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The Lowdown on Mastitis

Mastitis is horrible!

“What exactly is it? Why does it happen? How can I prevent it? If I get it, how is it treated?“ 👈🏻 Sample of questions I frequently hear.

Let me give you the lowdown so you can hopefully avoid it - and if not (my condolences), how to move forward.


What exactly is mastitis?

#Mastitis is an infection of the #breast tissue. Symptoms typically include:

#Redness of infected area

• Affected area notably warm to touch

• Inflammation of infected area

• Flu-like symptoms including aches and fatigue

#Fever and/or chills

#Decreasedsupply in infected breast

*Each case is unique and not everyone presents with all of the symptoms listed above.

Why does mastitis develop?

Mastitis typically occurs due to 1 or both of the following:

  1. An unresolved plugged milk duct. The inflammation from stagnant milk becomes worse and worse. The worse the surrounding inflammation becomes, the harder it is to drain the duct due to compression from surrounding tissues. #PluggedDucts can occur for a variety of reasons. If you have recurrent plugged ducts and/or mastitis, figuring out the root cause is just as important as getting proper treatment. You can read more about plugged ducts in my blog post here:

  2. Bacteria enters the breast tissue (commonly from an open wound on the nipple aka #nippletrauma). It travels up from the nipple, into the breast tissue and multiplies. Cue inflammation, which causes pain and then difficulty draining the area from normal feeds and/or #pumping.

Can it be prevented?

Sometimes but not always. Again, it depends on the root cause of the mastitis.

Attentive care and proactive treatment of a plugged duct and/or nipple damage can help it to resolve before turning into mastitis.

However, sometimes despite the best efforts, mastitis develops.

What’s the recovery process? How is it treated?

At home care is similar to that for plugged ducts (with a few notable exceptions):

  • DO NOT STOP BREASTFEEDING AND/OR PUMPING - THAT IS THE WORST THING TO DO! You need to be very frequently nursing and/or #pumping to try to drain the affected area as thoroughly as possible. IT IS COMPLETELY SAFE TO CONTINUE #NURSING YOUR CHILD AND/OR FEEDING THEM YOUR EXPRESSED MILK!

  • #icepacks to the affected area before and/or after nursing/pumping. This may be helpful with #paincontrol too.

  • very gentle breast #massage - only if you can tolerate it! If you can’t, then skip it.

  • Try “dangle” feeding or pumping. Stand over or kneel over the baby and let gravity help the process.

  • Try switching positions when #breastfeeding (if baby will do that happily)

  • Offer the affected breast first at each feeding

  • Rest, rest, and more rest.

  • Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate

  • See your OBGYN, MIDWIFE, PCP, or go to urgent care ASAP. You will most likely need them to prescribe #antibiotics. Side note: vast majority of meds are considered compatible with Breastfeeding but if you aren’t sure then please (a) contact your pediatrician (b) use the Mommy Meds app (c) visit and/or call their hotline at (806)352-2519.

  • Ask your healthcare provider what they recommend you take for pain / fever management. Typically Acetaminophen and Ibuprofen are recommended.

  • See an #IBCLC for ongoing support. Another side note: your supply in the affected breast will probably drop when dealing with mastitis. This is expected, but with good care and management, it should rebound eventually.

Remember: it is important to find out the root cause, especially if plugged ducts and/or mastitis keeps happening An IBCLC is the best professional to help you figure this out.

If you are dealing with plugged duct(s), mastitis, or have any other lactation concerns, I would be so happy to help you on your breastfeeding/pumping journey! More info on my Virtual or In-Home consultations can be found here:

Wishing you healthy breasts & good rest, Mama!

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