There can be different reasons for the causes of mastitis and breastfeeding is not the only way to contract it.
I have 4 children who were all breastfed and I had never come across mastitis personally or even knew about the causes of mastitis until I had my last child.
I thought it was just one of those things that a woman might experience at some point if she was unlucky enough.
When I got mastitis, it really was the furthest thing away from my mind. All I can remember is that as the day was progressing I didn’t quite feel myself.
I remember feeling very tired, a little irritated and just generally worn out.
I didn’t want to do anything.
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I went to bed early that night which is completely unlike me as nights are the best time for me to get work done whilst the children are asleep.
The next morning when I woke up I felt even worse. I could barely get out of bed.
I was shivering and felt pain all over my body. Considering we now live in Ghana where it’s always hot, it wasn’t a good thing that I was shivering cold!
At the time I thought that maybe I had malaria as the symptoms are very similar.
I remember my son climbing on top of me to get his usual milk in the morning. I could have screamed at that moment.
If you have ever practised extended breastfeeding you will know that toddlers never stay still. They do all types of acrobatics which made it even more difficult for me to feed him.
It was a pain in my breast that I had only ever felt once before when I first started breastfeeding and was doing it completely wrong.
With each time he would latch and then unlatch I would feel excruciating pain in my breast.
Once he was off, I had a good look and feel of my breasts. I felt a lump, a lump that was painful to even touch ever so slightly. I didn’t understand it.
I did as everyone does and pulled out the ever faithful google. It didn’t take very long to work out that it was mastitis and what the causes of mastitis were.
What is mastitis?
Mastitis is an inflammation in your breast tissue which can turn into an infection.
The infected area of your breast can become hard and painful to touch. It usually presents itself in the form of a hard lump.
Depending on the severity of the infection the lump could be big or small in appearance.
How does mastitis develop?
Mastitis is one of those things whereby you are busy minding your own business and then just like that it strikes you down.
Ok well, maybe not as dramatic as I am making out but it can happen overnight.
Mastitis is basically an infection. The infection usually occurs in the tissue of the breast and will often happen during breastfeeding sessions.
The infection happens from bacteria that is present in your baby’s mouth. The bacteria can either enter from a cracked nipple or through one of your milk ducts.
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What are the early signs of mastitis?
As mentioned before mastitis can come on very quickly meaning that by the time you realise that you have it, it will be too late as it will already have taken effect.
The early signs of mastitis are:
- Fever/ flu-like symptoms
- Lump in your breast
- Painful and maybe swollen breasts
- Body pains
How long does mastitis last?
Mastitis can last anywhere from 1 – 3 days if it is treated properly. If you are unsure about how to treat it at home yourself then make sure to consult your doctor who may put you on a course of antibiotics.
If you prefer not to take antibiotics then there are a few things you can do below for self treatment.
Some simple home remedies to treat mastitis :
I know this sounds really simple but right now your body is under a lot of stress and you need to allow it to rest so that you can heal faster.
Sleep when your baby takes a nap, it will do you a world of good. The body has a faster recovery rate when you are asleep.
You will need as much energy as possible when your baby wakes up.
2. Drink water
Drinking water will help you to stay hydrated and ensure your milk supply doesn’t drop whilst you are fighting the infection.
The last thing you need right now are any other further complications.
3. Keep breastfeeding
I’ll explain a little more below.
4. Warm towel
A warm towel on your breast every couple of hours for 15 – 20 minutes will make so much difference.
The warm heat will help with the milk circulating around the breast and help to loosen the clog.
5. A shower
A warm shower can also help with getting you back on track. The warmth of the water will be very similar to placing a warm towel on your breast.
Should I still breastfeed if I have mastitis?
Continuous breastfeeding is the one thing that helped me to recover so quickly from mastitis.
The first few times my son latched on it was excruciating but as time went on it got easier and the lump began to get smaller.
By continuing to breastfeed you are keeping the milk moving in your breast so it does not become stagnant.
The more you feed the quicker the infection will pass.
Don’t worry about your baby perhaps drinking milk that has a bacterial infection.
It is perfectly safe for them.
Any infected milk that they do consume will be killed by the acid in your baby’s stomach.
It is still completely safe for you to breastfeed your baby whilst you have mastitis.
If your baby does have oral thrush you may want to get that checked out so it doesn’t complicate things further.
Can you prevent mastitis from happening?
You can never fully prevent mastitis from happening but you can take precautions to reduce the chances of it happening again.
1. Make sure that your baby is feeding regularly
2. Ensure that your baby has a good latch on to the breast
3. Avoid underwired bras as much as possible as they can sometimes prevent good circulation.
4. Let your baby fully finish feeding on your breast before attempting to switch them over.
Final thoughts on the causes of mastitis
Mastitis is a very common condition among moms. If you do contract mastitis don’t let it put you off breastfeeding because it can happen to roughly 1 in 10 women.
Mastitis is extremely easily treatable so don’t panic if you do get it. You should be able to be back up on your feet within a few days.
Some women think that getting mastitis is the end of their breastfeeding journey but it really doesn’t have to be.
Just continue to breastfeed and it should clear up in no time.
In fact, if you stop breastfeeding because you have mastitis you will probably find it more difficult to bounce back. Your breast will become engorged and cause you even further pain.
Mastitis usually only incurs in one breast at a time although there can always be exceptions to the rule.
If you want to learn more about how to effectively breastfeed, the benefits and everything else there is to know about breastfeeding.
I would recommend you take the breastfeeding course by Milkology. (I love the name)
The course really is very informative and I personally love the whole thing but my favourite part is the little black book of breastfeeding secrets! You have to check it out.
If you would like to take a look you can do so here. You can take the class at your own pace in front of the comfort of your computer!
You can’t get better than that!