Mastitis simply means inflammation of the breast. The inflammation is typically caused by clogged or blocked milk ducts in the breast. Learn more on the causes, prevention and treatment of Mastitis.
while natural and extremely beneficial, can sometimes come with many
Some breastfeeding mothers have an easy time throughout their
entire time breastfeeding their child, while other breastfeeding mothers face
obstacle after obstacle.
The best way to
ensure that you meet your breastfeeding goals is to not only surround yourself
with support for your breastfeeding journey, but also to learn about and prepare yourself for any obstacles that may arise.
One thing in particular that every breastfeeding mother should learn about in
advance is called mastitis.
What is Mastitis?
definition, mastitis simply means inflammation
of the breast.
The breast is full of a system of ducts. Milk flows
from deep in the breast to the nipples.
Sometimes the ducts may get plugged up
causing the milk to build up behind the blockage.This usually causes pain and
swelling and often leads to infection of
It is treatable, but if
left untreated can be very dangerous for the breastfeeding mother.
Symptoms of clogged ducts
area in the breast
of the breast
Symptoms of mastitis are the
same as symptoms of clogged ducts, but they are typically more severe and also
breast feeling hot to the touch
aches and pains
Prevention of Mastitis
results from clogged ducts.
Clogged ducts typically happen when milk is being produced
faster than it’s being removed from the breasts.
Since milk supply is all about
supply and demand, this is likely to
happen if you suddenly decrease nursing sessions or pumping sessions.
also happen if you go too long between feeds, or forget to switch which side
your child nurses from at each feed. There are some simple steps you can take
to help avoid clogged ducts and therefore avoid mastitis.
Feed on demand. By feeding your
baby on demand, you are unlikely to go too long between feedings.
Switch sides. Switching the
side your baby feeds on first during each nursing session ensures equal removal
of milk from each side.
Avoid tight clothing. If your bra or
top is too tight and restricting on your breasts, it may increase your chance
of clogged ducts.
Check baby’s latch. You want to
ensure that your baby has a good latch so that they are efficiently removing
milk which will help prevent clogged ducts.
Treating Clogged Ducts and
best course of action when dealing with clogged ducts or mastitis is to begin
treatment immediately as soon as you have any symptoms.
The progression of clogged ducts into mastitis
and mastitis itself can often be rapid, so putting it off for any amount of
time can severely worsen the intensity of symptoms.
When symptoms first arise,
such as a hard spot in the breast and/or redness and pain, there are some
things that you can do to try to take care of the problem yourself before
medical treatment is required.
1. Feed Your Baby Frequently
you have a clogged duct or mastitis, the most important thing to do is to
remove milk from the affected breast as often as possible.
It’s a good idea to start each feeding on the affected breast
before switching to the other side.
However, you still need to make sure that
an adequate amount of milk is being removed from the unaffected side as well to
avoid it also becoming affected by poor milk removal.
2. Don’t Wear a Bra
can be helpful and make the breast drain more easily if you don’t wear a bra
during the period of time when you are trying to treat a clogged duct or
If you feel like you must wear a bra, try to keep it a little looser
than you typically do.
3. Try to Relax
you are able to relax more, it can encourage a strong let-down reflex which is
essential for properly draining the breasts.
Try to slowly relax each part of
your body during a nursing session from your head to your toes.
You can also
consider listening to calming music and
focus on and think about your baby during feeding to also help encourage a
4. Apply Heat Before Feeding
the breast before your baby feeds can help to loosen any blockage and encourage
better milk flow.
You can apply heat to your breast for a few minutes before
each feeding. Anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes should work well for this.
try using a hot pack or a warm wet wash
cloth, or even soak your breast in warm water using a container of some sort.
5. Apply Cold In-between
can also try applying cold to your breast. Do this in-between feedings rather
than right before or during a feeding.
The coldness should help with pain some
and can also aid in reducing the amount
of swelling of the breast.
6. Express Milk In-between
addition to nursing frequently, you can also try expressing milk in-between
You can either hand-express
your milk or you can pump.
This can help to keep the breasts empty and not
allow the clogged duct or mastitis to continue to worsen.
7. Take a Hot Shower or Bath
a hot shower or bath not only will help you to feel a little better but it can
also help to loosen the clogged duct.
Try to express some milk while you’re in the bath or shower.
taking a shower, try letting the running water hit your breast directly,
especially in the affected area as this can also help to loosen the clogged
8. Try Different Nursing
position you nurse in can have an effect in the way that milk moves through the
If possible, try to latch baby on so that their chin is at or pointed
towards the affected area of the breast.
You should also try to have the
affected area above your baby while nursing so that gravity can also play a helpful role in draining the milk from the
One position that is a little odd but can be extremely helpful with
clearing clogged ducts is sometimes called dangle nursing. Simply get on your
hands and knees above your baby and nurse them with your breast dangling above
What if My Baby Won’t Nurse?
when you have mastitis, your baby won’t want to nurse from your affected
This is because the taste of the milk may be saltier than usual due to
The milk is perfectly fine
and safe for your baby to drink, they simply may not like the difference in
Many babies don’t mind the difference at all, but if your baby refuses
to nurse from the affected side, you’ll still need to remove as much milk as
Continue nursing from the unaffected side, and pump and/or hand express milk from the affected side. Doing this
while your baby nurses from the other side may also help since it is when you
are most likely to have strong let-downs.
When Medical Attention is
you have been trying to treat clogged ducts or mastitis at home for 24 hours or
more and still haven’t seen any improvement, you should seek medical attention.
If your symptoms are severe, don’t even wait that long and seek medical
attention right away.
mastitis to persist for days without medical attention as it can be very
It’s likely that your health care provider will simply give you a
round of antibiotics.
Since you are breastfeeding, they should provide you with
antibiotics that are safe for breastfeeding. You will probably notice
improvement very quickly after starting the antibiotics.
Even if you feel 100%
better before you are finished with your antibiotics, make sure that you still finish the entire round of antibiotics
to ensure that symptoms don’t return.
Don’t Take Any Chances
ducts and mastitis are often able to be safely and effectively treated at home
with no need for medical intervention.
However, if you are having severe
symptoms or aren’t seeing improvement quickly, it’s better to not take any
chances and go ahead and seek medical attention.
The medical treatment for mastitis is very simple, easy and effective.
It is, of course, better to avoid mastitis altogether if you can so always make
sure to be taking preventive measures.
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