Mastitis: a funny-sounding word for a not-so-funny condition. All too many nursing mothers have experienced rapid-onset breast pain, fever, and chills that mark a breast infection. Let’s learn a little more about this common mother’s problem – what it is, and what you should do if you have mastitis.
What is Mastitis?
Simply put, mastitis is an infection of the breast, usually suffered by someone who is nursing a young baby (though men and non-lactating women can also experience mastitis!). Mastitis usually starts out with a clogged milk duct inside the breast due to insufficient milk removal by the baby or a pump. It can also be caused by bacteria being introduced into the breast, perhaps through cracked nipples and unwashed hands. The duct or breast tissue can become swollen, sore, and inflamed, and quickly lead to an infection.
How Can I Tell if I Have Mastitis?
Soreness in the breast is one of the first signs of mastitis. If you experience a hard, painful lump, or a hot, swollen area on your breast, you should take action right away to ward off infection. If you get to the point of fever, chills, and red streaks or blotches on the affected area, it might be too late and antibiotics may be indicated.
What Should I Do if I Have Mastitis?
If you just have a clogged milk duct, you can try some methods to relieve the soreness. Ensure that your breasts stay drained of milk. Take the day off from anything else, and put your baby to the breast as frequently of possible. You can also pump, ensuring that the flange is lubricated and well-fitted to your breast, and use the flattened fingers of your hand to massage the clog downward as you pump. A hot compress or shower on the affected area can also be helpful, as well as the dangle-feeding technique.
If you are experiencing the symptoms of breast infection, antibiotics may be needed to prevent dangerous side effects such as abscesses. You should contact a local Colorado IBCLC, as well as your primary care doctor, right away.
That Sounds Terrible – How Can I Prevent Mastitis from Occurring?
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure! Here are some things to take into consideration to prevent mastitis:
- Nurse or pump frequently. Allowing your breasts to get overly full can easily lead to clogged ducts, so don’t skip breastfeeding or pumping sessions.
- Skip the underwire and wear loose-fitting tops and nursing bras. Pressure on the milk ducts can cause clogging.
- Eat a nutrient-rich diet to support your immune system and prevent infection.
- Have your baby evaluated for tongue and lip ties. Oral restrictions can prevent your baby from adequately transferring all the milk from your breast.
- Wash your hands before nursing or pumping, and use a new cotton swab to dip into your nipple salves and ointments.
- If you are mostly using a breast pump, ensure that the flange is lubricated and the correct size for your breast.
Mastitis will definitely throw a wrench into your peaceful day. But you can try these tips to prevent it from happening to you – and mitigate the discomfort if it does. Colorado Mountain Doulas recommends that if you have breastfeeding difficulties or suspect infection, always be sure to contact your doctor and lactation consultant so that they may advise you for your specific situation! With fast action, you should be back to normal in no time.