Mastitis: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, and How to Prevent It!

Mastitis: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, and How to Prevent It:
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Breastfeeding mamas fear this affliction like the boogeyman, and rightfully so. But there is a way to conquer mastitis and reduce your chances of getting it again.
So let’s take a deep breath and get to know mastitis like never before, shall we?
There’s no nice way to say it: Mastitis is a pain in the boob.
No, really: It’s a painful breast inflammation that’s often caused by an infection, and usually involves a clogged milk duct. Your infected breast will be red, swollen and usually has a hard, warm lump at the source of the pain. Mastitis can also cause flu-like symptoms like fatigue, fever, and body aches.
Mastitis typically rears its ugly head in the first six weeks postpartum when your boobs are creating milk like mad and baby’s feeding patterns are still a work in progress. If you think about it, your boobs are constantly exposed to bacteria, baby’s saliva, moisture, and so forth… combined with the stress and sleep deprivation that’s so common with raising babies, it’s frankly a MIRACLE that more women don’t get this painful condition. But, I digress.
Now that we know what mastitis is, let’s discuss symptoms…
Signs of mastitis can include:
Swollen breast that may be hard or hot to the touch
Skin redness
A lump in the breast
Breast sensitivity or unexplained pain
Pain or burning during feedings
A fever of 101°F or higher
Body aches and pains, exhaustion, or other flu-like symptoms… ok, now here’s where it can get serious… mastitis can lead to a breast abscess, so stay alert. While we love all things natural, it’s best to reach out to your doctor if you’re suffering from a fever or flu-like symptoms. You may need an antibiotic to clear up the infection.

One saving grace is that mastitis often starts with just a clogged milk duct, which can usually be treated at home with natural remedies. The key is to be vigilant if you notice any breast pain, tenderness or lumps and nip it in the bud quickly.
Here are some safe home remedies you can try with your doctor’s approval. Keep in mind many of these are preventative suggestions as well, which
Warm compress: Before feedings, use a warm washcloth, heating pad, or hot water bottle on the affected area for 15 minutes. The heat helps soothe the soreness and can loosen up clogged duct. You can apply a drop of Lavender oil and massage that in to help soothe the inflammation.
Warm shower: Similar to the compress, a warm shower can help relieve the clogged duct. Massage and work your blockage under the warm water. If you have a handheld shower wand, even better! Use it to massage the area.
Increase feedings: Some moms wonder if they can still nurse with a clogged duct. Absolutely! In fact, this can be your remedy. While it can be painful, you want your baby to keep extracting milk from your breasts. Make sure your baby also latches properly: An ineffective latch will not completely drain your breast causing engorgement and potentially clogged ducts.
Reposition baby: Adjust your baby so that his chin or nose is pointing towards the affected area. As your baby suckles, the movement will loosen up the clogged duct.
Massage with oil: Rubbing the affected area with coconut oil, which happens to be antibacterial, can really ease the pain. There are also some great breast massage tools on the market… LaVie is a good brand.
Anecdotally, moms have told me this little trick. Get a Hakka device. Fill it halfway with warm water and epsom salt and attach it tightly to the affected boob. And it’s supposed to suck it right out.
Some other things to think about for long-term prevention…
Keep things clean: It can be easy to let hygiene slip with a newborn but it’s important to take simple measures. Be sure to wear clean nursing bras, change out your nursing pads frequently, and if you are pumping, sanitize your equipment regularly.
Go easy on the boobs: Wearing too tight of a bra, sleeping on your stomach, or sleeping with a bra on can really irritate your breasts. Let your tatas be free!
Stress: When we are run down, our immune systems can’t fight off inflammation and infection. Sleep when baby sleeps. Eat well-balanced meals, and drink plenty of fluids to stay healthy.
Start taking Sunflower Lecithin. This food-based supplement is a natural emulsifier. What it does is it reduces the “stickiness” of the milk and discourages clots from forming. Since once you get a clogged duct, you are more susceptible to getting one again, you can take sunflower lecithin as a preventative.
If want to wean your child, it’s important to do it slowly… otherwise you’re going to deal with some engorgement, which increases your risk of mastitis
As with all things, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Lactation consultants can counsel you on all things breastfeeding, including mastitis.

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