Ah, good old mastitis. It’s every mom’s nightmare.
Mastitis, or inflammation of the breast, is, unfortunately (read: annoyingly), familiar for many mamas. While there are things you can do to prevent it, it can strike anyone who is breastfeeding, any time, and is likely to hit again if you’ve had it before. (What the f*ck.)
So how do you know if you’ve got mastitis, and what do you do if you think you’ve got it?
Susie Prout, a Registered Midwife and International Board Certified Lactation Consultant helped us with this handy guide.
A little (loving) prelude
Before we jump in, here’s an important reminder: getting mastitis is common AF.
It’s not a sign you’ve failed at breastfeeding. However, it is an indication that something needs to be addressed, most likely your baby’s latch or positioning while feeding, or the fit of the breast pump you’re using. A Lactation Consultant can help diagnose this.
Pumping mamas: Read our top tips for pumping here.
So, how to know if you’ve got mastitis
According to Susie, there are a few things to look out for:
Flu-like symptoms, such as fever, chills, and body aches
“This can often be the first thing you notice with mastitis,” said Susie. The Australian Breastfeeding Association also explains that these symptoms can come on quickly, and out of the blue.
Soreness, redness, swelling, and spots that are warm to touch
These symptoms, described Susie, can indicate the area on the breast where the infection is. (Yummy.)
Now, what to do if you think you’ve got mastitis (and how it’s treated)
If you suspect you’ve got mastitis, act fast. If untreated, mastitis can lead to a breast abscess, which is literally pus in your boob that is drained with a special needle. F*ck. That.
In terms of actions, Susie recommended seeing a Lactation Consultant or your doctor.
A Lactation Consultant can help identify what’s caused the mastitis. They can help with an individualized plan to navigate the mastitis and to ensure that your nipples are healed, to decrease the risk of it happening again, noted Susie. “You don’t need to struggle alone,” she said.
In some instances, Susie explained, your Lactation Consultant may refer you to your doctor to prescribe you antibiotics. While antibiotics are commonly prescribed to help resolve mastitis, Susie flagged that, in her experience, just taking them will not treat the infection. “You need to ensure that the blockage is also cleared so milk can flow freely,” she said.
So how does one clear a blocked duct?
Susie recommended you express after breastfeeds to empty the breast and try to dislodge the blocked duct. “If it’s too sore to breastfeed, then you will need to express with a good quality electric pump,” she continued.
Other strategies include:
- Get your little one drinking well from the boob that’s affected, and start feeds with said affected boob.
- Try a little hot/cold therapy – apply a warmed washcloth to the mastitis-boob before feeding, and then a cooled washcloth, chilled breast pad, or chilled cabbage leaf, for example, after feeding. The heat can help promote milk flow, and the cool can help with swelling.
- Massage the sore boob gently during feeding.
- Change up your baby’s feeding position.
Seems manageable, no?
A little (boob-a-licious) finale
Keep breastfeeding your baby (or pumping) if you’ve got mastitis. You’ve got to get that breast drained of milk, mama.
Yes, it’s a goddamn infection in your boob. But, it is safe and recommended that you continue to breastfeed or express while you have mastitis and are taking antibiotics, said Susie. “If you suddenly stop emptying the breast, the infection could become worse and could lead to a breast abscess,” she explained. (Continuing to feed or pump sounds way better than pus and a needle in the boob, IMHO.)
Susie also acknowledged that it’s common for your milk to change in taste when you’ve got mastitis, which might make your little one fussy when drinking. “It can have a salty taste, but this is normal and safe,” she concluded.
And there you have it: how to identify mastitis and what to do about it. You’ve got this, mama. You’re a mastitis-beating-bada*s.
Who here has had mastitis before? What helped you overcome it? Comment away. And remember, the information in this article doesn’t replace medical advice, so if you’re ever unsure or concerned, your doctor is the best person to ask.