Mastitis.

Mastitis is an acute inflammation of the breast tissue, which occurs most commonly in breast feeding women. While inflammation is always present, there is not necessarily an infection – a bit like with a sprained ankle.

Mastitis can come on quite suddenly, giving a red, swollen and very tender area on one (or maybe both) breasts. Many women also report they feel “flu-like” symptoms, which is why many people associate it with infection. However, these symptoms are thought to be related to the body’s strong reaction to inflammation in such a sensitive, and important, area of the body.

Causes of Mastitis

Mastitis is common in the first 6 weeks of breast feeding, but may happen at other times too. Typically, there is some sort of disruption to regular feeding patterns, such as the baby sleeping longer than usual, or skipping a feed so mum can have a night off. Other causes include tight clothes or bras compressing the breast tissue or even breast pumps compressing the tissue.

These can all result in inadequate drainage of breast milk from some areas of the breast, and the backed-up milk can then leak into the surrounding tissue, triggering a rapid inflammatory response. Mastitis is not related to poor milk supply.

Treatment

There are a number of things you can do to help mastitis to resolve:

  • Rest is the single most important thing you can do to help your body recover. Get help for all your other tasks (cooking, cleaning) and allow your body to recover!
  • Keep feeding your baby. This will help drain the breast and maintain your milk supply. Feeding is a supply and demand activity – so if you stop, your supply will go down. However, you may need some help to find comfortable positions to feed, or check baby’s attachment if feeding is consistently painful or uncomfortable.
  • Wear a tubigrip support – your physiotherapist can provide you with such a support if regular maternity bras are uncomfortable or digging in.
  • Ultrasound treatment – this can also be provided by your physiotherapist and can be very helpful for a faster resolution of mastitis.
  • Massage – specific, gentle massage can be helpful. Your physiotherapist can provide this treatment, and show you how to massage the area yourself as well.
  • Antibiotics – some women do have an infection present with mastitis, or there may be thrush on the nipple causing or contributing to symptoms. However, antibiotics are not always needed, and you may find quick use of the other options listed above provide effective relief of symptoms without using antibiotics.
  • Pain relief – simple paracetamol can often help to relieve local breast discomfort and treat low grade fevers as well. Consult with your GP or pharmacist if need be.

Advice

Seek treatment quickly for mastitis, as it can progress very quickly and make you feel very unwell.

Your GP, Women’s Health Physiotherapist and lactation consultant are all helpful people to treat and resolve mastitis quickly and prevent recurrence.

Ensure you are getting plenty of rest, and try to keep feeding your baby. If you feel your baby is not feeding or attaching well, a lactation consultant can help with sorting this out. The hospital where you delivered should be able to put you in touch with a lactation consultant.

Learn more about Breastfeeding & Mastitis here.

Need More Information?

To book see any of our experienced & qualified allied health staff about this issue, you can:

From The Blog.
Knee Replacements for Osteoarthritis: Necessary or Not? By Jessica Woodward

How many of you have had to consider surgical intervention for degenerative knee pain? According to new...Read More

World Continence Week 2017: No Laughing Matter By Jenny Phillips

“I laughed so hard I wet myself!” We’ve all heard this phrase, but for some this is...Read More

My Hormones are Affecting My Weight: Exercise & Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome By Jessica Woodward

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome or PCOS affects 8-12% women of reproductive age and is the most common endocrine...Read More