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Mastitis prevention

Thursday, March 24th, 2011

Two days ago I had a narrow escape from the dreaded mastitis. I awoke with a painful lumpy right breast. I wasn’t sure exactly what it was. During the night my baby had been frequently feeding and sometimes my nipples and breasts feel sore just from that. So I went about my day.

By the end of the day my breast had become bright red underneath on the area closest to my arm and it was also lumpy, hot and sore. Even though I’m a midwife and have seen people on the post natal ward with severe mastitis, it doesn’t mean that I know how it feels myself or what exactly to do to stop it progressing further when it’s just in early stages. It’s still confusing even for the professionals.

What I do know is that you need to feed frequently, especially on the affected side/s, massage the lumps gently whilst feeding, ensure correct attachment and go to the GP for some antibiotics if it’s not better within 24 hrs. But what I wanted to know was if there was any other more specific things I could do before getting to the point of antibiotics.

After a reassuring phone call with my beautiful midwife and lactation consultant friend, I had an action plan. We had also discussed that because I had no “flu-like” symptoms (people who’ve had mastitis describe it as a debilitating flu accompanied by excruciating breasts), it was most likely a blocked duct and not yet fully blown mastitis.

My action plan was this:

1. Offer the affected breast first at the next few feeds.

2. Use a heat pack on the affected breast for 5-10 mins prior to a feed (this dilates the blood vessels and milk ducts, helping the milk to flow better).

3. Ensure correct attachment.

4. Massage lumps out gently with pads of fingers, not fingertips, as this can cause bruising.

5. If breast still feels full/lumpy after the feed, use a breast pump to empty the breast (only do this once or twice as expressing can cause oversupply and exacerbate the problem).

6. Apply ice packs (wet washers frozen in the freezer work well) to the breast after a feed and in between feeds (this reduces inflammation and bacterial growth).

7. Drink plenty of water.

8. Use paracetamol and ibuprofen to ease pain and inflammation.

9. Rest (haha, yeah right. I asked my mother in-law to take Levi for a few hours).

10. If symptoms persist or increase, see the GP within 24 hours.

I followed steps 1-9 and managed to avoid step 10! Excellent! I hope you can follow this action plan now or in the future if you or your clients start to develop signs of mastitis. All the best for happy healthy breastfeeding!

Levi breastfeeding

Arlo breastfeeding – 50 second video