What Is Mastitis? {NBW}

When you become a mummy you hear of all sorts of illnesses, diseases and medical issues which you've never heard of before.
Before I was a mummy I'd never heard of tongue tie, or Mastitis. And maybe I wouldn't have done had I not been breastfeeding or in fact experienced both of these things.
When Charles was diagnosed with tongue tie I didn't know much about it. I'd never heard of it before. So I researched as much as I could, asked the breastfeeding counsellor and consultant about it and found out a lot about it.
I had heard of Mastitis when breastfeeding Charles but didn't know too much about it as it wasn't something that I had experienced.
When I then got it in May this year I made sure I knew what I was dealing with. Mostly so I knew why it had happened, what was happening to my body, how it would affect me, Harry and my milk and if/how I could prevent it in the future.

What is Mastitis?
Mastitis is an inflammation of the breast that can be caused by obstruction, infection and/or allergy.

Can it affect my milk?
Milk may look lumpy, clumpy, “gelatin-like” or stringy. This milk is fine for baby but it may be best to strain the lumps out if the milk is expressed. Milk may contain mucus, pus or blood in some cases.
Milk may taste saltier than before, this is due to increased chloride and sodium.  

Is it common?
Mastitis is most common in the first 2-3 weeks, but can occur at any stage.
Mastitis may come on suddenly, and most commonly will only be present in one breast. 

What are the symptoms?
Red streaks, or blotches. The breast may be hot to touch and may feel bruised.
You could experience Chills, flu-like aching and fever.
The breast may feel lumpy or have what feels like a large wedge inside. 

What causes Mastitis?
Stress, fatigue, low iron and weakened immunity after a cold or flue can be causes of Mastitis.
Engorgement or inadequate milk removal due to baby not feeding properly either due to tongue tie, over-supply, short and quick feeds, baby being distracted at the breast or latching problems.
Skipping feeds can also cause Mastitis. Some of these cases are obviously unavoidable (ie teething so baby not so interested in feeding, growth spurt causing more naps, weaning) so it's best to express if this occurs. Even if you just express by hand it would make a difference.
Sore or cracked nipples can also cause Mastitis. These become an easy target for infection so it's best to get these treated as soon as you can. 

Is it treatable?
Yes. You should seek advice from your doctor or breastfeeding counsellor as you may need a course of antibiotics. 

What can I do myself?
Express or feed regularly from that breast. Keep it as empty as you can.
If possible (IE if at home all day) loosen your bra or don't wear one. Wear loose clothing.
Have warm showers and blast warm water on the affected breast. Alternatively you can place a warm flannel over the breast.
Massage the breast as often as possible.
Make sure baby latches properly at each feed if you can. You may find that changing the position you feed can help the pain or to clear the duct.
If expressing you could try hanging over a bath or sink. Gravity will help to dislodge any blockage in the duct.
Cold flannels will also help to ease the hotness.
Increase Probiotics either by eating/drinking probiotic yogurts or through vitamin capsules/tablets. 

Should I stop feeding?
NO! By stopping feeding you can encourage the infection and make it worse. If you do choose to stop feeding baby then at least pump and feed baby the expressed milk. You may feel after the infection has gone that you would like to recommence feeding because of the pain going.
You want to feed or express at least every 2 hours if not more. Keep the breast empty if you can. Don't forget to feed from the other breast too though.

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