Monday, December 9, 2013

Mastitis & How to Treat It

To new moms, the whispered horror stories of mastitis can sound threatening and be intimidating. While 20% of nursing moms get mastitis at some point, the risk should never scare anyone away from breastfeeding. Knowing what to look for – and how to treat the symptoms – will help prepare you to continue breastfeeding if you hit this minor roadblock.

How do I know I have mastitis?

The symptoms of mastitis can appear quickly, and typically affect just one breast at a time. It's most common in the first two to three weeks of breastfeeding. Watch for:
  • Hard lump that feels very tender, hot, swollen, or looks reddened
  • Painful to nurse on affected side, particularly during let down
  • Red streaks that extend out from the affected area (if you notice this, call your doctor)
  • Fever of 101.3°F or greater
  • Fever-like symptoms, chills, and body aches  
Can you continue breastfeeding if you have mastitis?

YES! In fact, continued and frequent breastfeeding is very important to your quick recovery.
General Guidelines:
  • Don’t wear an underwire bra as this can block milk channels and reduce milk flow.
  • Nurse frequently, at least every two hours, and drain your breasts thoroughly. 
  • Keep the affected breast as drained as possible, but don’t neglect the other breast.
  • When unable to breastfeed, express milk frequently and thoroughly with a pump or by hand expression.
Before Your Breastfeed:
  • Try a hot shower as this will release some of the milk with let-down.     
  • Use a warm compress.
  • Loosen your bra and remove other constrictive clothing to aid milk flow.
While Breastfeeding:
  • Nurse on the affected breast first. If this is too painful, start on the unaffected breast and switch to the affected breast immediately after let-down.
  • Ensure good positioning and latch. Use whatever positioning is most comfortable and/or allows the baby to drain the milk from your breast     
  • Use breast compressions. This is the practice of gently squeezing the breast between the thumb and fingers while baby nurses, which will help you express more milk in one feeding. Massage gently but firmly while the baby nurses to aid with milk flow.
After Breastfeeding:
  • Pump or hand express. When the baby is done feeding, this will aid in the draining of more milk and help you heal faster.
  • Use cold compresses. This will help you manage pain and reduce inflammation.
If you are experiencing any of the following, call your doctor immediately about starting antibiotics:
  • Symptoms are sudden and severe.
  • Your temperature increases suddenly.
  • Mastitis is in both breasts.
  • Your baby is less than two weeks old. 
  • You have recently been in the hospital.
  • You have broken skin on the nipple with obvious signs of infection.
  • Blood or pus is present in milk.


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