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  • Tiarne Blight

Mastitis - What it is, ways to help treat and prevent it


Have you experienced Mastitis? If you have, or you are currently, you are most likely thinking ‘What can I do to get rid of it? I’ll try anything!”


Well if this is you, and you’re just looking for answers, then skip down to the “Treatment of Mastitis” section.


What is Mastitis?


If you aren’t sure what mastitis is, then this section is for you to begin with!

Mastitis is usually the result of a blocked milk duct that hasn’t cleared in the breast. The milk that banks up behind the blocked duct can be forced into nearby breast tissue, which causes inflammation in the tissue. Infection may or may not be present at this stage, but this inflammation is called Mastitis. Other causes may be a poor attachment to the breast, nipple damage, a long break between breastfeeds, overly tight bra, a baby with a tongue-tie or having breasts that are too full. Roughly 1 in 5 breastfeeding women develop mastitis in Australia during the first 6 months after giving birth, so it’s definitely not just you!


Symptoms


Having mastitis will make you feel quite ill. Some women get early symptoms which can include flu like symptoms (shivers, aches). Others say that they get mastitis out of nowhere - bodies truly are different & react in such different ways!


When you get a blocked duct, your breast will feel very sore. Mastitis is similar, but feels a lot worse. Usually your affected breast will be red and swollen, they may have red streaks and will feel hot and painful. If you aren’t sure if it’s mastitis, a trip to your GP to find out is a good idea.


Treatment of Mastitis


It’s important to start treatment at the first sign of mastitis. An important thing to remember is that your breast milk is still completely safe for your baby even if you have mastitis - so continue breastfeeding or expressing! Draining your affected breast often is one of the best things you can do. Feed more often than usual on the affected breast if you can, and try make sure it is being drained well. However, make sure the other breast doesn’t get too full. Something you could try is having Bub feed on the affected breast for two feeds, then switch to the other breast.


Some helpful tips to ensure the breast is draining easily:

  • Ensure Bub is positioned well on the breast and that they have a good latch

  • Wear loose bra (or take it off for periods of time when you can)

  • Hand express your affected breast to ‘empty’ if your baby won’t suck (milk may taste salty if you have mastitis, which won’t harm bub, but they may not want the breast as much because of this)

  • Listen to soothing music, and try to relax while you feed to help milk flow

  • Change feeding positions (may help to clear blockage)

  • Gently massage breast by stroking toward the nipple while bub feeds


Something to help with relieving pain and reducing the swelling is using a cold pack on the affected breast, and using a warm pack just before a feed (only for a few minutes). The warmth can help with the let-down, which could help with clearing the blockage.


This trick has been said to work well by many mummas! Fill a haakaa (silicone breast pump) with warm water and epsom salt, and use this to drain out the blocked duct.

Drink plenty of water and fluids! Rest as much as you can and eat nutritious foods.

If you are not feeling any better after a couple of hours, then you should seek medical help.

Your GP will also give you tips and tricks on what to do to help, and will often prescribe some antibiotics. Check with your GP about breastfeeding whilst on antibiotics - it is usually fine, but always best to check! If taking antibiotics to treat the viral symptoms, it's important to know that you will still need to clear the blocked duct. Also the other way around! So if you clear the duct you’ll need to keep a watch out for viral symptoms, meaning the mastitis hasn’t healed yet. Your GP or Lactation Consultant will fill you in on these things.

Paracetamol or ibuprofen are safe to take also to relieve pain, however it is always best to ask your GP.


Prevention


There are many things you can ensure you are doing to prevent getting mastitis, these include:

  • Ensuring Bub is latching well to your breasts and feeding well

  • See a lactation consultant if you want to be sure your baby is latching well

  • Breastfeed as often as your baby wants to feed (8 to 12 times within a 24 hour time frame is normal for a new baby)

  • Avoid missing or putting off feeds

  • Avoid putting pressure on your breasts (eg. clothing)

  • If one of your breasts becomes quite full and its uncomfortable, wake your baby for a feed. If they’re not interested in a feed, it may be a good idea to hand express a small amount to make yourself feel more comfortable

  • Avoid giving Bub any other fluids (unless medically advised)


So keep emptying your breasts by either breastfeeding or hand expressing! Thats the best thing you can be doing.


Looking forward to writing more blogs soon


Tiarne x


Information from:

The women’s, the royal women’s hospital, accessed 14th September 2021,

https://www.thewomens.org.au/health-information/breastfeeding/breastfeeding-problems/mastitis

Australian Breastfeeding Association 2021, accessed 14th September 2021,

https://www.breastfeeding.asn.au/bf-info/common-concerns%E2%80%93mum/mastitis

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