Breastfeeding is a beautiful and essential bond between a mother and her newborn. However, amidst the joys of this journey, there can be challenges to overcome. One such challenge many breastfeeding mothers may face is mastitis – a painful breast infection that can interfere with this special connection.
What is Mastitis?
Mastitis is an infection that occurs in the breast tissue, often due to stasis (blockage) of milk glands. If milk isn’t adequately drained from the breast, bacteria can enter causing painful inflammatory infection. While mastitis is more common in breastfeeding mothers, it can also occur in non-breastfeeding women, though less frequently.
Causes of Mastitis
Several factors can contribute to the development of mastitis:
- Engorgement and Poor Drainage: Ineffective breastfeeding or missed feedings can lead to milk stasis, creating a favorable environment for bacterial growth.
- Nipple Trauma: Sore or cracked nipples can provide an entry point for bacteria, increasing the risk of infection.
- Pressure on the Breast: Wearing tight-fitting bras or clothing that compresses the breast can hinder proper milk flow and drainage.
- Oversupply of Milk: Excessive breast milk can lead to issues such as poor drainage and increased pressure. These problems can increase the likelihood of breast tissue infection.
- Weakened Immune System: A weakened immune system due to fatigue, stress, or illness can make the body more vulnerable to infections.
Common symptoms of mastitis include:
- Breast Pain: One of the earliest signs is localized pain in the breast, often accompanied by tenderness and warmth.
- Redness and Swelling: The affected area may appear red and swollen, and the skin may feel hot to the touch.
- Fever and Chills: A fever and chills may develop as the infection progresses. Ifyou have a sudden onset of flu-like symptoms, seek medical attention.
- Flu-Like Symptoms: Fatigue, body aches, and malaise may accompany the fever and chills.
- Breast Lumps: A blocked milk duct can sometimes cause a lump to form.
While some factors leading to mastitis are beyond your control, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk:
- Proper Latch and Positioning: Ensuring your baby has a proper latch and positioning during breastfeeding helps prevent nipple trauma and engorgement.
- Frequent Feeding: Regular breastfeeding prevents milk stasis and helps maintain good milk flow.
- Empty Your Breasts: If your baby doesn’t fully empty your breasts, use a breast pump to drain the remaining milk.
- Avoid Tight Bras: Select comfortable, well-fitting bras that don’t compress your breasts.
- Manage Stress: Prioritize self-care and stress management to strengthen your immune system.
If you suspect you have mastitis, it’s important to take prompt action:
- Continue Breastfeeding: Contrary to common belief, continuing to breastfeed is essential as it helps clear the infection.
- Rest and Hydration: Get plenty of rest and drink fluids to support your immune system.
- Warm Compresses: Applying warm compresses to the affected breast can help relieve pain and improve milk flow.
- Pain Relief: Over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen or acetaminophen can help manage pain and reduce fever.
- Antibiotics: If the infection is bacterial, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics. It’s crucial to complete the entire course, even if symptoms improve.
- Proper Drainage: Continue breastfeeding frequently to ensure adequate milk drainage.
- Consult a Healthcare Professional: Don’t hesitate to consult a healthcare professional if your symptoms worsen. Untreated mastitis can lead to abscess formation, which requires drainage.
Additional Tips for Prevention and Recovery
- Soy Lecithin: Supplements like soy lecithin can help maintain creamy milk and improve milk flow, reducing the risk of blocked ducts.
- Probiotics: Taking probiotics containing Lactobacillus can promote a balanced flora and prevent the growth of harmful bacteria.
- Comfortable Clothing: Avoid clothing and bras that constrict your breasts.
- Supportive Measures: Contact lactation consultants or breastfeeding support groups for guidance and tips on proper latch and positioning.
- Self-Care: Prioritize your health and well-being. Proper nutrition, hydration, and stress management promote a healthy immune system.
Mastitis can be a challenging hurdle on your breastfeeding journey, but you can overcome it with knowledge and proper care. Understanding the causes, recognizing the symptoms, and taking preventive measures are vital to reducing risk.
If you do develop mastitis, timely treatment, continued breastfeeding, and adequate rest should help you recover quickly.
If you suspect mastitis or are experiencing other ailments resulting from breastfeeding or pregnancy, contact Bedford Breast Center by calling (310) 278-8590 or request a consultation online. Our team of breast specialists is dedicated to assisting you in your recovery, enabling you and your infant to comfortably continue your shared breastfeeding journey.