Mastitis is a breast infection you get while breastfeeding. It is not uncommon. Breast infections (also known as mastitis) are most common in the period up to six weeks after birth, but they can happen as long as you are nursing.
Symptoms of mastitis may include:
- high fever
- warmth to the touch
Mastitis is usually caused by bacteria that normally live on the surface of the breast, and may be complicated by a clogged milk duct. Organisms responsible for postpartum mastitis include staphylococcus species (eg Staph aureus).
Treatments for mastitis
In many cases, mastitis is quite painful and can be accompanied by flu-like symptoms. They are nothing to take lightly! Here are some suggestions for speeding your recovery:
- Have your doctor examine you and get a culture of the breast milk to find out which bacteria are involved. This will help your doctor choose the right antibiotic.
- Wash your hands thoroughly before and after you touch your breasts. It is very easy to go from a diaper change into nursing, but you must be very careful to wash your hands completely in-between. Get lots of rest. Don't wait until you are forced to go to bed! Start immediately.
- Drink at least eight glasses of water a day. The kidneys are an incredible filter and help to clean the infection out of your system.
- Place moist hot packs on your breasts. This stimulates blood flow to the infected area, which is another way the body has of healing itself.
- Nurse from the infected breast first. You should do this because often the second breast is not fully emptied. Emptying the breast helps speed recovery by keeping fresh milk flowing through the breast. If you do not feel like the breast is empty, pump after each feeding.
- Wear a good nursing bra that fits properly. It should offer support without restricting circulation.
- Transient breast lumps are often present during breast infections. If a lump persists, don't take it lightly! Breast cancer is not common in nursing women, but when present it is commonly missed.
- Get proper nutrition and continue taking prenatal vitamins. Your overall health is essential in the healing process.
Treatment of mastitis is usually with antibiotics and breastfeeding can continue while antibiotics are given. One major complication of mastitis is a breast abscess which may require surgical treatment.
No matter how many precautions you take, you may get another breast infection. The key to minimizing its effect is to treat early and aggressively! In other words, take good care of yourself. You are very important to your baby!