Symptoms of Mastitis and What to do About it
If you are currently breastfeeding or plan to once your baby arrives, mastitis may creep up on you at some point. Here is a quick rundown of what mastitis is, the symptoms you can watch for, what you can do if it strikes and some preventative measures you can take to avoid it.
What is mastitis?
In short, mastitis is an infection of the breast tissue. Although it can occur in women who aren’t breastfeeding, mastitis most often occurs within the first three months after giving birth and, like any other illness, can leave you run-down and exhausted.
What to watch for
Signs and symptoms of mastitis can appear suddenly and include:
- Swelling of the breast, breast tenderness or warmth to the touch.
- A general feeling of illness, including body aches, chills and a fever of 101 F (38.3 C) or greater.
- Pain or a burning sensation continuously or while you are nursing.
- Skin redness on the affected area.
How to alleviate mastitis
- Sometimes mastitis can lead mothers to wean their baby before they intend to, but you can continue breastfeeding through a bout with mastitis. In fact, allowing the baby to nurse on the affected breast as much as possible helps to relieve some discomfort and aid the healing process. Varying the baby’s position at the breast will also help to ensure all ducts get emptied.
- Drink extra fluids.
- Hot and cold compresses may help reduce swelling and alleviate pain.
- Warm showers or baths throughout the day – set the temperature of the water as hot as you can tolerate it.
- Massage the affected area with warm water while you are showering. This will increase circulation and loosen the plugged ducts.
- Avoid wearing restrictive clothing. This will compress the breast and cause pain and discomfort.
When to see a doctor
Once you have been feeling flu-like symptoms and recognize a sore area on your breast, it’s time to contact your doctor to find out whether an antibiotic is necessary. Oral antibiotics are usually effective in treating mastitis.
How to prevent mastitis
- Take care of yourself! Mastitis often occurs when you are run-down or stressed, so get plenty of rest while you are nursing your baby.
- Relieve engorgement by breastfeeding frequently. When your milk supply isn’t flowing, it gets thicker and clogs the ducts, which can result in mastitis.
- Avoid sleeping on your stomach or any other position that could compress your breasts against the mattress.
If you are interested in learning more about breastfeeding, please check out the information provided by the Mercy Lactation & Breastfeeding Consultants.