ducts in four days, even after she started on antibiotics.
Edmonds then listed off all of the things she tried to remedy the situation, including using warm compresses and doing a “vigorous massage” that she does until it “hurts so bad I want to cry.”
As you can probably gather from Edmonds' experience, mastitis is no joke and can be extremely painful.
As SELF wrote previously, mastitis is a condition in which the breast tissue becomes inflamed and, without treatment, can become an infection. The condition causes breast pain, swelling, warmth, and redness, and you might even have a fever and chills with it, the Mayo Clinic says. The condition is usually linked to women who are nursing, but sometimes it can happen in women who aren’t breastfeeding, the organization says.
Mastitis often happens in the first few weeks of breastfeeding, but it can show up any time. It’s usually caused by a blocked milk duct or bacteria entering your breast through a break or crack in the skin of your nipple or through a milk duct opening, the Mayo Clinic explains.
Although having twins doesn’t make you more likely to get mastitis, per se, there are a few factors someone nursing twins might want to consider in order to help avoid it.
Mastitis becomes more likely if your breasts aren’t regularly and completely emptied, Diane L. Spatz, Ph.D., a professor of perinatal nursing at the University of Pennsylvania and nurse researcher at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, tells SELF. If you don’t empty out your breasts when they’re full, you’re setting yourself up for overly full breasts and plugged ducts, which, left untreated, can lead to mastitis. And when you have twins, you may be producing twice as much milk as moms of singletons, meaning you also have twice as much milk to empty.
“[Having] twins means you will be breastfeeding and/or pumping all the time,” Dr. Spatz explains. And, she notes, twins aren’t always on the same schedule and can’t always breastfeed at the same time. That means your breasts might be working on overdrive to try to stay full all the time to feed your babies. And, given that it can be tricky to stay on their schedule all the time, it may be a challenge to empty your breasts regularly and consistently, which in turn can put you at a higher risk for mastitis.
Luckily, there are some things you can do to lower your mastitis risk, whether you have a single baby or multiples.
One of the most helpful things you can do is make sure that your breasts are emptied regularly and completely, Dr. Spatz says, even though that can be more complicated than it sounds. It's also important to breastfeed equally on both sides as much as possible. "If one side is being used more than the other, you can start overproducing on that side and that can lead to backup and blockage," Gina Posner, M.D., a pediatrician at MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, Calif., tells SELF. She recommends alternating which twin goes on which breast since one may have a better sucking reflex than another.
If it feels like your baby (or babies) hasn’t fully emptied your breast, or if one child nursed less than the other at any given feeding, you can try using a high-quality electric pump to empty them, Dr. Spatz says. Also, wearing tight clothes around your boobs can interfere with milk flow and increase your risk of mastitis, so it's best to wear looser-fitting tops if you can, international board-certified lactation consultant Joan Younger Meek, M.D., R.D., chairwoman of the American Academy of Pediatrics Section on Breastfeeding and associate dean for Graduate Medical Education at Florida State University College of Medicine, tells SELF.
In the event you do feel any plugged ducts or it seems like your milk isn’t flowing in some areas, use warmth (like with a warm compress or heating pad on your breasts), massage, and/or compression to try to get things moving again. It’s also important to breastfeed or pump every two to three hours and increase your fluid intake, Dr. Spatz says. “The most important thing is to keep the milk flowing,” she says. An anti-inflammatory over-the-counter medication like Motrin can also help with the pain and swelling, she adds.
If you notice that you start to develop any signs of mastitis, call your doctor—they’ll likely put you on an antibiotic. Once you start on antibiotics, you should start to feel better in two to three days, Dr. Meek says. If not, you may need to change antibiotics. Even if you're feeling better, it's crucial to finish the full course of the antibiotics that are prescribed to you. If not, you're at risk of developing mastitis again, Dr. Meek says.
Edmonds said that she’s not 100-percent better, but she’s hopeful that she will be soon. In the meantime, she’s “hiding out” in Idaho with her family and relaxing.