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Do I have mastitis and how do I deal with it?


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Mastitis is the inflammation of the breast tissue and it may or may not be infectious. This condition affects 10 to 20% of breastfeeding women, though often women will face this problem within the first 3 months after giving birth. Signs of mastitis Apart from the breast feeling painful, tender, red and swollen, mothers with mastitis will also experience flu-like symptoms. These include chills, body aches, and even a fever (38 Degrees C or higher). While the symptoms associated with engorgement and plugged ducts get better with home treatment, often with mastitis you gradually feel worse. Causes of mastitis A common way that non-infectious mastitis develops is if milk remains in the breast for an extended period of time, and is not drained effectively. This may be due to a variety of reasons, which include improper latching during feeding, a long interval between feedings or a plugged duct. Stress may also be a factor that inhibits your ‘let-down’ reflex, preventing the breasts from emptying after each feed. Mastitis from infection is likely caused by bacteria entering the breast through traumatised or cracked nipples. Non-infectious mastitis can also develop into an infection if the milk left in the breast is tainted with bacteria. Risks of mastitis Mastitis that is left untreated can not only develop into an infection, as described above, it may also develop into a breast abscess. This refers to painful, tender lump in the breast that is filled with pus. This abscess has to be drained immediately by your doctor, and it is usually done by using a needle and a syringe or surgically. Generally you can still nurse from the affected breast after the abscess has been drained, though if it is too painful, you may have to pump for a few days. 10% of women who have had a breast abscess may not be able to breastfeed again. Dealing with mastitis The steps to treating mastitis at home are similar to that for engorgement. It is also best to rest as much as possible, and try to vary nursing positions so that your baby can help with clearing any plugged ducts. If your symptoms get worse, seek immediate medical help. Your doctor may prescribe antibiotics that are safe for your baby while breastfeeding. The course of antibiotics have to be completed, even if you feel better, to prevent the infection from coming back. Try not to stop nursing your baby. If it hurts or get too uncomfortable, express your milk regularly and you can still continue to feed your baby. If your baby appears to be a bit fussier during a feed, it may be because the milk from the infected breast tastes a little salty. This is due to an increased amount of sodium in your milk. Most babies, however, do not mind and will continue to nurse.