Mastitis is an inflammation of the breast most often related to breastfeeding. This inflammation may be associated with tissue damage, infection, or both. One in five breastfeeding women will suffer from mastitis during the first 6 months of the baby's life.
Causes of mastitis
Mastitis is due to low milk flow. When lactation begins, milk invades surrounding breast tissue that becomes inflamed and predisposed to infection. Also, the infection develops when the nipple gets cracked and irritated (usually due to improper breastfeeding technique), allowing bacteria to penetrate.
In women who are not breastfeeding, mastitis can occur due to dilation or irregularities of the duct, a breast injury (cut or bite) and very rarely due to breast cancer or tuberculosis.
During breastfeeding, mastitis usually affects a single breast and begins with a painful, hot and reddened area. Fever, chills, neuralgia, and pseudogripal (flu-like) symptoms may occur. In this case, the intervention of the doctor is necessary.
The worsening of mastitis is manifested by affecting the axillary nodes, on the side of the affected breast, which are increased in volume and pain, accelerating the pulse and aggravating the symptoms of the flu. Mastitis can develop into breast abscess, which presents itself as a firm and painful formation.
Risk factors for mastitis
During breastfeeding, mastitis can occur at any time. The period with the highest risk is in the first 2 months after birth, before the eating habits are regulated.
Risk factors for mastitis during breastfeeding include:
1. plastic covers that favor air circulation towards the nipple;
2. plastic covers used for the protection of the nipple (shields);
3. nipple rubber shields used to help the baby suck more easily;
4. breast-covering pillows used to absorb excess milk;
5. special inappropriate bras;
6. ties (straps) for breasts used to stop lactation.
The doctor can diagnose mastitis based on symptoms and physical examination. If the infection does not respond to treatment, the cultures from the mother's milk can help identify the type of bacteria that causes the infection.
The most important factor to keep in mind about mastitis is that early antibiotic treatment and continued breastfeeding (or pumping) are essential for its healing. Delaying treatment can lead to the appearance of breast abscesses. The improvement of the symptoms can be obtained by rest, the consumption of increased amounts of liquids and the use of cold applications in the level of the sore breast.
Although it is painful, breastfeeding in the affected breast is safe for the baby. If breastfeeding of the affected breast is too painful, start with the other breast and change depending on the flow of milk. If the nipples are too cracked and too painful to be able to breastfeed, a pump is used to empty the breasts each time they cannot breastfeed.
This is the right time for the mother to seek the advice of a lactation consultant. Changing breastfeeding positions and ensuring proper sucking for the baby can help the mother to breastfeed more effectively, without pain and thus preventing future episodes of mastitis.
Symptoms of mastitis usually occur within the first 4-6 months after birth. It is necessary to consult the doctor if early symptoms of mastitis occur.
In the case of mastitis, at the beginning you can see:
These onset symptoms may occur after treating a blockage of galactophore channels. When mastitis worsens, it can be observed:
Occasionally, the symptoms of mastitis may worsen and a pouch of abscess may develop in the infected area. Symptoms of breast abscess include:
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