Breastfeeding (either by nursing or pumping) is a beautiful and natural way to nourish your baby, but it can sometimes come with its own set of challenges. One such challenge is mastitis – a painful condition that can occur during breastfeeding. Mastitis can make breastfeeding uncomfortable and may even lead some mothers to abandon it altogether. However, the good news is that mastitis can be preventable with the right knowledge and practices. As a fellow 3 time sufferer of mastitis, I want to share some tips that helped me prevent getting it again after multiple rounds. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the essential steps you can take to help prevent mastitis, ensuring a smoother breastfeeding journey for both you and your baby. DISCLAIMER: I am not a medical professional, and this is not medical advice. Simply a mom who’s had mastitis and sharing my experience in how to lower the chance of getting it again.
Mastitis is an inflammation of the breast tissue, often accompanied by infection (as well as symptoms that come along with infection, like a fever). It typically occurs in nursing mothers and can be quite painful, and make you feel like you have the flu. Understanding the condition is the first step in preventing it.
Factors That Increase the Risk of Mastitis
Certain factors can increase your risk of developing mastitis. It’s crucial to be aware of these factors and take proactive steps to minimize them:
Poor Latch or Positioning: Improper latching or positioning of your baby during breastfeeding can put excess pressure on your breasts and lead to mastitis.
Infrequent or Irregular Nursing/Pumping: Skipping feedings or having irregular feeding schedules can cause your milk to build up, increasing the risk of mastitis.
Blocked Milk Ducts: Blocked ducts can occur when milk isn’t adequately drained from the breast. These can be painful and may progress to mastitis.
Stress and Fatigue: Stress and exhaustion can weaken your immune system, making you more susceptible to infections, including mastitis.
Essential Practices for Preventing Mastitis (or at least lowering the risk)
Proper Breastfeeding Technique
Ensuring a proper latch and positioning is fundamental to mastitis prevention: Improper latch can mean your baby isn’t emptying your breast fully during a feed, which can lead to clogs and mastitis.
Make sure your baby’s mouth covers as much of the areola as possible. We don’t know what we don’t know, so don’t take this as “you’re wrong!” – but more, let’s get a check with someone who can tell what we might not know!
If you’re unsure about the latch, seek guidance from a lactation consultant.
Frequent and Effective Nursing/Pumping
Establishing a regular feeding schedule and responding promptly to your baby’s hunger cues can help:
Aim to nurse or pump every 2-3 hours during the day, and every 3-4 hours during the night – especially in the first month or so. Don’t skip nighttime feedings for a while. I know this sounds very tiring (and, I’ll be honest, it is!) – sleep is also crucial during the newborn phase. It’s important to find a balance for you and your baby for sleep and feeding. Working with a lactation consultant or postpartum doula (like the Newborn Nurse!) can be incredibly helpful while you work on establishing your milk supply.
Managing Blocked Ducts
Blocked ducts are a common precursor to mastitis. Here’s what you can do:
Massage your breast gently to clear any blockages. Apply warm compresses before nursing or pumping to help milk flow. Using a haakaa with warm water and Epsom salt can really help to clear them out!
Recognize that dense breast tissue can also be a risk factor, because you may not feel the blocked duct or really know if you’re fully emptying your breast. I personally used sunflower lecithin to help with clogs as well as lactation massagers (specifically the warming ones!) and once I started using those daily, I didn’t have mastitis again (after 3 rounds!) Once you know your own risk factors and what can contribute to mastitis, you’ll be able to lower your risk of getting it again.
Self-Care for Nursing Mothers
Taking care of yourself is vital for preventing mastitis:
Get plenty of rest and manage stress through relaxation techniques.
Stay hydrated and eat a balanced diet. This is all so much easier said than done, I recognize that fully! But, the laundry will be there tomorrow and so will the dishes – any chance you can take care of yourself and GET SOME SLEEP/REST, please do it. Again, postpartum doulas – or even just friends and family can come help with the other stuff, but no one can rest for you. You need sleep!
Maintain good hygiene to prevent infection:
Wash your hands before breastfeeding.
Keep your nipples clean and dry. If you’re pumping, be sure to clean your pump parts regularly.
Recognizing Early Signs of Mastitis
It’s essential to recognize the early signs of mastitis to address it promptly:
Redness, swelling, or tenderness in the breast.
A warm or hot sensation in the affected area.
Flu-like symptoms such as fever or chills.
When to Seek Medical Help
While prevention is the key, there are times when medical help is necessary:
If you experience severe pain, fever, or chills, consult a healthcare provider.
Don’t hesitate to reach out if your symptoms do not improve with self-care. I prefer to err on the side of caution, so at least give your provider a call – they truly do not mind helping you!
Treatment and Recovery
If you do develop mastitis, early treatment is essential:
Your healthcare provider may prescribe antibiotics.
Continue to nurse or pump from the affected breast to help clear the infection. Don’t forget about the haakaa and epsom salt trick, too!
Rest and self-care are crucial for a full recovery.
The Role of Support and Education
Don’t hesitate to seek support from healthcare providers, lactation consultants, or support groups:
Education is power. Attend breastfeeding classes and workshops to enhance your knowledge.
Join breastfeeding support groups to connect with other mothers who may be going through similar experiences.
Preventing mastitis is very likely with the right knowledge and practices. By following these guidelines and seeking support when needed, you can enjoy a fulfilling and comfortable breastfeeding experience while keeping mastitis at bay. Remember, your well-being matters, and a healthy and happy mom makes for a healthy and happy baby.
For more information on mastitis prevention and breastfeeding support, check out these local Nashville resources:
Remember, you’re not alone in your breastfeeding journey, and there are plenty of resources available to help you along the way. And always feel free to reach out to me, I’d love to help if I can, or just be an extra support and encouragement as a mom who’s been through it!
So are you wondering where to find more Nashville motherhood content? Then check out the blog links below! But before you go, I would love to chat about your dream motherhood photo sessions!
As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases, but I do encourage you to shop locally when possible! I have a few amazon links to products I used, but feel free to click out and purchase them without my links too – I truly just want to help you if you are a mastitis sufferer!