What is Mastitis?

Mastitis is a condition of the milk ducts in the breast. They can become inflamed and painful during breastfeeding. This infection is bothersome and has caused some women to stop breastfeeding their infants.

During breastfeeding, bacteria can enter the nipples through cracked skin. The milk ducts become infected leading to pain, swelling, fever, chills and other symptoms associated with an infection. This makes it hard to breastfeed, not only due to the pain but also the tiredness from fighting the infection.

What You Can Do

It may feel like the end of the world, but it is not. You can actually continue to breastfeed with mastitis. In fact, keeping the flow of milk going can be a treatment for the infection in itself. Some women find that it clears up once they continue. The milk may have a slightly different taste to your baby but it is not harmful to them in any way.

Mastitis is often associated with engorgement. This is a common condition when the breast fills up with milk and turns hard and painful. Babies that can’t keep ahead of the milk production or only feeding on one side can lead to engorgement.

Watch how baby latches on to the breast. Make sure that they have a good seal and are sucking well. It can be hard if the breast is engorged, but feeding empties the breast of milk and you can get some relief.

Risk Factors

Some women are more likely to experience mastitis than others. Here are some of the risks that may be putting you in line for it.

Tight clothing – This mainly refers to bras. Even if you are wearing a nursing bra, open the flaps to let the nipples dry after feeding. If you use breast pads to catch dripping, clean the milk from around the breast often. Breast pads can get stuck to the nipples when the milk dries and irritate them when they are removed.

Cracked nipples – Having a baby latch on to dry nipples is not pleasant. Keep the nipple area free from milk when baby is not feeding. Also keep them massaged and moisturized. It could also be a sign that baby is not latching on properly. Check with your lactation nurse for more information.

Infrequent feeding – Even if baby hasn’t developed their appetite yet, the milk will keep flowing. When baby feeds on only one side, use a breast pump to empty the other. At the next feeding, begin with that breast.