Everything You Need to Know About Mastitisby Elizabeth MacDonald
Mastitis is a bad word in motherhood.
Mastitis can be awful.
Mastitis can turn ugly really fast.
Simply put, it is an inflammation of the breast tissue that can cause pain, swelling, and redness. It is usually caused by a bacterial infection, but it can also be caused by a blocked milk duct or engorgement. Any mother who has experienced this pain knows that the description does not do the illness due justice.
You will cry, want to quit breastfeeding, possibly feel like death (or the worst flu you’ll ever know), and have a new appreciation for an electric toothbrush, the term ‘dangle feeding,’ and hot compresses.
Prevention is key when it comes to mastitis! Staying healthy, breastfeeding on demand (not on a schedule), avoiding engorgement, and working with a lactation consultant will all increase your chances of avoiding mastitis. Here are some other tips to help you prevent this painful condition:
Ensure Proper Latch
One of the main causes of mastitis is an improper latch. Make sure your baby is latching onto your breast correctly to ensure efficient milk flow and prevent engorgement.
Empty Your Breasts
Frequent breastfeeding or pumping helps to empty your breasts and prevent milk from building up. This can help prevent blocked milk ducts and reduce the risk of mastitis. Remember that what you take out, your body recreates. Do not over pump, as it can trigger an oversupply and engorgement.
Avoid Tight Clothing
Wearing tight bras or clothing can restrict milk flow and increase the risk of mastitis. Opt for loose-fitting, comfortable clothing that allows your breasts to breathe.
Practice Good Hygiene
Wash your hands before breastfeeding or pumping to prevent the spread of bacteria. Clean your nipples with warm water and mild soap each day.
Stress can weaken your immune system and make you more susceptible to infections. Find ways to manage your stress, such as practicing relaxation techniques or seeking support from loved ones.
Treating Mastitis Naturally
If you do develop mastitis, there are several natural remedies that can help alleviate the symptoms and promote healing. If you spike a fever and flu-like symptoms begin, you may need medical help and antibiotic to kill the bacterial infection. You will notice a pie-shaped red triangle extending from the nipple to the outer breast. This is where the clogged duct and infection are located. You can massage to feel for the lump and possibly break it up yourself.
Apply Warm Compresses
Applying warm compresses to the affected breast can help relieve pain and reduce inflammation. Use a warm towel or a heating pad on a low setting for 15-20 minutes several times a day.
Massage the Breast
Gently massaging the affected breast can help unclog blocked milk ducts and improve milk flow. Use circular motions and apply gentle pressure to the affected area. Grab an electric toothbrush and use it to pulse/massage the clogged duct. It can help break it up and (with the help of your nursing baby) get it out.
Nurse as much as possible. You want to position your baby’s latch so his nose is in line with the red wedge on your breast. The easiest way to do this is to ‘dangle feed,’ which simply means:
- Lay your baby on his back, on a flat, comfortable surface
- Get on all fours or lean over your baby, offering your breast
- If possible, angle your baby’s nose or chin so it’s in line with the area where your clog is
- Allow your baby to nurse
- Use pillows to support your body
This may take several times, but it is most successful way to unclog the milk duct.
Get Plenty of Rest
Rest is crucial for your body to heal. Make sure to get plenty of rest and avoid overexertion. Take naps when your baby sleeps and ask for help with household chores. Mastitis progresses quickly if not managed, and your body needs rest to be able to fight.
Drinking water can help thin your breast milk and prevent clogged milk ducts. Every time you nurse, remember to rehydrate.
You need to talk to other mothers who have experienced mastitis and keep in contact with your midwife or doctor.