What Is Mastitis And Why Does It Occur?


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Your body undergoes a lot of changes during pregnancy – apart from the growing baby bump; other changes are ushered in during pregnancy. Dealing with all of it can be tough, especially for first-time moms. Many-a-time you may not even know if what you’re experiencing is normal or something you should be concerned about. Mastitis is one such example.

This article covers everything you need to know about mastitis and breastfeeding– what is it, why does it occur, its symptoms and treatment options.

What Is Mastitis?

Mastitis in nursing mothers occurs due to inflammation of breast tissues. The inflammation can lead to bacterial infection and affect your breast adversely. Having mastitis is extremely miserable. Usually, mastitis affects just one breast but it can also occur in both the breasts at a time. It mostly occurs in the first three months after you deliver the baby. Every 1 in 10 breastfeeding mothers tends to suffer from mastitis. Also, you can suffer from the inflammation more than once (1). It has also been found that women suffering from cancer or AIDS or conditions that impair the immune system are more likely to be affected by mastitis as opposed to healthy women.


Why Does It Occur?

Just like other infections, mastitis occurs when a specific bacteria enters the body. Usually, mastitis occurs when bacteria that are usually found on the skin, enter the nipple through small cracks. These bacteria then replicate in the breast tissues in the areas nearby the milk ducts and cause inflammation, pain, swelling and tenderness. In case of severe infection, the milk glands may also get blocked.

Mastitis is usually caused by the bacteria staphylococcus aureus. It is estimated that 1-3% of breastfeeding women develop this infectious condition. (2)

Other Prominent Causes Of Mastitis In Nursing Mothers:

Mastitis occurs due to milk buildup in the breast because of the faster production of milk than its removal i.e. milk stasis. Milk stasis occurs when the baby does take enough milk from your breast when you latch her improperly to your breast. Some of the prominent causes of mastitis are as follow.

  • Engorgement i.e. oversaturation of milk in your breast. Mastitis occurs when engorgement fails to return to normal.
  • An injury to the breast
  • Pressure on your breast due to your tight-fitting clothes, seat belt, or sleeping position.
  • Following a strict feeding routine that develops long gaps between feeds.
  • Babies are feeding on a bottle most of the times.
  • Babies with tongue-tie (3)

[ Read: How To Treat A Plugged Milk Duct ]

Symptoms of Mastitis While Breastfeeding:

How to identify that you are suffering from mastitis while breastfeeding? Find below some common symptoms of mastitis in nursing moms.

  • Engorgement of the breast
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Sores
  • Pus draining from the nipple
  • Body ache
  • Cracked nipples
  • Headache
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Tenderness and swelling of the breast
  • Non cancerous tumors beneath the breast
  • Persistent symptoms
  • Hardening of the feel of lump due to milk buildup
  • Body temperature is greater than 38.5 degrees Celsius (4)

[ Read: How To Ease Sore Breasts During breastfeeding ]

Will It Harm My Baby?

Mastitis can, in no way, cause harm to your baby. The swelling and tenderness of the breast may make it uncomfortable for you, but that’s the only downside when it comes to this infectious condition. It is also perfectly safe to feed your baby from a breast affected by mastitis- even if your baby does swallow the bacteria, they will get killed by the acid in her stomach.

How To Treat Mastitis While Breastfeeding?

The best way to tackle mastitis is to continue breastfeeding your baby. It may be a bit painful to feed your baby from a tender, swollen breast, but in turn, it ensures that the milk ducts do not get blocked, and will also relieve the engorgement.

If you follow the right line of treatment as soon as you learn you are suffering from mastitis, you can minimize the symptoms and effects of mastitis. Find below some effective treatments for mastitis in nursing moms.

1. Feed Baby From Mastitis Affected Breast:

Keep breastfeeding your baby from the affected breast, even if you experience great pain. If you stop feeding your baby from the affected breast, it worsens the condition. If continuing to feed your baby from the affected breast is making no difference, better see your doctor as soon as possible (5).

2. Latch On Your Baby Properly:

When feeding your baby, latch your baby appropriately on your breast. You can also attempt different positions when breastfeeding to ensure that your baby latches on better.

3. Breastfeed Your Baby Often:

Breastfeeding your baby as often as your baby needs can help reduce mastitis effectively. Offer you baby 8 to 12 breastfeeds every day. Also, express milk with your hand or a pump after feeding, if your baby didn’t have enough milk, to treat your sore nipples.

4. Massage Your Breasts:

While your baby is breastfeeding, massage your breasts gently to help the milk to flow. Stroke the lumpy area of your breast gently. Avoid vigorous massage as it can only make the condition worse.

5. Have Medications And Fluids:

Drink plenty of fluids and rest a lot to treat mastitis effectively. Consult your doctor and have prescribed painkillers. Ibuprofen and paracetamol can help minimize the pain and inflammation substantially. Also, use a warm or cold compress to relieve pain and soreness. Avoid wearing tight-fitting clothes or sleeping in a position that puts pressure on your breasts (6).

[ Read: Is It Safe To Wear A Bra While Breastfeeding ]

Did you suffer from mastitis when breastfeeding your dear little one? What did you do to treat it? Share your experience with other breastfeeding moms. Leave a comment below.

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