Mastitis

The “M” Word

mas·ti·tis
/maˈstīdəs/
noun

A terrible, horrible, no good, very bad breast infection

As you know, we love breastfeeding and everything about it.  Well, mostly everything.  We don’t love mastitis.  It’s a breast infection that generally affects one breast at a time and most often occurs within the first 2-3 weeks of breastfeeding.  However, it can occur throughout your breastfeeding journey.  Luckily, mastitis does not have to mean the end of breastfeeding and you can continue breastfeeding while you have it.  With a little TLC, you’ll be back on your feet in no time.

The most common symptoms are:

  • A hard lump on your breast that feels very tender, hot, swollen, or looks reddened
  • Pain while nursing on the affected side, particularly during let-down
  • Red streaks that extend out from the affected area (if you notice this, call your doctor)
  • Fever of 101.3°F or greater
  • Flu-like symptoms including chills and body aches

If you have symptoms, here are some general guidelines:

  • Say goodbye to your underwire bra - for now!  It can block milk channels and reduce milk flow and actually, we’d recommend skipping the underwire throughout your breastfeeding journey
  • Nurse frequently and by frequently we mean at least every two hours to keep your affected breast as drained as possible
  • If breastfeeding is not happening, drain your breast by pumping frequently or by hand expression

To make breastfeeding a little more comfortable, you can prepare by:

  • Taking a hot shower to encourage let-down and release some milk
  • Using a warm compress or Thera⁰Pearl® 3-in-1 Breast Therapy Pack to soften the breast and allow milk to flow
  • Loosening your bra and removing other constrictive clothing to aid milk flow

While you are breastfeeding, you may want to ease the discomfort and pain by:

  • Nursing with the affected breast first.  This may hurt.  If it is too painful, start on the unaffected breast and switch to the affected breast immediately after let-down.
  • Ensuring good positioning and latch. Use whatever positioning is most comfortable and/or allows the baby to drain the milk from your breast.
  • Gently squeezing the breast between the thumb and fingers while baby nurses, which will help you express more milk in one feeding.
  • Massaging your breasts gently while baby nurses to aid with let-down and milk flow.

Once you are done breastfeeding, try to:

Trust Your Judgement

Mastitis can clear up without medical treatment, but it’s important to get a confirmed diagnosis with your healthcare provider so you can take next steps which may include taking a course of antibiotics.

See your healthcare provider if:

  • Your symptoms are sudden and severe
  • Your temperature increases suddenly
  • You have mastitis is in both breasts
  • Your baby is less than two weeks old
  • You have recently been in the hospital
  • You have broken skin on the nipple with obvious signs of infection
  • Blood or pus is present in milk

It isn’t fun, but when it’s over, this particular “M” word will be yet another badge of motherhood honor!