Women are always told that breastfeeding is one of the most natural things in the world. What experts fail to tell women are all of the health issues that can come with breastfeeding if not aware of the initial symptoms pointing to signs that something is wrong. As such, many women wind up with uncomfortable or infected breasts, cracked nipples, and the like that they never even knew were possible. One of the worst being mastitis. But if women are aware of what they can do to avoid mastitis when breastfeeding, they are well ahead of the game. And they may even prevent themselves from experiencing the pain that mastitis brings with it as a result.
Between 10 to 20 percent of women will experience mastitis while breastfeeding, according to the European Journal of Midwifery. With this many women suffering from mastitis, it would make sense for healthcare providers to better educate their patients on not only what mastitis is but ways that it can be prevented when breastfeeding or when deciding to formula-feed babies. Unfortunately, this is not the case, however. And instead, thousands of women suffer infections in their breasts that may have been easily prevented or at least caught sooner were they aware of what they were looking for.
Here are tips for avoiding mastitis when breastfeeding.
What Mastitis Is
Mastitis is when there is an infection in the breast that causes the breast tissue to swell, according to the American Cancer Society. Most times, mastitis happens when breastfeeding, per publication. But it can happen when mothers are not breastfeeding as well.
The infection is caused when a milk duct either does not fully drain or germs get into the breast via cracked nipples, according to the American Cancer Society. When this happens, the body tries to fight the infection. But the response the body puts off causes the breast to become swollen and hot to the touch, which is an indication that a fairly large infection is present.
Symptoms Of Mastitis
There are subtle signs that an infection is brewing before full-blown mastitis is experienced. Things like the breast being painful or there being a bright red area of the breast are good indicators that early mastitis is occurring. But, if those signs are missed, it is nearly impossible to miss the signs of mastitis.
According to the NHSsigns of mastitis include:
- Swollen area of the breast
- Painful, red area of the breast
- Hard lump or bump on breast that resembles a wedge
- Burning in the breast that only happens when breastfeeding
- Discharge from nipples that is white in color. May also contain blood.
- Full body aches
- High fever
If these symptoms are present, it is recommended that women contact their healthcare providers for what the best course of action would be based on their condition.
Ways To Prevent Mastitis When Breastfeeding
As scary as mastitis sounds, there are ways to prevent it when breastfeeding.
According to Dignity Healthways to prevent mastitis when breastfeeding include:
- Make sure breasts are completely empty after feeding
- If babies are not nursing due to illness or nursing strike, pumping breasts empty is necessary
- Make sure nipples are dry in between feedings
- Do not wear tight-fitting bras
- Do not wear tight-fitting shirts
- Make sure baby has a proper latch
By following these steps, the likelihood that mastitis will stay at bay is great. And that means that moms will not have to experience pain from infection in their chests.
Treatment For Mastitis
When treating mastitis, if the infection is bad enough, it may be necessary for women to see their healthcare professionals to give them something to fight the infection. The way that this is done, according to the Cleveland Clinic is via oral antibiotics. Something that is safe to take while breastfeeding.
Per the publication, there are also times when mastitis will clear up on its own and some remedies other than antibiotics will help to relieve the pain. Those ways include:
- Applying warm compresses every few hours
- Taking a warm shower every few hours
- Breastfeed every two hours or less
- Pump if breastfeeding is not possible
- Rest when possible
- Stay hydrated to keep ample milk supply up
- Massage the infected area from the outside of the breast working in
- Take OTC anti-inflammatories
- Wear loose clothing and no bra if possible
Women may be concerned that if they breastfeed while clearing up the infection they will pass infected breast milk along to their babies. This is not the case, however, according to the Cleveland Clinic. The breast milk will not only be as healthy as always but actually contains “antibacterial properties” that keep breast milk healthy for babies to consume.
Source: European Journal of Midwifery, American Cancer Society, NHS, Dignity Health, Cleveland Clinic