Breastfeeding should be an exciting and enjoyable experience, which you share with your baby, providing not only essential nutrients and immunological defense for your baby, but also developing a strong and lasting relationship.
However, common problems in breastfeeding, such as mastitis, can easily overshadow this experience, making it difficult and painful. Many women do not realise that lactation consultants exist, let alone the kind of knowledge they have which can assist you in making breastfeeding a positive and rewarding experience for you and your baby.
What causes Mastitis?
Mastitis is a condition that can affect up to 30% of breastfeeding women and can be extremely debilitating.
It often begins as a result of a blocked duct that hasn’t cleared. When there is a blocked duct, an increase in pressure behind the blockage commonly results. Some of the components of breast milk (those with very small molecular sizes) can then be forced out of the intra-ductal area into the interstitial, surrounding tissue – basically, where it is not meant to be.
The body responds to this in a very normal and healthy way with an inflammatory response, including flu-like symptoms such as lethargy, aches and pains and a fever. There will also be a reddened, warm area on the skin of the breast adjacent to the area of concern. Breastfeeding women often attribute their symptoms to a cold or flu and don’t realise until later on, that mastitis was actually the cause of their flu-like symptoms.
Early recognition is key
The majority of mastitis cases begin as an inflammation of the breast. If this inflammation goes unrecognised, and therefore is not acted upon, it can develop into mastitis.
Early recognition of mastitis is the best way to minimise the effects and symptoms. One of the simplest and most effective things you can do is develop the habit of a very quick breast examination, first thing in the morning and last thing in the evening. This is not meant to be thorough or lengthy, but just a quick flash in front of the mirror to check for any reddened areas.
If you notice a red area, and are able to address it immediately, by favouring the affected side with feeds and expressing after feeds, the problem will often resolve without the need for antibiotics. However, if the initial symptoms go unnoticed or untreated, mastitis is likely to develop, causing flu-like symptoms, reduced milk supply and hence, an unsettled baby. It can also lead to a breast abscess.
Occasionally, the first sign of mastitis is breast refusal by the baby. This is because mastitis will cause a temporary reduction in supply from the affected breast, as well as higher sodium content in the breast milk and subsequent salty taste, which your baby may not like. If you need antibiotics to treat mastitis, then you will need a ten day course. The current recommendations are Flucloxacillin or Cephalexin (if allergic to penicillin) 500mg four times a day for 10 days. (ABM Clinical Protocol #4, revised March 2014)
If you are concerned that you have experienced recurrent mastitis, it is recommended that you seek the assistance of a lactation consultant, as there are many confounding factors that may be contributing to reoccurrences.
If you have suffered with mastitis in a previous pregnancy, or believe you are currently suffering with it, please contact the rooms for a consultation with Angela.
For further information on mastitis, please read the Australian Breastfeeding Associations hand out on Mastitis: www.breastfeeding.asn.au