Mastitis

Mastitis is a bacterial infection of your breast usually resulting from a plugged duct or cracked nipple.

You may have mastitis if you are experiencing flu-like symptoms along with a fever and a hard spot or lump on your breast that has some swelling , redness or pain with it.  Measures you can take to help treat mastitis are taking warm showers, getting more than your usual bed rest.  The infection is generally not harmful to babies and you will aggravate the infection by weaning your baby.

If symptoms persist for more than two days, a visit to the doctor for antibiotics or other treatment is in order.  Also check with your doctor if a lump remains after the other signs and symptoms of mastitis have passed away.

Lactational mastitis is a breast infection in a breastfeeding woman. The symptoms are localized pain, swelling and redness, usually in only one breast. Often, women will get flu like symptoms and a high fever and chills. The difference between engorgement and mastitis is that engorgement usually involves both side and the whole breast, while mastitis is usually only one side and in a smaller area.

Women who get mastitis often are often having other breastfeeding problems. Nipple cracking and damage from unsuccessful latching, poor milk drainage and prolonged engorgement can all lead to mastitis. Mastitis, if untreated, can lead to a painful breast abscess, and in very rare cases, sepsis.

If you think you have mastitis, go see your healthcare provider. The likely treatment will be a course of oral antibiotics, usually for 10-14 days depending on the severity of the infection. Ibuprofen, along with cold compresses and ice packs can give a lot of relief. Working out any problems with breastfeeding is also very helpful, consider going to see your midwife or a lactation consultant. You need to continue breastfeeding, even (and especially) on the affected side. The infection is not harming your milk, and it will not harm your baby, and emptying the breast consistently is important to healing.

There have been some studies recently on the effectiveness of probiotics as an alternative to antibiotics as a treatment for mastitis, specifically the use of lactobacillus. The evidence is mounting, but the jury is still out.

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