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Mastitis is an inflammation of the breast, oftenwith infection, and is the result of not treating aplugged milk duct. If a plugged duct is treatedby applying heat, feeding frequently and resting,it is less likely to progress to mastitis.
Prompt attention to early signs of a plugged duct can help avoidmastitis. Symptoms can be a red patch or a sore lump on thebreast, which may be hot. Adequate rest, good nutrition andhygiene are very important at this time.
• develop a sore, hard lump in your breast
• feel unusual warmth in an area of your breast
• notice redness and soreness in this area
• experience general lumpiness after feeding
• feed your baby often on both sides, every 2-3 hours (including
However, if after 8-24 hours of these self-help measures, there is no
during the night), draining the affected breast, and expressing
after a feed. This will improve the flow of blood to the area and
the milk flow will help to clear infection.
• discover pus or blood in your breastmilk
• try to get more rest (sleep when your baby sleeps). A study has
shown that stress and tiredness are two of the most frequent
concerns preceding a bout of mastitis.
• apply wet or dry heat to the affected area. This could be in the
form of a hot water bottle, a warm compress, or a bath or shower.
You could try soaking the sore breast in a bowl of warm water for
then it can be a good idea to visit your doctor. Antibiotics
ten minutes several times a day, as this wil help you to feel more
compatible with breastfeeding may be suggested if your
relaxed and also remove dried milk which may be causing a
temperature is over 38.4ºC and you have a reddened, painful,
blockage. However, some mothers find relief by cooling the breast.
swollen area of the breast, or if you are have aches, chills ora feeling of general malaise. You may also experience nausea
• massage from the chest wall to the nipple over the sore area
A course of 10-14 days of antibiotics has been shown to be the
• feed with your baby’s nose or chin pointing towards the
most effective, and the expression of milk from the affected side
after feeding can shorten the duration of the symptoms. As with
• avoid wearing constricting clothing – you may find it easier not
any course of antibiotics, it is important to finish the whole course.
If mastitis re-occurs, or there is no improvement after two days of
The measures above will often help the symptoms to subside.
antibiotics, some doctors take a culture of the mother’s milk and
Changing feeding positions, and feeding on all fours during a bout
of the baby’s throat to identify the bacteria so an appropriate
of mastitis can also help clear a blockage, as this will allow your
baby to drain all areas of the breast. Some healthcare providersalso suggest taking a pain reliever such as ibuprofen.
• the milk is not effectively removed from the breast.
• less than three weeks from birth have elapsed
• the mother is experiencing engorgement or sore nipples
• the baby is not attached well at the breast
• the mother has an over-abundant milk supply
• other members of the family have a cold or flu
Effective milk removal is most important, and from birth early,frequent and unrestricted breastfeeding help to achieve this.
Paying special attention to positioning and attachment is vital.
Early bottles and dummies are discouraged as these createdifferent sucking patterns in the baby.
It is important to continue breastfeeding, so as to avoid the possibility
of developing a breast abscess. Breastfeeding at this time wil not be
harmful to your baby, as your milk contains antibodies that protect himfrom infection.
• over-use of dummies or giving top up bottles to supplement
A breast abscess – a very painful, localised col ection of pus – isunusual, but does need to be treated immediately. Ultrasound is often
effective to diagnose this, and aspiration can resolve smal abscesses.
• an older baby beginning to sleep through the night, resulting in
A breast lump that does not disappear after seven days of
treatment for a plugged duct would benefit from a visit to a doctor.
• consistent pressure on the breast. Bras should be properly fitted
Most persistent breast lumps are benign tumours or milk cysts,
so that no breast tissue is pinched or constricted. Avoid seat
which do not need to interrupt breastfeeding. Breastfeeding reduces
belts that are too tight, and heavy shoulder bags.
the risk of breast cancer, which is rare in lactating women.
• holding the breast too tightly while feeding
Mastitis usual y only affects one breast. It is often recommended that
mothers feed from the affected breast first. Your breastmilk may taste
• your resistance to infection will be lowered if you are anemic,
saltier and some babies are reluctant to nurse on the affected breast.
Mothers often try different positions to encourage their baby to acceptthe breast. If a baby is stil reluctant many mothers express milk, which
• sore nipples: a study has shown that a mother is more susceptible
maintains the milk supply until the salty taste is lost, usual y within a
to mastitis if she has experienced sore nipples, and so it is
week, when the baby should be happily nursing again.
important to pay special attention to positioning and attachment.
Cracked nipples can provide an entry point for infection.
• returning to work, and therefore feeding your baby less often
• unusually busy times, such as Christmas, when feeds may be
National Childbirth Trust (NCT) Breastfeeding Line: 0870 444 8708
In recurrent cases of mastitis, it may help to eliminate saturated
fats from your diet, and add a lecithin supplement. An increase invitamin C in the diet is sometimes recommended. Always consult
This information is available to download as a pdf from:
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