Mastitis is an infection of the breastfeeding mother’s breast tissue. Typically, this infection is caused by bacteria entering the milk duct through a break or crack in the nipple. It can also occur if the plugged or blocked milk duct isn’t treated accordingly.
It usually affects only one breast at a time but if a mum has had it before, there is a big chance that she will have it again. This problem is most common in the first two to three weeks but can occur in any stage of lactation
Mastitis: Signs and symptoms
Mastitis is pretty obvious when it occurs. This is because there is a significant change in breast appearance and considerable pain is felt on the affected breast/s.
Here are some of the signs and symptoms of mastitis:
- Hard, swollen breasts
- Warm, reddened and tender breasts
- Presence of red streaks over the breast
- Fever and chills (of 38.5 degrees or higher)
- Fatigue and flu like body aches
- Expressed milk may look gelatin-like or stringy
- Milk may also include mucous pus or blood
- Milk may taste saltier due to the increased sodium
- Nausea or vomiting
- Pus coming out of the nipple
- Pain when breastfeeding
While it is a scary thing to experience, mothers should not fret. Mastitis is a very curable infection and will not affect the breast milk or the breast tissue. This infection can be treated by the following:
The most commonly prescribed medication for mastitis are antibiotics. Safe for both the breastfeeding mummy and baby, antibiotics like Augmentin or amoxicillin can help kill the mastitis-causing bacteria and eliminate pus from inside the breast tissue.
It is recommended that mums with mastitis go for between 10-14 days course. Antibiotics should be prescribed by a Doctor.
2. Pain relievers
Like ibuprofen or panadol helps to reduce numerous symptoms of mastitis such as fever, swelling and pain. Take fever medication (antipyretics) if you have a fever.
Just like antibiotics, it is important to note that any medicine should only be taken when prescribed by the doctor.
3. Drainage via incision
If the swelling of the breasts won’t go away immediately, the doctor can make a small incision on the breast in order to manually drain the pus. This treatment is very effective and provides almost instant relief.
4. Supportive measures
Mastitis-infected mothers should get a lot of bed rest, especially when they are experiencing fever and fatigue. Warm compress with breast massage helps get the swelling down while encouraging milk letdown.
Do also increase fluid intake and get adequate nutrition. If possible do also get help around the house during this stressful period.
Surviving this medical condition
Even with this infection, mummies should never decrease or stop breast feeding. It may be uncomfortable or painful, but it is the only way to prevent plugged ducts and relieve engorgement of the breast.
Aim to nurse every two hours
If you are concerned about the health of your baby, express a few drops of milk out from the infected breast before suckling. When actual breastfeeding is not possible, pump the breasts to completely drain it of milk.
1. Before nursing
Use heat and gentle massage before breastfeeding. Use a warm compress and take a very warm shower, as heat helps to improve milk flow. When the shower, apply soap to your breasts and a wide-tooth comb.
Comb your breast gently toward the nipple with the wide-tooth comb to improve the circulation.
You may see the affected part turning red; this means that this method is working. Combing improves blood circulation and helps the milk flow out more easily. Loosen your bra and wear comfortable clothing that will not restrict milk supply.
2. While nursing
Nurse on the affected breast first. If it’s too painful then nurse from the affected breast immediately after let-down. Find a good position to feed and make sure you have a good latch.
Ensure the position you choose allows for you to massage your affected area. Massage gently but firmly from the plugged area toward the nipple. Do also nurse while leaning over baby (dangle feeding) to maximise the use of gravity and baby’s suckling to help.
3. After nursing
Use cold compress or cold cabbage leaves between feedings for any inflammation.
How do I know it’s cleared?
When mastitis is cleared you will feel your breast go back to normal. There will be no hardened lumpy area and your breast will be softer. It will still have some residual soreness but that will ease off.
Need Help? Don’t fret!
When in doubt, please refer to a lactation consultant, who can offer you more personalised advice according to you and your baby’s situation.
theAsianparent also has a Singapore Breastfeeding Mums Support Group that you can join for mum-to-mum advice.
Did you ever suffer from mastitis? Tell us how you survived the experience. We’d love to hear your story. To learn more about this infection, check out this video: