You wake up one morning feeling unwell with flu like symptoms and one of your breasts is swollen, hot and tender to touch. You may have mastitis.
Mastitis is a condition that causes a woman's breast tissue to become inflamed and painful. It usually affects only one breast and is most common in the first three months of breastfeeding, especially in new first time mums where mum and baby are still learning. Often during this period a baby is not yet attaching and sucking correctly at the breast. This, not only can cause nipples to become sore but can hinder the milk from being removed from the breast at the same rate at which it is being produced.
This can also lead to a build-up of milk, causing pressure on the breast tissue, which can result in milk stasis. This means the milk is unable to flow freely through the milk ducts, increasing the risk of inflammation.
What to do if you have mastitis:
Rest and rehydrate- it is important that you rest and drink plenty of fluids.
Stay loose-wearing loose clothing and a comfy bra (or even no bra) can help you feel more comfortable.
Relieve pain-taking either Paracetamol or Ibuprofen may ease your symptoms and are both safe to take when breastfeeding.
Heat and massage-gentle massage of the affected breast and applying heat before a feed will help with your milk let down. A nice warm shower is often beneficial.
Keep your cool-applying a cold pack after a feed, will offer some relief and help reduce the swelling.
Keep feeding-although the discomfort of mastitis may make you feel miserable and discourage you from breastfeeding it is very important that you continue, as regular breastfeeds will help resolve your mastitis much faster.
Proper positioning-ensuring that you attach and position your baby correctly to your breast will help with emptying it properly and reduce the chance of nipple trauma.
Mix it up-try different positions to find what feels most comfortable. Keep a check that your baby remains in a correct sucking position, it is easy to start the feed in the correct position but end it in the wrong one.
Affected breast first-always feed from the affected breast first as your baby is usually hungrier at the beginning of a feed and will suck more vigorously and therefore drain your breast more effectively.
Seek medical assistance-if your symptoms do not improve after 24 hours, or your symptoms worsen, you should see your GP as you may have developed an infection.
Your Doctor will prescribe you an antibiotic that is safe for you to take whilst breastfeeding. Your milk may taste a little different (slightly more salty) and this may cause your baby to sometimes fuss at the breast but do not stop breastfeeding (unless your Doctor advises you otherwise) Your breastmilk is safe for your baby to drink.
If you think you might have mastitis and you're worried about what to do, please make an appointment to see your GP/Midwife/ Women's Health Nurse. They can ensure that you get the appropriate treatment needed to help manage and resolve your mastitis quickly. They can also discuss and show you what you can do to help reduce your risk of mastitis in the future.
Find out more about our mums and bubs services here
Ms Gillian Jarrett