M is for Mastitis

During your breastfeeding journey you are almost guaranteed to have some engorgement—at a minimum when your milk comes in—another breastfeeding related ailment you may or may not face is mastitis.  Mastitis is an inflammation of tissue in your breast and may also include an infection.  The inflammation can cause tenderness or pain, swelling, redness, and warmth whether or not an infection is also present.  Many women say that having mastitis can feel like you have the flu, they say they feel completely run down with all over body tenderness.  Mastitis is most commonly associated with breastfeeding, but it can also occur in men and women who have not breastfed.


If you notice a breast lump or clogged duct you’ll want to follow recommendations for relieving the clog as it can turn into mastitis if not treated.  If you have mastitis you may feel burning or pain while breastfeeding and it can continue even when you are not nursing.  Another common sign of mastitis is a fever of 101°F or higher.  If you have the signs and symptoms of mastitis you will want to see your doctor right away so that you can receive medicine to treat it.  In the meantime, DO NOT STOP NURSING!  Continuing to nurse can prevent your mastitis from worsening or adding engorgement complications to the problem.  The texture and/or taste of your milk may change causing your baby to resist nursing; although this milk is still safe to drink you may need to pump instead if your baby is refusing to nurse.

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Having previously had mastitis can increase you risk of having it again, as can cracked nipples, tight bras, exhaustion, poor nutrition, and smoking.  If you have symptoms of mastitis always see a doctor as untreated mastitis can result in a painful abscess in your breast that will typically need to be drained surgically.  Mastitis is typically treated with antibiotics, such as cephalexin (Keflex) and dicloxacillin (Dycill), and over-the-counter pain relievers.  If you have mastitis you will want to nurse often and rest as much as possible.  If you have a lump with your mastitis, alternate between having your baby’s chin and nose pointing towards the lump to help ensure they are pulling most effectively from the clogged duct.

The best way to avoid mastitis is to meet with a lactation consultant to insure you have a proper latch which will make breastfeeding more successful.  A lactation consultant can also help you learn different positions.  Make sure your baby fully empties your first breast before switching to the other, completely emptying your breast(s) when nursing can prevent clogs and engorgement and therefore decrease your risks for mastitis.

Have you experienced mastitis?  What treatment did your doctor recommend?

Next I will be blogging on N… N is for Night Sweats.