If you've been unlucky enough to have mastitis, then the mere mention of the word probably brings up bad memories!
WHAT IS IT?...
Mastitis refers to inflammation of the breast tissue, and most commonly occurs in women during the first 6 weeks after having their baby or when they start to wean their baby off the breast...but it can occur at any time during lactation. The inflammation can go on to develop an infection or in severe cases (uncommon) a breast abscess.
WHAT CAUSES IT?
Some of the causes of mastitis include engorged breasts, blocked milk ducts, poorly/tight fitting bra, poor attachment, and rapid weaning. It is important to consider appropriate breast care in pregnancy too, so that the delicate breast tissue is protected. Have a maternity bra fitting and definitely avoid underwire.
HOW DO I KNOW I MIGHT HAVE IT?
The signs and symptoms of mastitis can develop very quickly. Often women may become aware of:
tenderness in the breast tissue,
a very tender lump,
redness over a segment of the breast,
and flu-like symptoms (temperature, aches & pains, headache etc.).
WHAT SHOULD YOU DO?
To try and prevent mastitis ensure that you feed regularly, offer both breasts and check that your breasts are soft after feed (have drained well). If not, you may need to gently express some milk. Ensure your maternity bra is appropriately fitted and if breastfeeding is painful or deforms your nipple or doesn't seem to be happening effectively then seek help from a lactation consultant. Also ensure that weaning is done gradually.
If you start to experience some of the signs & symptoms of mastitis then continue to breastfeed if possible (babies are the most effective at helping to drain the breast). Offer the affected breast first. Before the feed you may like to add some warmth (heat bag, warm face washer) to try and assist the flow of milk.
Cool face washers may be helpful for pain relief and inflammation between feeds.
Very gentle massage towards the armpit may help with clearing inflammation, and very gentle massage over a blocked milk duct can assist in clearing the blockage - it is important that you don't press too firmly because this can damage the delicate milk ducts.
Some physiotherapists can also offer ultrasound for the treatment of mastitis, which may be helpful.
From experience mastitis is horrible, so don't let things go on too long without seeking medical advice. Infective mastitis can be treated with antibiotics, and panadol/ibuprofen can be taken to assist with pain relief and inflammation.
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