Breastfeeding is a lovely journey which gives you the chance to bond with your baby and provide nutrients in an incredible way. However, like anything related to the human body, problems may arise. One common issue is mastitis. Mastitis is an infection of the breast tissue caused by the following:
Incomplete emptying of the breast
Clogged milk ducts
Breast exposure to bacteria (especially with cracked/sore nipples)
Ill fitting/overly tight bras or tank tops
Stress, exhaustion, and lack of self care
Not everyone gets mastitis. It is most common in the first three to four months after baby is born, before your supply has fully regulated. But moms may find it returns during extended breastfeeding because toddlers don't always fully empty the breast. However, should you have the symptoms, it is important to follow the KellyMom mantra: “Heat, Massage, Rest, Empty Breast.”
Take a hot-as-you-can-handle-it shower, and place warm towels on your poor boobies.
Gently massage clogged ducts and painful sections with a circular motion to help break up blockage.
Take off work if you must, but allow your body rest for 24 hours, ignore the house, and concentrate on your boobs and your baby. If need be, alternate hot and cold packs for the pain.
Breastfeed often. Pump, Haaka, or hand express in between feedings, and do everything you can to empty your breasts.
If after 24 hours symptoms have not cleared, it is time to call the doctor. Mastitis is not an infection to let simmer; it may require antibiotics. Untreated mastitis has the potential to become life-threatening sepsis.
According to www.aafp.org, the most common prescriptions are Augmentin, Kephlex, Cipro, and Bactrim. Be sure to ask your provider about safety while nursing and if any recommendations (i.e. increased water intake, etc) accompany it. If you're an active mom, be aware that Cipro can have some side effects that will impact your ability tone active for a few weeks.
With the right tools and knowledge, even the complications are worth the beautiful journey breastfeeding is. Equip yourself and you will be successful!
Anne Vana is a nurse in Carbondale, IL. She is married to her best friend and is a mother to two precious boys.