I Think Mastitis Is Starting: Top Tips on How Treat It Early
If you are a breastfeeding mom, you know it can be positive and rewarding for you and your baby. But it doesn’t come without challenges. Mastitis, an inflammation of breast tissue that sometimes involves an infection, is common in breastfeeding moms. If you think you might have mastitis, can you treat it yourself?
Some moms may notice one of their breasts is red and tender to the touch. When you rub it gently, you may also see a lump. This could be the early stages of mastitis. The inflammation results in breast pain, swelling, warmth and redness. In the early stages of tenderness and swelling, your breast may not be infected yet What can you do to ensure it doesn’t progress to the infection stage?
Until recently, the conventional medical wisdom was “heat, rest and empty breast.” I have said this to hundreds of mothers over my 23 years as a lactation consultant, but we were wrong. We were taught that a plugged milk duct was the issue and must be vigorously massaged out immediately.
New studies from the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine have shown it is not milk solidifying in the milk ducts that causes the issue, but the narrowing of the ducts due to inflammation that causes the problem. Heat and massage can worsen the inflammation.
Here is what you should know about mastitis and treating early-stage mastitis.
What are the risk factors for getting mastitis?
You can be at an increased risk of developing mastitis if you:
- Have a previous history of mastitis
- Produce too much breastmilk
- Over-pump to keep the breast empty
- Have sore or cracked nipples
- Wear tight-fitting bras
How can I prevent getting mastitis?
You cannot completely prevent getting mastitis, but there are tactics you can take to reduce your risk:
- Follow steps to prevent your nipples from getting cracked or sore, including changing breast pads frequently and using moisturizer. Make sure your baby is latching well while feeding and that you both are in a comfortable position.
- Breastfeed your baby at least every two to three hours.
- If you are ready to stop breastfeeding, try to wean your baby off over several weeks instead of quitting cold turkey.
How can I treat early-stage mastitis?
If you think you have mastitis, it is important to connect with your doctor to discuss the best treatment plan.
According to the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine’s 2022 mastitis protocol, if mastitis is addressed early, it can be treated at home with the BAIT method.
- Breast rest - Do not massage your breast. Feed your baby or pump as you usually would. Don’t over-feed or over-pump.
- Advil- 800mg every eight hours for 48 hours
- Ice the area for 10 minutes every 30 minutes or as needed to reduce pain and swelling
- Tylenol -1000mg every eight hours for 48 hours
If caught early, the BAIT method should provide relief, and the condition may not progress to an infection. If the breast is swollen and painful, lymphatic drainage massage may help your body drain extra fluids from your lymph nodes . This video tutorial from the Institute for the Advancement of Breastfeeding and Lactation Education demonstrates how to perform a lymphatic drainage massage These are the three steps:
- Make 10 gentle circles above the affected breast and under the clavicle
- Make 10 gentle circles under the armpit of the affected breast
- Perform a “light-touch massage” from the nipple toward the armpit. Use gentle pressure like when petting a cat, not a harsh massage. Do this all around the breast toward the armpit.
This may be done several times a day as needed.
When is it time to see the doctor for mastitis?
If you experience any of the below symptoms, you must see your doctor.
- Swelling or redness at the lump
- Discharge from the nipple
- Flu-like symptoms
- Severe pain and discomfort
These symptoms could reflect a breast infection, and the doctor must evaluate the need for antibiotics. Continue to use the BAIT method to treat the area until the condition has resolved.
The lactation department at Baptist is here for any of your breastfeeding questions. Call 504-842-5210.
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