Mastitis is an infection of the breast tissue. This infection can cause a good deal of discomfort to a nursing mom. The infection can be caused by a crack in your nipple, which allows bacteria to enter your breast and results in an infection. Inadequate emptying of the breast, which can lead to milk stasis, can also cause mastitis. When the breasts are not properly emptied, this fullness can place pressure on the surrounding tissue and cause pain and swelling.
One of the biggest myths surrounding mastitis is that you cannot nurse with the affected breast. This is not true! The milk is not infected and cannot hurt your baby. It is very important to keep the breast working and empty it as efficiently as possible. Efficient emptying can be accomplished by massaging the affected area while nursing or pumping.
Risk indicators for mastitis include:
- Cracked nipples
- Poorly fitted, too-tight bras
- Inadequate emptying of the breast
- History of prior bout of mastitis
- Plugged milk ducts
- Fatigue and body aches
- Tender and often quite painful areas of the breast
- Redness, warmth, or especially hot spots over the affected area
- Pain during feedings
Your doctor and lactation consultant may recommend these mastitis remedies:
- Taking oral antibiotics for 10 to 14 days. You should notice a dramatic improvement in how you are feeling within 24 to 48 hours. Make sure you take all the medication prescribed to clear the infection.
- Resting and increasing fluids by mouth.
- Using pain medication (ibuprofen or acetaminophen as prescribed) to ease discomfort and lower fever.
- Applying warm compresses to the affected area prior to nursing or pumping.
- Massaging uncomfortable spots while nursing or pumping.
- Icing the affected area after nursing or pumping to help reduce swelling
- Varying feeding positions, which may help to drain the breast more efficiently.
- Making follow-up visits to assess your healing.
If you are following the recommendations are not noticing improvement, it is important to stay in touch with your doctor! If mastitis is not treated in a timely manner, you may develop an abscess of the breast, which would lead to hospitalization for IV antibiotics and drainage of the infection by a breast surgeon.