Mastitis is a breast infection. The infection is caused when our breast milk is not readily removed from our breasts.
Common causes of breast infections are having an untreated cracked nipple, plugged duct, or engorgement, or changing baby’s nursing schedule-like suddenly sleeping for longer stretches through the night!
Breast infections make us mommies suddenly feel tired and flu-like with a fever, chills, headache and sometimes even muscle aches. The infected area of the breast may be tender and warm to the touch and have reddish streaks.
** Most importantly, keep breastfeeding. Breastfeed A LOT! Pump extra if you can. Your breastmilk is still the safest and healthiest food for your baby. Nursing and pumping often can help fight the infection by removing milk and clearing any plugged ducts.
**Visit your doctor. If the infection has gotten bad enough, they may prescribe something. Take the entire dose of antibiotics is prescribed even if you begin to feel better.
**Get some rest. Sleep when your baby is sleeping or get some help with the kids. Mommies with infections need to get better! (Don’t try to be super-mom!)
** Eat well and drink more fluids to help you fight off the breast infection. It will help hydrate you, keep your milk supply up and help your body heal.
** Try alternating warm compresses and cold packs on the infected area. Warm compresses (warm, damp cloth) soothe the pain. Cold pacts (a bag of ice wrapped in a towel) relieve any swelling.
Just realize that it is important to treat a breast infection right away. If the infection is not treated, it could develop into an abscess (infected area filled with pus). An abscess is painful and will need to be lanced (pierced open to drain the pus). That is not pleasant—so don’t let it get out of hand!
There are many people (like me!) who want to help you comfortably and safely continue to breastfeed. Don’t let plugged ducts or mastitis scare you away from breastfeeding; many moms breastfeed without ever getting either one.
However, if you think you have a plugged duct or a breast infection, don’t hesitate to seek help by calling your doctor, lactation consultant, or La Leche League Leader.
You can and will get through it.
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