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