Breastfeeding? What you can do if you suspect you have mastitis

Breastfeeding can be a wonderful experience for you and your baby. As nursing moms, we all know that breast is best – but what can we do when we are faced with a bout of mastitis?

Recognizing the problem

There are many warning signs and indicate that you may be coming down with mastitis.

1) An area on the breast becomes sore and red. The site of the clogged duct develops a very pronounced red spot which is extremely painful to the touch and holding or carrying your baby on this side may become unbearable. You may also see or feel a lump.

2) You may experience pain during nursing sessions. This may begin as a tingling sensation in the nipple. If there is no pain while the baby is nursing on that side, it does not mean that you don’t in fact have mastitis.

3) Development of flu-like symptoms. You may experience a fever along with chills and body aches. Exhaustion is another common side effect. Many women report not even being able to get out of bed.

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What to do if you suspect you have mastitis

At the first signs of developing mastitis:
1) Get into bed and rest! Even if you can just sit quietly for a few hours without doing anything such as housework or taking care of other children or family members, you’ll benefit.
2) Apply warm compresses to the site of the clogged duct. Take a hot shower or even lower your breast into a bowl or pot filled with warm water and soak for a few minutes, several times an hour.
3) Nurse, nurse, nurse! Try to nurse the baby on the side of the clogged duct as often and as long as possible to work out the clog. Massaging the breast while the baby suckles may also help.
4) Remedies such as echinachea and vitamin C can be taken. Antibiotics may be prescribed by a physician or midwife as well.

How to avoid mastitis

Mastitis starts out as a plugged duct and develops into an infection. In order to avoid your ducts becoming clogged in the first place, it is a good idea not to constrict your milk ducts with underwire bras or tight fitting clothing. It’s important to wear a supportive yet freeing nursing bra. Try not to sleep on your stomach as this may also lead to a plugged duct. Avoid supplementing with bottles because this may lead to an overproduction of breast milk. When a feeding is missed, breasts may become engorged and ducts can get plugged up. Breast compression or breast massage before latching is also a helpful tool to avoiding clogged ducts all together.

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