Welcome to our mini-guide to dealing with mastitis. If you are suffering or have suffered in the past you will know how painful it can be, We hope our tips can help you deal with the symptoms and try to avoid it happening again.
This is meant for information only therefore if you have any concerns please see your GP or midwife.
What is Mastitis?
Mastitis may happen to any woman however is most commoly seen in breastfeeding mothers. Mastitis is a condition through which the breast tissue becomes inflamed which can be quite painful. In fact it can be down right excruciating !
Symptoms include nipple discharge which may be white or blood-streaked, abreast lump or hard area on the breast, a burning pain which might occur only when breastfeeding or be continuous and a swollen, often red area on the breast which is painful to touch.
Why Do I Have It?
Mastitis may happen to anyone, with one in ten women being affected.
It is caused quite often by a build-up of milk in the breast which may occur if women feed infrequently or miss feeds, if the baby isn’t latching on properly during breastfeeding or if the baby has problems with sucking. For some women the build up may become infeced by bacteria which needs to be treated by antibiotics.
How to Cope
Mastitis is usually very easy to treat and recovery quick. See your GP if you believe you do have mastitis and use self-help measures such as:
- Staying hydrated.
- Resting when you can.
- Use ibruprofen or paracetamol to reduce pain and bring any fever down.
- Wear looser fitting clothing, especially a bra (avoiding tight bra with alleviate the pain) until the mastitis has passed / cleared up.
- Continue to breastfeed as before, and express between times which will help. Breastfeeding with mastitis will not harm your baby, in fact it may help boost their immune system somewhat and will ease your symptoms.
- Ensure that baby is properly latched on.
Don’t struggle on hoping it will get better, get some help and don’t be fobbed off with the “put a cabbage leaf in your bra” when what you really need is antibiotics !
To reduce the risk of mastitis it is important to look at the underlying causes of the condition, namely the build up of milk in the breast.
NHS guidance for preventing mastitis suggests:
- breastfeeding exclusively for six months if you feel this is possible
- Encourage frequent feeds (especially when the breasts are full/feel over-full)
- Let baby finish the feed rather than you taken them off the breast they will let go when they are done
- Ensure your baby is well attached during feedig. This isn’t the easiest technique to master however there is a lot of help, advice and support on offer.
- Cut down feeds gradually rather than sudddenly
- Avoid tight clothing, especially the bra (nursing bras should be supportive not restrictive)