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Mastitis: Treatment + Prevention!!

Have you ever heard of mastitis? It’s a fancy word for the inflammation of breast tissue accompanied by an infection. Being a painful and uncomfortable diagnosis, it’s important to understand its prevention and treatment.

Mastitis is caused by a blockage of milk within the ductwork of your breasts, otherwise called a “milk stasis.” You may hear of these blockages referred to as clogged ducts, plugged ducts, or blebs. A clogged or plugged duct will feel like a tender, sore lump or knot under the breast. A bleb, or milk blister, is a blocked duct specifically located at the nipple (in contrast to a plugged or clogged duct which can happen anywhere in the breast) where milk is backing up behind the skin, causing a similar appearance to a blister. Both clogged/plugged ducts and blebs occur when a milk duct is not draining properly. Typically, pressure will begin to build up behind the clog or bleb, causing irritation and discomfort.

Once you notice a bleb or clog, you should treat it immediately by massaging the area, applying warm, clean compresses, and nursing or pumping on the affected side as often as possible. You can use a cold compress afterwards for your own soothing of the area. Unfortunately, it’s important to note that if these problems are not resolved in a timely manner, they can lead to mastitis.

The good news is that there’s a lot that we can do to prevent and treat mastitis, none of which include the cessation of breastfeeding…actually, it’s quite the opposite!

Why does a clogged duct/plugged duct or bleb form?

  • Change in nursing/pumping schedule

  • Inadequate latching at the nipple

  • Overproduction or increase in production of milk

  • Increased pressure on the nipple/breast from clothing or bra

  • Regularly breastfeeding on one side

  • Engorgement that is not relieved

  • Skipping feedings or pumping sessions

What can you do to prevent a clogged duct/plugged duct or bleb?

  • Nurse or pump every 2-3 hours (day and night)

  • Do not change your nursing schedule without tapering slowly

  • Ensure baby is latching correctly at the breast

  • Avoid engorgement by emptying your breasts frequently according to your production

  • Breastfeed and pump on both breasts

  • If you are going to skip a nursing session, be sure to pump, and vice versa

  • Consider a lecithin supplement if you are consistently getting clogs and blebs (after speaking with Ava or your healthcare provider)

What do I do if I get a clogged duct/plugged duct or bleb?

  • Massage the area to break up the clog. Massage towards the nipple

  • Apply warm, clean compresses to the side before nursing

  • Nurse or pump on the affected side as often as possible to help release the clog

  • Empty the affected breast first

How do I know if a clogged duct/plugged duct or bleb has turned into mastitis?

  • Breasts feel hot and inflamed

  • Breasts are swollen

  • Fever

  • The lump on your chest has become hot to the touch and may be red

  • Body aches

  • Chills

If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms of mastitis, contact your OBGYN as soon as you can. Left untreated, mastitis infection can lead to an abscess developing in the breast and cessation of nursing. Note that nursing your baby is completely safe and even recommended with mastitis.

Treatment for mastitis will include the same therapies used in the treatment of a clog or bleb, with the addition of an antibiotic prescribed by your doctor. Be sure to discuss the safety of the prescribed medication while breastfeeding, especially the possibility of candida, a fungal infection that can occur with the use of antibiotics. You may have heard candida referred to as “thrush.” Thrus is a fungal (yeast) infection that can grow in the mouth or throat. When it comes to taking antibiotics while nursing, be on the lookout for white, raised, cottage cheese-like spots on baby’s tongue and cheeks. Thrush can quickly become irritated and cause mouth pain and redness, impacting your baby’s ability to nurse.

While nursing complications can seem scary, intimidating, or complicated, remember that there are loads of remedies to prevent and treat each one. With the tools you now have and the support of a lactation counselor, clogged or plugged ducts, blebs, and even mastitis are easily treated and will not signal the end of your nursing journey.

For more information, education, and support, work with Ava virtually or in the comfort of your home.


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