Mastitis – Symptoms, Treatment, How to Deal!
What is mastitis? Ugh. Just the word in itself isn’t cool. Mastitis is an inflammation or infection of the breast. It is important to understand it is a diagnosis relating to the tissue of the breast NOT THE MILK. One can and should still nurse! It actually will help. The lack of milk flow, and the build up of milk, blocks the breast’s milk ducts. This aggravates the breast tissue. See image below.
I don’t recall I really knew much of mastitis before kids…at all. Apparently nursing school skipped that section of post partum 🙂 It is important for me to talk about the topic because it can be really trying if a mother doesn’t know what she is dealing with. It also can lead to complications, like a breast abscess, especially if not given timely attention. About one week into breastfeeding my first son, mastitis and I got real tight. I had about enough milk for a small country, and clogging leading to mastitis was evident. It was recurrent and it messed with my new mom mind – big time! I remember one night sitting in NICU holding my baby thinking ‘Gosh should I say something? I wonder if they know what this is? Is this normal? It doesn’t look normal. Motherhood is…….’ Well, it’s a lot of things.?❤️
I decided to say something to two nurses I felt comfortable with, “Psssst, do you think this is normal how red my boobs are??” They encouraged me to call my OB the next day. The next morning I was on my first round of oral antibiotics. This was just the beginning. (Between both kids I’ve conquered ‘the beast’ several times, OK 12 times, but who’s counting?) It was trying, frustrating, confusing, and I felt like something was wrong with me. I went from never knowing what something was to knowing all too well. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy! So, I am here to tell you a little more about it AND provide comfort to those who have dealt or are dealing. It’s not just happening to you and there is light at the end of the tunnel!
How Does Mastitis Happen?
Mastitis can happen for a variety of reasons:
- bacteria enters through a cracked nipple
- milk stasis from infrequent feeding
- milk stasis from oversupply (not removing enough even if feeding fine)
- plugged ducts (area milk is blocked) can turn into mastitis
- this can occur for reasons listed above, but also reasons like tight bras, baby carriers, certain sleeping positions that put pressure on the engorged breast causing a milk block
- inadequate latch inhibiting milk removal
- baby is partial to a side and the other side doesn’t have milk removed
Risk Factors for Mastitis
- long stay in hospital
- poor diet
- frequent nipple shield use
- history of mastitis
- immune system is compromised
- anatomy of milk ducts: “kinked” milk ducts (newer research suggests this)
How Do I Know If I have Mastitis?
- fever (101 and higher)
- extreme fatigue
- flu-like symptoms of aches, chills, “hit like a truck” feeling
- temperature instability
- tender breasts
- red streaking on the breast
- it is usually one sided
- lump is felt in affected breast area (keep close eye, lump can -> to abscess)
What Should I Do If I think I have Mastitis?
- DON’T STOP NURSING
- Unless of course feeling too unwell, it is necessary to remove milk from the breast to relieve the tissue
- Nursing or pumping with massaging the affected area
- Plan to nurse (or express) every 2 hours
- Call your doctor!
- Contact a local IBCLC!
- Fluids, fluids, fluids!
- Rest, rest, rest!
- Motrin/Ibuprofen for pain, aches, inflammation (it’s now safe because you’re not pregnant anymore!)
- Get help!
- Order take out/Use paper plates/or Ignore the mess – Try to simplify life for this short period.
- “Dangle Feeding“
- Warm compresses and massage directly before feeding (i.e. warm wash cloth, warm shower)
- this allows for more milk to be removed and opens up ducts
- Cold compresses in between feeds to lessen inflammation
- Antibiotics will likely be ordered
- Have doctor or IBCLC assess for possibility of abscess
- Probiotic to avoid thrush!
- It is not uncommon for a supply to dip – don’t stress. Nurse on.
- Lecithin may be recommended for recurrent mastitis (milk thinning supplement).
- Dicloxicillin is first line choice of antibiotics. This is in the penicillin class. If allergic to penicillin – inform doctor.
- It may be uncomfortable or painful initially to nurse with it.
- In some cases where fever is low grade, nursing frequently and comfort measures are all that can be recommended, rather than antibiotics too.
- Pumped milk make look stringy or have lumps – this is not unusual.
- Babies may resist during the infection – hand massage and pump if this happens.
- There are many natural supportive measures and home remedies (i.e. cabbage leaves, epsom salt, castor oil, the list goes on) that can be found on internet. These can be effective! However, remember to seek medical attention, particularly with a high fever. You do not want your body to become septic. You also don’t want to deal with an infected abscess forming.
- Go braless – prevention!
- Consider a medicine organizer! It’s a lot of pills to remember between motrin, antibiotics, lecithin, probiotics!
**** Always consult your doctor of specifics relating to your medical history!****
YOU CAN DO THIS!
**This post was completed from motivation of a local mom. She came to me with her story which dealt with IV antibiotics, abscesses, hospital stays, etc. She expressed wishing she knew more going into nursing. I’m keeping her name anonymous but side note – she is still nursing. ✌?