I’ve been fortunate enough to have never dealt with mastitis! I heard so many horror stories while breastfeeding my first child that I made it a point to do everything in my power to avoid it. Once I became an IBCLC, I began to learn a lot more about how to prevent it, what the best mastitis treatment is, and little gems of knowledge.
What is it?
Mastitis is an infection in the breast, specifically the milk ducts.
What are the symptoms?
you start to feel very tired. This can be hard to notice in the early days when you’re dealing with typical early motherhood exhaustion.
Pain, tenderness, and warmth in the affected breast:
muscle aches, chills, etc.
this symptom doesn’t happen for everyone
How did I get mastitis?
Breasts are too constricted
Has your bra or shirt been too tight lately? This extra tight binding can cause your milk ducts to be constricted or squeezed down so tight that milk cannot easily flow through. This build up of milk can cause engorgement.
Engorgement was never treated
When engorgement happens, the milk is filling your breast faster than your baby or pump is emptying it.
Possible plugged duct
This plug is basically a blockage. This blockage causes a build up of milk.
Abrupt changes in feeding schedule
Has your baby started sleeping through the night or feeding less frequently all of the sudden? This instant change can leave your breast feeling differently. While it doesn’t directly cause mastitis, it can ultimately lead to it if you don’t notice the symptoms occurring.
Previous case of mastitis wasn’t treated properly
If you’ve had mastitis before and didn’t finish your antibiotics or take proper care of yourself during your illness, it can make the illness return.
Things that can cause recurring mastitis include: failure to fully recover, fatigue, stress, lowered resistance to stress (take vitamins or extra vitamin C to combat), increasing milk supply, nipple damage, clogged pore, breast “abnormalities” (biopsy, reduction, augmentation, tumor, cyst removal), possibly too much saturated fats, possibly too much sodium, possibly too many upper arm exercises
Plugged ducts caused by smaller contributing factors
Such as: poor latch, bad suck, ineffective feed, pressure on the breast, stress, fatigue, weakened immune system
What can I do for mastitis treatment?!
Seriously, take it easy! This is easier said than done (obviously) but try your best. Utilize the people in your life that are able to help.
Drink more fluid
Drinking more fluids isn’t going to radically increase your milk supply but it will keep your milk ducts dilated and flowing.
Any type of warmth on your breast would be good! Seriously, warm showers, heat packs, etc! On my list of breastfeeding favorites, you’ll find some breast gel pads that are perfect!
While you pump or nurse, make sure to locate the plugged duct and massage it! Just like getting a massage, you need to loosen and release that knot!
Get the milk out
This is CRUCIAL! You need to release the milk build up and empty your breast out. This means additional feedings, pumping, hand expression, etc. Anything that you can do to get the excess milk out of your breast!
See your doctor
This is a must! If you’re having severe fever, fatigue, and pain. You should do all of the things listed previously but more importantly, you should see a doctor! A doctor will prescribe antibiotics to completely get rid of the infection.
What can I do for mastitis prevention?
Check your baby’s latch
One of the main culprits in most lactation related issues is a poor latch. Make sure that your baby’s latch is allowing proper milk flow.
If you usually nurse your baby in one position, try changing the position. By doing this, your baby’s mouth is compression on different areas of the nipple and putting pressure on different milk ducts. This can give other milk ducts an opportunity to release milk.
Make sure your breast is emptied frequently
Whether you’re nursing, pumping, or resorting to hand-expressing in a closet at a dinner party, make sure your breasts are being emptied adequately enough!
* Your supply MAY drop but it can definitely come back!
* Your milk may taste saltier. This is normal and you can still feed it to the baby.
* Abrupt weaning can put you at an increased risk for an abscess.