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Lactation and Bacterial Mastitis
Mastitis, or inflammation of the breast, is a common lactation related illness that may affect up to one in five nursing mothers. It may occur during the first few months after the birth of your baby. It is important to be aware of this illness, so as to optimize treatment and prevention.
How does mastitis occur?
Bacteria such as Staphylococcus and Streptococcus occur naturally within your baby’s mouth and on your own skin. These organisms may enter the breast tissue and cause breast tissue inflammation via cracked nipples or when milk does not fully drain from the breast.
What are the symptoms?
Mastitis usually begins with pain, redness, or warmth in one breast. It may be associated with symptoms of fever, red streaks on the breast, swelling or lumpy texture to the breast, or swollen lymph nodes under the armpit on the affected side.
Flu like symptoms of fatigue, malaise, and chills may also develop over several hours.
What increases my chances of getting mastitis?
Risk factors for mastitis include sore or cracked nipples, a prior history of mastitis, or use of only one position to nurse your baby.
Additional factors include long pauses between nursing/pumping, incomplete emptying of milk from the breast, or the use of a tight fitting bra.
When should I call my doctor?
Notify our office if you develop fever, chills, swollen glands under the armpit, painful, cracked nipples, or for pain, redness, or warmth of the breast. One of our providers will evaluate you for mastitis so that appropriate diagnosis and treatment may take place.
How is mastitis treated?
If our provider confirms the diagnosis of bacterial mastitis, appropriate antibiotics will be prescribed. You may also take acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Motrin) as you continue to nurse.
You are encouraged to continue nursing/pumping once you are diagnosed with mastitis.
To facilitate recovery, place a warm wet cloth over the affected area 15 minutes prior to nursing. This will keep the milk flowing from the affected breast.
Frequently empty both breasts and avoid skipping or delaying nursing/pumping for long periods of time.
Stay well hydrated.
Light breast massage and local heat are encouraged for mild cases of mastitis.
If nursing on the affected side causes severe pain, start nursing/pumping on the unaffected breast first. After the milk flows, try emptying the affected breast.
Cracked nipples may improve with topical moisturizers containing cocoa butter or lanolin and the use of a breast shield.
If your breast pain and redness is severe, local ice packs and avoiding massage may be necessary for relief.
Please contact one of our providers if you have any further concerns regarding mastitis or nursing.
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