Mastitis is a breast inflammation usually caused by
infection. It can happen to any woman, although mastitis is most common during
the first 6 months of
breast-feeding. It can leave a new mother feeling very
tired and run-down. Add the illness to the demands of taking care of a newborn,
and many women quit breast-feeding altogether. But you can continue to nurse
your baby. In fact, breast-feeding usually helps to clear up infection, and
nursing will not harm your baby.
Although mastitis can be discouraging and painful, it is usually easily
cleared up with medicine.
Mastitis most often happens
when bacteria enter the breast through the nipple.
This can happen when a nursing mother has a cracked or sore nipple.
Going for long stretches between nursing or failing to empty the breast
completely may also contribute to mastitis. Using different
breast-feeding techniques and making sure your baby is
latched on properly when nursing will help with emptying the breast and avoiding
View a slideshow on latching to learn how to get your baby to latch on.
Mastitis usually starts as
a painful area in one breast. It may be red or warm to the touch, or both. You
may also have fever, chills, and body aches.
Signs that mastitis
is getting worse include swollen, painful
lymph nodes in the armpit next to the infected breast,
a fast heart rate, and flu-like symptoms that get worse. Mastitis can lead to a
abscess, which feels like a hard, painful lump.
are more likely to get mastitis while breast-feeding if:
- You have had mastitis before.
- You delay or skip breast-feeding or pumping
sessions. When you don't empty the breast regularly or completely, your breasts
engorged or too full, which can lead to mastitis.
- You have cracked or irritated nipples, which can be caused by poor
positioning or poor latching on.
- You have
anemia. Anemia makes you tire more easily and lowers
your resistance to infections like mastitis.
Breast-feeding mothers can get mastitis at any time, but
especially during the baby’s first 2 months. After 2 months, the baby’s feeding
patterns become more regular, which helps prevent mastitis.
Your doctor can tell
whether you have mastitis by talking with you about your symptoms and examining you. Testing is usually not needed.
usually cure mastitis. If your doctor prescribes antibiotics, take them as
directed. Do not stop taking them just because you feel better. You need to
take the full course of pills. The antibiotics will not harm the baby. If
treatment doesn't work at first, your doctor may send a sample of your breast
milk to a lab to help identify the type of bacteria causing the infection.