How an Underwire Bra Spurred a Painful Bacterial Infection for Brooklyn Decker

Like many lactating people, the model and actress came down with mastitis. Now, she's trying to help others avoid the painful infection.

Chestfeeding can be a rewarding way to nourish a child in their first year or more of life. Nursing provides built-in snuggle time, and the idea of your body providing food for your baby can feel empowering if a lactating person wants to and can chest feed.

But, even though others sometimes bill it as a natural process, chestfeeding is often challenging. Lactating people may struggle to get the newborn to latch or have a low milk supply. Then there are cracked nipples, clogs, and a painful infection known as mastitis.

Mastitis is a bacterial infection in the breast. Cracked nipples and clogged ducts, often caused by not emptying all the way or wearing a poorly-fitting bra, are common culprits. About 10 percent of breastfeeding women experience mastitis.

Actress and model Brooklyn Decker was one of them. The actress recently shared that she developed mastitis and a 104 fever at eight months postpartum on the Me Becoming Mom podcast. Her doctor told her that her bra was likely to blame.

"My doctor said, 'Are you wearing underwire?'" Decker said. "I was in production, so of course, I was wearing underwire…They were like, 'This late in the game, that causes mastitis. If you have underwire sitting on the duct, it can turn badly.'"

Decker had no idea. She did know that she felt out of it, a common mastitis symptom. Other signs of mastitis include:

  • Tender, swollen breasts that are hot to touch
  • Fever
  • Body aches
  • Chills

Typically, a doctor can prescribe antibiotics to cure the infection. People with mastitis should also get plenty of rest and nurse or pump to remove the clog, experts say.

Prevention is the best medicine, though. Decker is an investor in Bodily, a women's health resource that creates care packages to support pregnancy, recovery, and pregnancy loss. Some include bras.

"What I actually find is most important in these boxes is the bras," Decker says, adding that the boxes contain three to four bras that help with different phases of chestfeeding.

Experts also advise lactating people to:

  • Keep a set nursing/pumping schedule. Going too long in between feedings can cause milk to thicken and clog ducts.
  • Avoid wearing nursing bras, which can cause yeast infections
  • Treat clogged ducts quickly
  • Take 1,200-mg. of sunflower lecithin four times per day to reduce milk thickness
  • Avoid stomach sleeping

Knowledge and support for lactating individuals are also essential. When people like Decker speak out, it raises awareness of the challenges people face during their journeys. Experts share that lining up support, such as a lactation consultant, before birth can help people have more success. Non-lactating partners can assist by feeding the baby while the lactating person pumps or taking a night shift.

And, of course, supporting people no matter how they choose to feed their baby is important.

Every family's fertility, pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and parenting experiences are different. And Decker and Bodily have tried to be as inclusive as possible. Bodily doesn't just have postpartum boxes with bras made for chestfeeding. There is a box for people going through pregnancy loss and C-section recoveries.

We don't always talk about the challenging parts of fertility, pregnancy, and parenthood, like a birth plan going bust, pregnancy loss, or chestfeeding challenges. The more we create ways to support parents, whether through care packages or night feedings, the better.

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