How to treat mastitis
Home remedies to help nurse you back to health. Pun intended.
- Mastitis is an inflammation of the breast that can cause an infection.
- Mastitis will leave a new mom feeling even more run-down and tired than she already does.
- One of the best ways to ease symptoms and or prevent mastitis is to nurse often and empty your breasts fully.
Breastfeeding can be an amazing time between mom and baby. It can also be stressful and quite painful at times, as well. If having a newborn isn’t hard enough, when you throw breastfeeding on top of an infection, it’s a trifecta that can test even the strongest mothers out there.
Thankfully, the infection known as mastitis is completely treatable through antibiotics. This guide will go over some mastitis basics as well as a few home remedies to help ease discomfort and prevent it from coming back.
What is mastitis?
Mastitis will leave a new mom feeling even more run-down and tired than she already does. Some women will also experience fever and flu-like symptoms, along with tender and painful breasts.
Common causes of mastitis
Mastitis can be caused by two common reasons. First, going long stretches between feedings or if the breast doesn’t empty fully during a feed, ducts can get swollen and clogged, causing an infection.
The second cause of mastitis is when bacteria enter the body through the nipple. If a nursing mother has cracked or sore nipples, this can be very common.
Most women who get mastitis, do so during the first few months of their baby’s life. Usually, after the three-month mark, a baby will fall into a more regular feeding pattern and will get more proficient at emptying the breast. This can help reduce the chances of getting mastitis. Your milk supply will also start to regulate as feedings become more predictable.
The onset of mastitis will usually start with a painful area in one of the breasts. This area will feel warm to the touch and painful. You can also start to feel feverish with body aches and the chills.
When mastitis worsens, you’ll also feel swollen lymph nodes near the armpit of the infected breast. These can become abscesses which are hard, painful lumps. As symptoms go untreated, you’ll feel tired, worn down and it may be painful to nurse.
As your baby starts to drop feedings or sleep more at night, you’ll need to pump or hand express milk to reduce engorgement as soon as you start to feel symptoms. You can take a warm shower or massage your breasts while you pump as well. This will help prevent infection and lower your risk of developing mastitis.
Mastitis is typically diagnosed by your physician or at home by discussing symptoms or through a quick examination.
Antibiotics are the standard cure for mastitis. The antibiotics used are not harmful to your baby and you will typically start to feel better rather quickly.
You can take ibuprofen to reduce inflammation and help reduce your fever as well but check with your doctor while you are nursing.
There are also some home remedies that can help ease your symptoms or prevent you from getting mastitis at the early onset of pain. One of the best ways to ease symptoms and or prevent mastitis is to nurse often and empty your breasts fully.
To help with pain, use a warm compress before you breastfeed your baby. While nursing, you can also massage your breast to increase milk flow and help unclog any ducts. This along with a warm compress, three times a day will help a lot with the pain.
You should also drink lots of fluid and rest. The main thing to remember is that the more you nurse, the more it will help. One trick is to point your baby’s nose toward the clogged duct while you nurse to help the milk flow more freely.
Most importantly, breathe and call your doctor if antibiotics are needed. These will help almost immediately when combined with home remedies for pain.
A deeper dive — Related reading from the 101:
How to slumber without sleep training when you’re nursing | Living 101
Here’s how to keep it together through the sleep deprivation of breastfeeding.
A mother’s guide to breastfeeding at work | Living 101
Millions of working mothers have been pumping breast milk while on the job for decades, but they have not done so without obstacles.