Breastfeeding and mastitis
The main purpose of female breasts is to produce milk and nourishment for newborns. Breastfeeding can present many issues and concerns for moms, including pain, engorgement, pumping, going back to work, difficulty with latch and difficulty letting milk supply down. Lactation specialists are available to help moms with breastfeeding questions and concerns.
Mastitis is inflammation and infection of the breast. These conditions happen most often in the first six to eight weeks postpartum, but they can occur at any time during breastfeeding.
Symptoms of plugged ducts, mastitis
Plugged ducts and mastitis can be uncomfortable for breastfeeding mothers. Plugged duct symptoms progress gradually, and can include pain, a hard lump, a warm and painful localized spot or a wedge-shaped area of engorgement on the breast. Mastitis symptoms appear rapidly and include flu-like symptoms such as fever, chills, fatigue and body aches. The pain typically is more intense than a plugged duct, and the woman also may notice red streaking on her breasts.
Risk factors for plugged ducts, mastitis
Stress, fatigue, anemia and a weakened immune system are risk factors for plugged ducts and mastitis. Additional risk factors for plugged ducts include inadequate breast emptying and missed feedings.
Treatment for plugged ducts, mastitis
It is important to treat a plugged duct immediately and aggressively to prevent further progression, reduce pain and eliminate frustration.
- Increased fluids
- A well-balanced, healthy diet
- Heat applied to the breast before feeding to better empty the breast, which can be applied by filling a disposable diaper with warm water, squeezing out the excess water and placing it on the breast
- Fully emptying the breast during each feeding through frequent feeding, hand expression, or pumping or feeding in different positions
- Massage, emptying breasts often by hand expression, frequent feeding, and pumping and feeding in different positions to thoroughly empty breasts
- Therapeutic breast massage taught by a certified lactation consultant
Antibiotics may be prescribed if a woman has mastitis, is acutely ill and her symptoms are persisting or worsening. Breastfeeding and expressed breastmilk feeding are safe and recommended, even with antibiotic therapy.
It's safe to continue breastfeeding if you have mastitis or a plugged duct. Breastfeeding helps clear the infection or ductal system. Weaning your baby abruptly is likely to worsen your signs and symptoms.
Read a blog post about managing plugged ducts, mastitis when breastfeeding.