Despite being dubbed natural, breastfeeding is rarely easy. Prior to giving birth, many moms aren't aware of the issues that can arise. Mastitis, an uncomfortable inflammation of the milk ducts, is one of those annoying issues and can become so severe that it turns a mom off from breastfeeding altogether. If more moms knew the reasons for mastitis ahead of time, however, it would be much easier to prevent and avoid in the future.
According to the Mayo Clinic, mastitis is an infection of the breast tissue that causes swelling, tenderness, fever, chills, warmth and redness of the breast. It can be extremely uncomfortable and make breastfeeding nearly impossible. Luckily, it is treatable and able to be corrected with the proper technique adjustments and, in some cases, antibiotics.
Mastitis is most common in the first few weeks of nursing, but with all of the schedule changes babies and their mothers go through, it can happen at any time if you're not careful to establish healthy technique.
By learning about the following reasons for mastitis ahead of time, however, moms can seek out the tools they need to avoid the infection in the first place and establish a healthy, effective nursing routine with their baby.
1. An Improper Latch
According to the Medical Center at the University of Michigan, mastitis is most often caused by an improper latch. Sometimes, poor latch can cause a blocked milk duct that, if not treated promptly, can lead to mastitis. The American Pregnancy Association (APA) also noted that a proper latch is essential to establishing a healthy breastfeeding relationship, not just in preventing mastitis.
2. Problems Sucking Effectively
According to NHS, mastitis can result when a baby has difficulty sucking properly, because not enough milk is being drawn out of the breast. If you don't think your baby sucks properly, schedule an appointment with your OB or a lactation consultant as soon as possible to help relieve the issue.
3. Infrequent Or Irregular Feedings
Family Education noted that although babies go through frequent schedule changes, it's important to maintain a consistent and regular feeding schedule to keep your milk supply under control. For example, if your baby recently started sleeping through the night without nursing, your breasts may be extremely engorged in the middle of the night. If this keeps happening and your milk supply doesn't adjust, mastitis may result.
4. Excessive Pressure Or A Wound To The Breast
Although it's rare, experiencing an injury to your breast or excessive pressure can cause your milk duct to plug, resulting in mastitis, according to the aforementioned NHS article.
5. Feeding Only On One Breast
According to What To Expect, mastitis typically only affects one breast at a time and can be exacerbated through nursing only on one side. If nursing on one side is too painful, try using a breast pump to express enough milk to relieve the pressure and prevent infection.
6. Stress Or Fatigue
All of the above causes combined with typical new mom stress and fatigue makes infection all the more likely, according to Baby Center. Instead, try to stay relaxed and minimize stress, nursing regularly and effectively.