What is mastitis?

We explain this common breast infections causes, symptoms and soothing treatments

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Mastitis is a breast tissue infection that can occur during breastfeeding and is caused by three main ways:

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Milk can build up in your breasts because its being made faster than it’s removed which then causes milk stasis.

A bacterial infection can develop from sore cracked nipples.

A blocked duct that has been left untreated can progress to mastitis.

If you have mastitis you may find your breasts are:

  • Red and blotchy
  • Hard and tight
  • Tender and sore
  • Hot
  • Swollen
  • A lump or lumps (known as a blocked duct). This is caused by by milk in getting into your breast tissue instead of your milk ducts.

Because of infection you may also feel:

  • Flu –like symptoms
  • Tiredness
  • A high temperature
  • Headaches
  • Feverish chills

How to treat Mastitis:

  • Don’t stop feeding as this will make the milk build up worse. Mastitis won’t hurt your baby.
  • Seek medical advice straight away, if the infection has settled in for a few days you may need to be prescribed anti-biotics.

    Self help methods:

  • Try putting warm flannels on your breasts before feeding to soothe and increase milk flow.
  • If your baby fails to empty your breasts during feeds, gently express the rest with a breast pump
  • Rest as much as possible.
  • Drink plenty of fluids to help flush the infection from your system
  • Over-the-counter painkillers, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen will help reduce pain and to reduce pain and high temperature- a small amount of paracetamol can enter the breast milk but it is not enough to harm your baby (aspirin is not safe to take while breastfeeding).
  • Wear loose clothing without a bra until swelling has reduced

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