Mastitis is caused by a milk duct becoming blocked, which leads to inflammation or a bacterial infection. It can be an incredibly painful infliction for breastfeeding mums and happens more often than what mums would hope. Managing mastitis during breastfeeding is something every breastfeeding mum should know how to do.
What Is Mastitis?
Mastitis is the inflammation of the breast, which is caused by blocked milked ducts, which can be non-infective mastitis or bacterial infection which is infective mastitis.
If a blocked milk duct is not cleared soon enough, mums might start to show flu-like symptoms, such as aches, pains, and fevers. When milk ducts become blocked, it causes milk to pool in the breast and cause inflammation. A cracked nipple might also allow for bacteria to enter into the breast and cause an infection, which worsens the situation.
The Symptoms Of Mastitis
Breastfeeding mums are familiar with bumps and sore spots when breastfeeding, but these often go away on their own. However, mastitis does not just go away, and causes the breast to feel:
- Tender and painful
- Swollen and hard
The other symptoms of mastitis include:
- Skin which appears tight and shiny, and which could have red streaks
- Fluey feeling with a high temperature
Mastitis can cause a breastfeeding mum to feel really unwell, sore, and desperate to sort it out!
It is so important to try and treated blocked milk ducts early on so that they do not progress further to mastitis. Some of the options available to clear blocked milk ducts are:
- Having your baby feed on the affected breast, so offer the affected breast first to try to get milk moving.
- Applying heat to the affected area before a feed, and massaging the affected area during the feed. This helps loosen up the blockage to get the milk moving. Apply cold packs during and after a feed for some comfort.
- Change the feeding position.
- Frequent draining of the breast through feeding and expressing. It helps to express in a warm shower or bath, as the warm water will help to loosen up the blockage.
If the blockage progresses to become mastitis, this is what you can do:
- Continue breastfeeding or expressing to drain the breast.
- See a doctor for an antibiotic course to sort out the infection.
- Take anti-inflammatory medication to relieve pain if necessary, but make sure it is safe to take while breastfeeding.
- Rest well and drink lots of fluids.
- Use a hot pack before feeding, and a cold pack after feeding.
- Change up your baby’s feeding position to increase the drainage of milk.
How To Prevent Mastitis
Prevention is always better than treatment, and there are a few practices that can help to prevent mastitis further.
- Mums should wash their hands thoroughly before touching their breast after a nappy change to prevent the spread of germs.
- Make sure that your baby is positioned and attached well onto your breast.
- Avoid waiting long periods between feeds, and try to feed frequently.
- Wear loose and comfortable bras and clothing.
- Do no use nipple pads and nipple creams for prolonged periods.
What To Remember About Mastitis
Mastitis is caused by blocked milk ducts, and by practicing certain ways to prevent blockages, or treating them as soon as they appear, you can reduce your chances of having mastitis. Continue breastfeeding or expressing as part of your treatment for mastitis, and see a doctor straight away if your breast becomes red, hot and tender, or if you have flu-like symptoms with a fever.
Managing mastitis during breastfeeding can help save you so much pain and discomfort!