When you first start breastfeeding, you’ll probably think it will be straightforward and simple. After all, isn’t that what all the books and consultants tell you?
Luckily for most women, the process is generally smooth and natural. However, for some new mums, things don’t go quite as smoothly as they might have hoped. Packed with nerves, hormones, and sensitive skin; a mother’s breasts can be prone to problems. One of the most common issues new mums face is mastitis.
If you have just had your baby or are thinking about starting to breastfeed your little one soon, this article will explain what mastitis is and how to treat it correctly. Let’s take a look!
What is mastitis?
Mastitis is an infection of the breast tissue. It is found in breastfeeding women and can come on very suddenly. It is caused by bacteria entering the breast either through a cracked nipple or a reduced immunity due to stress or illness. An infection can develop into mastitis when the bacteria are not cleared by your body’s defense system. This can happen if you are stressed or run down, if your baby is hungry too often, or if your baby is poorly positioned at the breast. Mastitis is not related to breast cancer. If you have had mastitis in the past, you are not more likely to get breast cancer. You can breastfeed while you are being treated for mastitis.
Symptoms of Mastitis
- Breast pain – This is the most common symptom of all. It usually feels like a hot, tight sensation that starts suddenly and is most often felt on one side of the breast. If you are breastfeeding, you may have a sudden, swollen and painful lump in your breast which may come on in a matter of hours.
- Swollen glands – As with the breast pain, this symptom is usually felt on one side of your breast. It may feel hot and tender and can be accompanied by a high temperature.
- Nausea – This symptom is usually present with the other symptoms. It can be brought on by the high temperature that accompanies mastitis. As well as nausea, you may also be feeling generally unwell and lethargic.
- Breast changes – You may notice that one breast looks a little larger than the other, with the area around the nipple looking red and swollen.
How to treat mastitis
- Breastfeeding – This is important, as breastfeeding will help to flush out the infection. If you have a very mild case of mastitis, you may be able to treat it yourself. If your mastitis is more severe, you can still breastfeed, but you may need to pump your breast milk and feed your baby with a bottle.
- Painkillers – Take painkillers, such as paracetamol, to ease the pain and reduce any swelling.
- Rest – While you have mastitis, you need to rest as much as possible. Avoid any stressful situations, like taking phone calls or dealing with demanding people.
- Drink plenty of fluids – Stay hydrated to help flush out the bacteria and reduce the swelling. Drink water, herbal tea, or fruit juice.
Things you can do to prevent mastitis
- Wash your hands before and after breastfeeding to avoid picking up germs.
- Breastfeed on demand, but try to feed your baby on both breasts every time (rather than feeding more on the affected breast). This will help to reduce the amount of milk in the breast and reduce pressure.
- Wear loose clothing and make sure you have a warm environment.
- Keep your breasts warm when you are breastfeeding.
- Keep breast shields clean.
Breastfeeding is very beneficial for both you and your baby, but it is not always straightforward. Babies can sometimes be poorly positioned at the breast, which can lead to blocked milk ducts. Breastfeeding mothers can also experience breast infections, such as mastitis. Mastitis is an infection of the breast tissue that is caused by bacteria entering the breast either through a cracked nipple or a reduced immunity due to stress or illness. If you experience any of the above symptoms, seek medical attention as soon as possible. Your doctor will be able to diagnose and treat the infection, which will allow you to continue breastfeeding your child.