You have been breastfeeding for a long time when you notice that one of your breasts is red, swollen and sore. It is warm to the touch. You also experience extreme fatigue, but attribute it to midnight feedings. But now you're wondering if it's just a temporary malaise or something more serious.
Is this mastitis?
You may have mastitis, which literally means "inflammation of the breast". Mastitis occurs most often in the first months after birth. The breast is usually red, swollen, painful and warm. In most cases, mastitis affects only one breast, rarely both.
What causes mastitis?
Mastitis occurs as a result of the appearance of bacteria in the breast (especially through the milk ducts or an injury to the skin of the teat). Remember that there is bacteria in your baby's mouth, so if your nipples are cracked or sore, the risk of infection increases. The likelihood of mastitis also increases if you previously had a similar problem, a duct blockage, or if you only use one fixed position to breastfeed your baby.
What are the most common signs of mastitis?
In addition to redness, swelling and pain, some women experience flu-like symptoms, feeling exhausted, fever (over 38 degrees), pain and burning when breastfeeding.
If you feel tired and have pain, if you have a fever and are shaking, it is very likely that one of your breasts is inflamed. Sometimes these signs appear even before the area becomes swollen and red. It is important to see a doctor to confirm or reject the diagnosis and prescribe treatment (antibiotics are prescribed to fight the infection).
Do I have to take an antibiotic for mastitis?
It depends on the case. It's possible to have sore and swollen breasts without an infection (especially if you don't have a fever). But anyway, you should consult a doctor.
If I don't treat mastitis, will it go away on its own?
No! Ignoring the symptoms will not make them go away on their own. Doing so would only put you at risk of something more dangerous called an abscess. An abscess is a collection of pus and occurs when an infection is not treated properly. Then surgery and drainage are usually required (which you definitely wouldn't want). So, even at the slightest suspicion of infection, be sure to seek medical help.
From Dr. Jennifer Wider's New Mom's Survival Guide,
courtesy of KIBEA Publishing