Mastitis is the soreness of tissue in either one or both breasts but in majority of cases only one breast is affected. Although it affects women, it is more common among lactating women (women who are breastfeeding).
The patient often feels a hard, sore spot inside the breast. When mastitis occurs, it tends to emerge during the first three months after giving birth, but can occur up to two years later. In rare cases mastitis can affect women who are not lactating.
There are two types of mastitis – infectious mastitis and non-infectious mastitis. Infectious mastitis is caused by a bacterial infection. It is vital to receive treatment immediately to avoid complications such as abscess-blisters in the breast. On the other hand non-infectious mastitis is as a result of breast milk staying within the breast issue due to a blocked milk duct or a problem with breastfeeding.
This may happen because the baby does not attach to the breast properly when breastfeeding; the baby being breastfed infrequently; or the milk ducts being blocked because of pressure on the breasts which may be caused by wearing tight fitting clothes.
Symptoms of mastitis…
The following symptoms are common with mastitis:
A part of the breast becomes red
The affected area of the breast hurts when touched and feels hot
A burning sensation in the breast, which may be there all the time or only during breastfeeding
General aches and pains
Fatigue and feeling sickly
Mastitis can be prevented in the following simple ways.
Mothers are encouraged to wash their hands thoroughly before touching their breasts especially after a nappy change.
Ensure that the baby is positioned and attached properly on the breast when breastfeeding him.
It is important to avoid long periods between feeds and instead feed the baby frequently on demand.
Wear loose, comfortable clothing. Bras, if worn, should be properly fitting.
Avoid nipple creams, ointments and prolonged use of nipple pads.
Treatment of mastitis…
Women suffering from mastitis are advised to drink plenty of liquids as well as rest enough. In addition, lactating mothers should feed their babies frequently. If you cannot feed the baby more frequently, express the milk more often if the breasts feel full. During a feed, start to express the affected breast, as it will drain more milk and after a feed gently express any leftover milk.
Lactating mothers should also ask a nurse to show them how to feed a baby properly to ensure the baby is attaching to the breast properly when feeding. Stroking the breast before breastfeeding can help with milk flow. Finally, women should ensure that they wear loose-fitting clothes until the mastitis has gone and afterwards avoid very tight-fitting clothes.
Call a doctor when…
You feel a suspicious lump whether you are breastfeeding or not.
You have any abnormal discharge from your nipples.
Breast pain is making it difficult for you to function each day.
You have any other associated symptoms such as redness, swelling, pain that interferes with breastfeeding, a mass or tender lump in the breast that does not disappear after breastfeeding.
Expert advice: If diagnosed early, mastitis is easy and quick to treat. Thus it is vital that one seek medical care as soon as possible. Once a doctor puts you on an antibiotics medication, be sure to take all of them and if you don’t get better, go back to your doctor.Wear loose, comfortable clothing. Bras, if worn, should be properly fitting.
Published in April 2013