What causes mastitis?
Mastitis is caused by a number of reasons:
- Plugged duct
- Tight bra or underwire bra
- Breast engorgement
- Change in feeding pattern
- Cracked nipple
- Abrupt weaning
- Artificial nipple use
- Returning to work (which causes infrequent feedings)
- Restrictive clothing
What are the symptoms of mastitis?
The onset of a sudden fever and flu like symptoms usually precede the feelings of breast tenderness. The breast will be red, hard, swollen and hot. It is usually the left breast that is affected, and the inflammation tends to occur in the upper outer corner.
How can you make it all better? Whatever you do, don't stop breastfeeding! Breastfeeding will help your infection get better faster. First, you'll want to get the engorgement down ASAP by expressing milk. A good way to ready your inflamed breast for expressing milk is to use a saline soak or a warm, wet compress applied to the breast area.
To give yourself a saline soak, put 1 teaspoon of salt for every cup of water in a large basin. Keep the water warm, and lower your breast into the basin. After the soak or compress, gently massage your breast. Now you're ready to express your milk.
Alternately, feed from the unaffected breast to help the let-down start, and then have your baby breastfeed.
Also, talk to you doctor. He may prescribe antibiotics for a two-week period.
As with any flu-like symptoms, be sure to get PLENTY of bed rest! Also keep those fluids going through your body. Watch your diet and drink at least eight glasses of water a day.
To comfort your pain, you can apply ice packs between feeds. A bag of peas is a good remedy as it's cold enough and will take to the form of your breast.
How Will it Affect my Baby?
Breast milk from an inflamed breast is perfectly safe for the baby, as the breast milk contains antibodies that protect your baby from diseases and infections.
Your infant may get fussy and refuse to drink milk from the inflamed breast. This is because your usually sweet breast milk has a salty taste due to your infection. If the breast is entirely refused, be sure to express it manually or with a breast pump.
Mastitis can get very serious if not treated promptly, becoming a breast abscess. In extreme cases, untended mastitis can lead to hospitalization to drain the breast via incision. An abscess is a pus-filled boil under the skin. The abscess will remain even after treatment of mastitis, signaling the need for drainage. It is therefore important to consult your doctor on mastitis or plugged ducts, so that you can prevent a more serious condition.
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