Mastitis: What is it? And what to do if you are showing symptoms.
*The following information is gathered from education, real-life experience, and patient stories. This information can help mothers of all ages. We can recommend and give you options, but everyone’s body is different. Please consult with your physician.
Ouch! Deep breathe. This is not the time to pump the breaks but to SLAM on the brakes and take time to care for YOU. No one tells you how bad it hurts. It’s mastitis, right? It’s okay to take time to help yourself, and the community of moms surrounding you are here for you too.
Once you have experienced developing mastitis, for most breastfeeding women, you’ll want to do anything to avoid this pain.
But what is Mastitis?
Mastitis occurs when breast tissue becomes inflamed from a clogged milk duct or an infection. It usually presents in one breast at a time. You might see redness and swelling or feel a knot within the tissue that is tender to the touch. Some mothers feel like they are coming down with the flu, experiencing body aches and chills.
Mayo Clinic Definition: Mastitis is an inflammation of breast tissue that sometimes involves an infection. The inflammation results in breast pain, swelling, warmth, and redness. You might also have a fever and chills. Mastitis most commonly affects women who are breastfeeding (lactation mastitis).
If you suspect that you are showing symptoms of mastitis, you can still breastfeed or pump, although it may be more painful than usual. The first three months of breastfeeding or pumping are crucial when you want to regulate your milk supply. If your baby is not close by for you to breastfeed when you are feeling engorged, you may consider pumping or hand expressing (after washing your hands.) Stagnant milk sitting in the milk ducts can increase your chances of mastitis.
Keep in mind that if your breast milk supply decreases and you suspect mastitis is present, keep breastfeeding or pumping through the pain. This keeps the signal in your brain going, telling your body to create more milk. You can do this! Your supply usually returns after the clog has moved and the infection is gone. Expect your symptoms to subside within five to 7 days once treatment is started through consulting with your physician.
If your mastitis is not addressed, it can become a breast abscess. As one mother accounts in an Instagram post that went viral;
“I remember waking up at 3 am shivering, putting on my dressing gown and extra blankets, and trying to feed my son. The pain. It was excruciating. I was shaking and sweating but freezing to my bones. At 5 am I woke up my boyfriend and told him I thought I needed to go to the hospital. We got my stepdad, a doctor, he took my temperature and said it was slightly high, but to take a paracetamol and try and sleep. 7 am comes, I’ve had no sleep, and now I’m vomiting, he takes my temp again. 40 c. I had developed sepsis overnight. This was because I was not able to recognize the more subtle signs of mastitis (as I had seen no redness that day),”.
A breast abscess will have to be drained and may require IV antibiotics within a hospital setting. That is why I urge you not to wait!
Mastitis Home Treatments and Recommendations
After having gone through this experience, I’ve put together a few recommendations below on how to treat mastitis that may help you if you suspect you are showing mastitis symptoms:
- Rest when you can.
- Drink water and stay hydrated.
- Take over the counter NSAID (Ibuprofen)
- Hexane-free Castor Oil-soaked flannel laid on your problem breast with a warm compress on top for 30 minutes twice daily. (Corn bags you heat up in the microwave are lovely.)
- Massage breast in a circular motion in the shower.
- DO NOT wait too late to see your doctor. Call them ASAP. Antibiotics can help clear your infection. We recommend taking a probiotic while on antibiotics.
- When breastfeeding, start baby on the side with mastitis as their suction will be strongest to help pull the clog out.
- If pumping, continue your pumping schedule as usual, even if your supply dips temporarily.
This post was created to help moms. NextGenRX has many doctors and lactation consultants we recommend for more help and information.
Please don’t hesitate to ask. We are here for you. You are not alone. You can do this!
Please take advantage of our new Tulsa location’s drive-through. Stay in the car, and tell us how we can help. Call ahead, and we can pull the items that you need. Just let us know an estimate of your arrival time.
With love and personal experience,
Linsey L. BSN, RN – Lead Nurse Educator