Breastfeeding Guide: What is Mastitis?
Mastitis: What Causes It and How Do I Resolve It?
Mastitis is the term for a breast infection in all or part of the breast. It more commonly occurs in one breast, usually as a result of a plugged duct (a blockage in the breast causing a hard, sometimes painful lump that doesn’t allow milk to flow). Generally caused by staph infection, mastitis usually presents with the following symptoms:
-hard, swollen, red, painful area in the breast; often streaky in appearance
-flu-like symptoms: chills, malaise, achy joints
It’s important to note - especially with the onset of cold & flu season - that unless there are changes in the breast, these symptoms may not indicate mastitis.
If you start to feel like you’re getting mastitis, it’s important to get to the root of the problem and see an IBCLC. Has a poor latch contributed to nipple damage, allowing bacteria to enter the breast? Are the breasts not being thoroughly drained? An IBCLC will help assess this to help prevent further occurrences.
A few self-treatment options are available as well. Many mothers find they are able to keep the illness at bay by boosting their immune system (echinacea, Vitamin C) and resting. If you have a fever or symptoms persist for more than 24 hours, see your primary care provider, as you may need antibiotics.
It’s imperative that mothers continue to remove milk during mastitis. Nurse your baby frequently - the milk is safe for them to drink, and your baby will aid in removing plugged ducts (provided they can remove milk efficiently). If nursing is too painful, pump or hand express as often as you would be nursing.
Get lots of rest! Lay down with your baby as much as you can. Stay hydrated and keep an eye on your symptoms. With treatment, most mothers start to feel better within 24 hours. If you feel you are getting worse, see your primary care provider. Be sure to have an IBCLC assess your baby’s latch to help prevent any future issues too!