Mastitis – Transcript

Mastitis is an inflammation of the breast and it doesn’t always lead to infection. This means that antibiotics may not be necessary. It usually occurs in the first few weeks after birth, but it can occur at any time. Sometimes it just comes on so abruptly out of the blue. It can certainly take a lot of breastfeeding mums by surprise.

So what should you expect if you have mastitis? First of all one breast is usually only affected, and you’re likely to see a red patch, could be swollen, there might be a painful area. You may feel as if you have flu coming on – symptoms of flu, and feeling generally run down too.Woman holding her breast because of pain

In some situations your whole breast might even be lumpy and aching.

So you may wonder why this mastitis has occurred? One of the most common reasons for this is that at some point you became uncomfortably full. Maybe your baby wasn’t feeding for a while. You became a little bit engorged, which is a general congestion going on, and a blocked duct can occur in that situation. Blocked ducts, untreated, can lead to mastitis.

So it’s really important, certainly as a preventative measure for mastitis, to use hand expression as a means of relieving any engorgement the minute that you start to feel uncomfortably full -because it’s at that point, when there is a general congestion going on, milk is hanging around, going nowhere, and needs to come off your breast to make you feel comfortable again. This will prevent a blocked duct in the first place. Have a look at the video specifically related to engorgement.

One of the most common reasons for getting engorged in the first place, is if your baby is not latched on effectively (comfortable feeding).So really important that your baby latches on well, gets a good mouthful of breast tissue, and drains the breast as thoroughly as possible.

There can certainly be other reasons why mastitis occurs. It might be something as simple as a bra that’s too tight or even clothing that’s cutting into the breast tissue. I have known a lady who got mastitis because of a shoulder bag that she was using very very frequently, and that was cutting into her breasts as she was walking along.

It’s also possible that trying to cut down on feeding at the breast, or even cutting it out abruptly, so a sudden weaning can actually cause mastitis. So it’s always best to be as kind to your body as possible and do these things gradually so that your body can make less and less milk over a period of time.

You might also find that if you’ve started to pump your milk along side breastfeeding, it’s very easy then for the supply and demand to get a little bit out of kilter. Engorgement can certainly happen in that situation. I always encourage breastfeeding moms to learn how to hand express, and to always hand express to comfort, whenever they feel uncomfortably full, if the baby isn’t feeding at that point, or they’re not expressing.

As babies get a little bit older and they start to go through the teething phase, before a tooth actually comes through, many of these babies start to come to the breast more often. There can be changing patterns (normal patterns) for various other reasons as well, like growth spurts, and all of these changing patterns can cause supply and demand once again to be disrupted, and engorgement to happen which can lead to mastitis too.

It’s also possible to get mastitis and blocked ducts if you’ve had breast reduction surgery, or augmentation surgery (implants)

So if you feel from this video that you do indeed have mastitis, what are the self-help measures that you can do? First of all, lots of feeding – give yourself and your baby time and opportunity to do loads of feeding, resting together. Look after yourself as well in the process – but lots of feeding is paramount!Newborn breastfeeding

Other important measures that you can take are to use warmth from a shower or a bath, warm compresses on your breast before feeding, coupled with massages. All of that together will be a really powerful combination to get rid of this mastitis. Because mastitis is an inflammation of the breast you can also take an anti-inflammatory like Ibuprofen 400 milligram dose. (medications)That’s a really powerful and research based treatment too. Please bear in mind if you have a history of asthma or stomach ulcers or you’re allergic to aspirin then you wont be able to take Ibuprofen.

You can also take paracetamol – and paracetamol and Ibuprofen generally can be taken together – for paracetamol, 500 milligram tablets every four hours is also fine.

So if you’ve been using these self-help measures for a good 24 hours and you’re not feeling that there’s any improvement and in fact if you’ve noticed that you have a temperature of 38.4 degrees or above, this means that you’ve actually got a fever now – and a fever does suggest that you have an infection on top of the inflammation. In this situation you WOULD need antibiotics.

Please be assured that most antibiotics are actually compatible with breastfeeding. The World Health Organisation has recommended Flucloxacillin specifically 500 mg dosages four times a day, for the treatment of mastitis. There’s also Erythromycin 500 milligrams four times a day. And anyone who is allergic to penicillin can take Cefalexin 500 milligrams four times a day. And although these antibiotics are compatible with breastfeeding, sometimes babies poos can be a little loose when you are taking antibiotics – but that’s not something to worry about.

Some health providers encourage women to take probiotic capsules if they’re given antibiotics. This is because sometimes a thrush infection can develop, because antibiotics, although they’re going to do what they need to do to relieve you of the mastitis, they can also knock off some of your good bacteria. This can cause things like THRUSH, which is a fungal infection, to flourish.

I understand that if you’re in the middle of experiencing mastitis, you are likely to be feeling really ill, and maybe even psychologically down at the moment because of the situation, but know that it is a temporary hurdle and very soon you’ll be able to comfortably feed your baby again.

Review dates, references & further resources

Review Dates

Version 1.1 published in March 2019. Next review date: Jan 2022


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