Mastitis (from the Greek ‘mastos’ = breast & ‘itis’ = inflammation) affects breastfeeding mammals and is characterised by inflammation of the breast tissue. It can occur with or without infection.
What causes it?
If the inflammation occurs without infection, it's usually caused by milk stasis. Milk stasis is when milk stays in the breast too long, either due to a blocked duct or long stretches between feeds.
Importantly, stagnant milk can lead to a build-up of bacteria & can cause infection. Alternatively, bacteria might enter the breast tissue via a break in the skin, usually a cracked nipple.
What are the symptoms?
Mastitis typically affects one breast, though it's possible to have it in both breasts at once. Early symptoms might be similar to a cold /flu with aches & fever.
The most common symptoms are: swelling/enlargement, redness, tenderness, pain, itchiness, tenderness or a small cut/wound in the nipple or nearby skin.
What’s the treatment?
Mastitis is treatable, but in rare and severe cases can lead to sepsis or an abscess & need urgent hospital admission. More commonly, it can be treated by trying to clear the blockage. Things that can be done:
🔅Rest. Fever, aches and pain will cause your body to be run-down, you need as much rest as you can get to recover. Ask family and friends to help around the house and to care for you and baby.
🔅Feed your baby as often as you can (and/or express). Emptying your breasts of milk every 2-3 hours is recommended.
🔅Warmth. Warm showers, heat packs & hot compresses can help. Expressing & massaging the sore breast will further help to clear the blocked duct.
🔅Feed from the sore side. Feeding from the inflamed breast first when your baby’s suck is strongest will assist with draining the milk from your breast. But don’t forget to also feed from the healthy breast too
Does it affect your baby?
Though you may be feeling unwell & uncomfortable, mastitis won't affect your baby. It's perfectly safe for them to feed from your affected breast, although your milk may taste a bit saltier than usual.
Have you had mastitis before, what tips and tricks worked for you?