Mastitis is the name for an inflammation within the breast. Symptoms of mastitis include a feeling of soreness, pain, heat and swelling (inflammation) in the breast. You may see red flushing or pink areas of skin above an engorged area, feel a tender spot or a sore lump inside your breast, and you may feel achey and run down or even shivery with flu-like symptoms. There may or may not be a bacterial infection, if there isn’t an infection, mastitis symptoms often clear on their own after a day or two of careful treatment. This article looks at the causes of mastitis in lactation, how to prevent it and what to do if you have mastitis.
Symptoms of mastitis
- An area of the breast becomes red and swollen
- The affected area of the breast hurts when touched
- The affected area feels hot when touched
- A burning sensation in the breast that may be there all the time, or only when breast-feeding
Conditions that Can Increase the Risk Factor
Although mastitis can affect any and every breast feeding woman out there, the condition would be more prevalent in case:
i. The woman in question has had a previous complaint of mastitis.
ii. The woman is prone to develop sore, irritated or cracked nipples while breastfeeding.
iii. The woman has anemia and a weak immune system that would offer little protection from bacterial infections that can lead to conditions like mastitis.
Treating Mastitis in Breastfeeding Women
The best way to stay safe from mastitis and its painful effects would be to initiate treatment as soon as you are able to make a positive diagnosis. Given below are some of the more common (and most effective) remedies recommended for mastitis in breastfeeding women.
Use Hot or Cold Compresses for Comfort
In addition to helping increase milk flow in the affected breast, hot compresses can offer you comfort from the incessant pain and soreness caused by mastitis. Applying cold packs on the affected breast after breastfeeding would also provide comfort from the pain and warmth experienced in the area.
Feeding Changes to Incorporate
In certain cases, the position in which you feed your baby could lead to mastitis. If the baby is not able to suckle properly, the milk would not flow freely and so would collect inside the breast with time. In these cases, you can opt for a change in the feeding position. Opt for a couple of positions before settling down with the one that facilitates easy and proper breast drainage.
Antibiotics and Anti Inflammatory Medications that Help
Certain antibiotics like cephalexin or flucloxcillin can help treat mastitis in breastfeeding women. You can also opt for anti inflammatory medications like ibuprofen, paracetamol, and acetaminophen to tackle the side effects of mastitis, mainly pain and fever. These medications would help take care of mastitis and its effects without posing any threat to the baby.Always follow the doctor’s advice when taking these medications. If you are prescribed with medications to treat mastitis, make sure you complete the entire course. Stopping midway in between after the initial symptoms recede could possibly cause relapses.
Get Help from a Lactation Consultant
If this is your first pregnancy and the first time you are getting mastitis, you would probably be a bit confused on how to act according to the situation at hand.
In these cases, it would be wise to get the help of a lactation consultant who specializes in the area of breastfeeding. Asking a lactation consultant to help you out during this period can help you lactate properly, get rid of any infections and mastitis, and prevent future occurrences.
your milk coming in
Bear in mind engorgement due to your milk coming in around day three or any time in the first couple of weeks, can include blood and tissue fluids rushing to the area. Too much heat on the breast at this time could cause blood vessels to widen (dilate) and bring even more fluid to the party. For more information about preventing engorgement and how to deal with it see Engorged Breasts.
Visiting a Doctor
Even though mastitis in breastfeeding women can be treated and prevented with the steps mentioned above, you would have to consult a doctor if the infection worsens and the symptoms intensify. In this case, you would need to call your doctor if the blockages do not clear within 12 hours, by which time you would start experiencing the other symptoms of mastitis as well.
Clear Blocked Milk Ducts Immediately
If the mastitis is due to blocked milk ducts, make sure that you clear them immediately. Accordingly, you can opt to breastfeed your baby from the affected breast first in order to clear the ducts and prevent infections if any.
If the affected breast is too painful, try feeding your baby with the other breast for a few minutes. Then switch over to the affected breast when the milk starts flowing. You can also place a warm cloth over the affected breast for a couple of minutes before feeding to increase the milk flow in the breast.Massaging the affected breast before feeding can also clear the blocked ducts and increase the flow of milk to the area. In case you find it too painful to feed or in case your nipples are cracked/sore, you can opt to pump out the milk using a breast pump or by hand.