Breastfeeding is a beautiful and rewarding experience for many mothers, but more often than not, it comes with its own set of challenges.
One such challenge is a common breast infection or mastitis.
In this article, we will explore what the infection is, its symptoms, common causes, and the available treatments to help new mothers recognise and manage this condition effectively.
Mastitis is an inflammation of breast tissue that occurs most commonly in breastfeeding women, especially during the initial 6-12 weeks. A bacterial infection often causes it, although it can also be non-infectious.
This condition happens when milk is not adequately drained from the breasts, leading to a buildup of milk and subsequent infection, resulting in mastitis.
Mastitis and Risk of Breast Cancer
Mastitis shares similar symptoms with inflammatory breast cancer and benign breast neoplasms. That said, it does not increase one's risk for it. To get a proper diagnosis, make sure to consult your doctor.
Other conditions sharing similar symptoms with mastitis include hereditary breast cancer syndromes and other benign breast diseases.
Symptoms of Mastitis
Breast pain, swelling, redness and tenderness
The affected breast may feel tender, sore, or painful to the touch. This pain can be continuous or worsen during breastfeeding or pumping sessions.
The breast may also appear swollen, enlarged and exhibit a red or warm sensation.
Fatigue, fever, chills, and body aches are common accompanying symptoms of mastitis.
The affected breast may feel full, firm, and engorged due to milk accumulation.
Sometimes, pus or blood may be present in the nipple discharge.
How is Mastitis diagnosed?
Mastitis is typically diagnosed based on the mother's symptoms and a clinical breast assessment.
If you are not breastfeeding but exhibiting the signs, your doctor may order other tests such as breast imaging (breast ultrasound), MRI, mammogram, or biopsy to rule out breast cancer.
Causes of Mastitis
Poor latch or ineffective breastfeeding
When a baby doesn't latch properly or empty the breast adequately during feedings, it can lead to milk stasis and the development of mastitis.
Engorgement happens when the breasts become overly full and aren't regularly drained, increasing the risk of mastitis.
Sore or cracked nipples can create an entry point for bacteria through a milk duct opening, making infection more likely.
Blocked milk ducts
Wearing a tight bra may restrict milk flow, and a blocked milk duct can contribute to milk stasis and the subsequent development of mastitis.
Weakened immune system
Stress, lack of sleep, or other factors that weaken the immune system can make a breastfeeding mother more susceptible to mastitis.
Treatment for Mastitis
Despite the pain, it is important to continue expressing milk to ensure proper drainage and prevent further milk stasis. The bacteria in breast milk do not harm the baby, and breastfeeding can help clear the infection.
Note: Breastfeed on the affected side more frequently to keep your milk flowing and prevent them from getting too full.
Using breast pumps
Producing more milk than your baby's needs can lead to potential discomfort and engorgement.
In such cases, using a breast pump can help regulate milk production and ensure both mother and baby have a positive breastfeeding experience - maintaining milk supply, alleviating engorgement, and preventing milk stasis to reduce the risk of mastitis development.
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Adequate rest and self-care
Resting, staying hydrated, and taking care of yourself can help boost your immune system and aid in the recovery process.
Applying heat and cold packs
Applying a warm compress to the affected breast before breastfeeding can help improve milk flow.
If your milk is flowing easily, then warm packs are not needed. Instead, gently massage any breast lumps towards the nipple when feeding, expressing, or in the shower or bath.
Use cold packs (e.g. frozen peas wrapped in a cloth) to relieve pain and reduce inflammation.
If a bacterial infection causes mastitis, your healthcare provider may prescribe antibiotics to clear the infection. It is important to take the full course of oral antibiotics as prescribed.
Over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen can help alleviate pain and reduce inflammation.
Consultation with a healthcare professional
Breastfeeding mothers can talk with lactation consultants about breastfeeding techniques.
They can also guide through proper nutrition, stress management, and proper breast hygiene, such as keeping nipples clean and dry and avoiding tight-fitting bras or clothing that restricts milk flow.
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In our commitment to aiding you throughout this journey, Baby Express provides online support from our very own internationally certified Lactation Consultants at no cost to all our users.
Solely in Singapore, we take the lead in providing this valuable service. Unlike other providers who might charge you around $150 or more per hour, we are excited to offer it to you at no cost, making it an exclusive benefit for our customers.
Take Charge of Your Breastfeeding Journey
Understanding mastitis, its symptoms, causes, and available treatments is important for breastfeeding mothers to ensure their well-being and their babies.
Don't navigate this journey alone! Seek guidance from knowledgeable lactation consultants who can provide invaluable support and advice.
For additional expert tips and insights on breastfeeding and motherhood, dive into our extensive collection of articles and embrace the joy of breastfeeding and cherish these special moments with your little one!
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