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Mastitis: What is it and what to do about it?

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Mastitis is an inflammation of the breast, with or without a fever.  Breastfeeding parents can get mastitis at any time, though it is most common in between the second and sixth postpartum weeks.  It can start when germs (from baby’s mouth) enter a milk duct through a crack on the skin or nipple. Mastitis can be mild or severe. In mild form, mastitis appears as a tender spot or lump in your breast with no fever. 

SYMPTOMS OF MASTITIS 

Symptoms of mastitis include soreness, hardness, redness, heat, and swelling in the affected breast. If you have a high temperature (more than 101F, 38.4C or any like-flu symptoms, you most likely have severe mastitis that has progressed into an infection. Other signs of infection may include a cracked nipple with pus, pus/blood in your milk or red streaks on your breast. If you think that you have an infection, call your medical provider and ask for  antibiotics. It is always a good idea to take probiotics if you are prescribed antibiotics  separating them by about two hours. Whether or not you have an infection, follow these suggestions to ease your breasts:

BREASTFEED FREQUENTLY 

Let your baby drain the affected breast frequently. If breastfeeding is uncomfortable or baby refuses to nurse on the affected breast, use a pump or hand express. If you don’t follow these suggestions and allow more milk to accumulate in your breast, it will make things worse.  

MASSAGE BREAST AND SOAK IT IN WARM WATER 

Massage the breast in a circular motion from your armpit to your nipple and soak it in warm water in a bath or leaning over a basin. Repeat at least three times a day. 

APPLY HEAT IMMEDIATELY BEFORE BREASTFEEDING 

This helps to loosen the plug. Do it only immediately before breastfeeding. 

WEAR LOOSE CLOTHING 

Avoid tight clothing until your breast has healed. Avoid tight bras. 

REST

 Make sure that you have enough rest so that your body has the energy to fight a possible infection.

AVOID SUDDEN FEEDING 

Lastly, if it is time for your baby to start weaning, make sure you have a gradual transition and don’t stop breastfeeding suddenly. If you stop breastfeeding suddenly, your breasts will continue making milk. Without removing milk from your breasts, they will become fuller and then engorged. This can lead to pain or, at worst, mastitis.

Sources: 

1.    Breastfeeding Made Simple, Nancy Mohrbacher, Kathleen Kendall-Tackett

2.    What to Expect the First Year, Heidi Murkoff and Sharon Mazel 

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