MastitisDoes It Mean I Have To Stop Breastfeeding?

By: Carrie Lauth

Mastitis is a breast infection that can affect some breastfeeding Moms. According to Dr. Ruth Lawrence, author of Breastfeeding: A Guide for the Medical Profession, mastitis is an "infectious process in the breast producing localized tenderness, redness, and heat, together with systemic reactions of fever, malaise, and sometimes nausea and vomiting."

The causes of mastitis are varied but the most common ones are: irregular breastfeeding or pumping schedules, a nipple that is cracked allowing bacteria to enter the breast, and a clogged duct that didn’t resolve. Sometimes when other members of the family get sick with colds or flus, the nursing mother will get mastitis.

To prevent mastitis, be sure you’re using good positioning and latching baby on properly. If you're pumping, keep to a good schedule and make changes slowly over a period of weeks so as to avoid becoming overly full. If you’re weaning your baby, drop one feeding every week for best results. Mastitis, like plugged ducts, often occur in women who have an abundant milk supply. If this is the case with you, try nursing baby only on one breast per feeding to help slow your supply.

To treat mastitis, it's important to get lots and lots of rest. If at all possible, go to bed with baby for a day or two. Get help with your other children. Increase your fluid intake. It's important to keep nursing, offering the affected breast first. This might be a challenge because the affected side will be sore. If you can't bear to nurse on that side first, then don't, but make sure it is emptied often enough to stay soft. You may want to hand express if baby is unwilling to nurse.

While you may be told by a health care provider to wean your baby, this is actually the worst thing you can do. Seek a second opinion - call a Lactation Consultant or La Leche League leader. Breastfeeding improves the flow of blood to your breast, and the presence of your milk itself also helps to clear milk ducts of infection. Your baby will not be harmed by your milk when you have mastitis. Your baby has already been exposed to whatever caused the infection in the first place, and if you wean her, you'll deprive her of the antibodies that are present in your milk.

Before nursing, use a warm compress and massage the affected area which will help with milk flow. Nurse baby soon after you do this.

Mastitis doesn’t have to mean the end of breastfeeding for you and your little one. Try the home treatments mentioned, and if it doesn’t resolve in two days, contact your Doctor.

Your Doctor may prescribe antibiotics, which are sometimes recommended as a treatment for mastitis. Most antibiotics are safe for nursing Moms, but double check with your health care provider, La Leche League leader, Lactation Consultant or Poison Control Center. Be sure to take the entire course of pills.

Mastitis is a breastfeeding roadblock that many mothers face, but it doesn’t have to mean the end of breastfeeding. It can be overcome with support and good information.

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