Hi, breastfeeding mama! How are your boobs these days? Feeling different?
Any hard or hot spots?
Any areas of extreme pain?
If so, you may be on the path to a case of mastitis.
Pretty much every breastfeeding mom experiences symptoms, like lumps or swelling and pain, that could lead to mastitis at some point. And if those issues aren’t addressed, it could quickly become mastitis.
But what is it? How is it treated and how can you avoid it? Let’s take a closer look at how to avoid mastitis when breastfeeding.
Photo via Luiza Braun/Unsplash
What Is Mastitis?
Mastitis is inflammation in the breast. Your breast tissue can become inflamed without being infected. The inflammation can lead to pain, swelling, warmth in the tissue, and redness. Your breast may appear red and splotchy. You may also have a fever and chills.
The causes of mastitis can be a blocked milk-duct or bacteria that enters the breast. However, the most likely cause is milk trapped in the breast. If left untreated, the breast can fill with pus and create an abscess that will need to be drained through surgery.
How Is Mastitis Treated?
Mastitis usually requires a 10-day course of antibiotics and pain relievers. If you see the symptoms, seek medical attention.
How Can I Avoid Mastitis?
It’s important to empty your breast completely when you feed your baby. If you aren’t sure if you’re doing it correctly, seek help from a lactation consultant.
A couple tips on fully emptying your breast(s):
- Massage your breasts before and during feeding or pumping to make sure all the milk comes out
- Use warming pads before breastfeeding or pumping
- Pay extra massage attention to any hard or tender spots
- Make sure your baby latches onto your breast correctly
- Make sure your pump is getting maximum suction
- (I'm not sure if this next one is a wive's tale or fact, but it seemed to work for me): If part of your breast has a tender lump, try positioning baby so her chin points toward it. Some people believe this shifts the focus of their suction and can help get more milk out.
- Relax. This is often the hardest one, but the more relaxed you are, the better the flow!
- Breastfeed and/or pump at consistent times. Make sure your weekend schedule matches your at-work schedule if you work.
Other things you can do to avoid mastitis:
- Keep the skin of your nipples soft. If the nipple becomes dry and cracked, bacteria may enter the breast.
- Avoid placing pressure on your breasts from tight bras or seatbelts.
- Eat a healthy diet, don’t smoke, avoid stress and get plenty of sleep (plenty of sleep, ha! I know this one can be challenging, but it's worth mentioning).
- Take care of yourself and practice good breastfeeding techniques.
- If you are trying to wean or reduce your milk production, do it slowly if it is causing breast issues.
Mastitis can be painful. You will have sore, red, swollen breasts and need antibiotics to treat the infection. Thankfully, you can avoid mastitis by choosing a healthy lifestyle and using proper breastfeeding techniques.
If you’re unsure of proper breastfeeding or pumping techniques, seek help from a lactation consultant. Your breasts will thank you!