You’re nursing your baby normally, when one day you notice that your boob is starting to hurt a whole lot. It’s also red and swollen. Chances are, you might have mastitis. And like any concerned mama, you’re probably wondering if mastitis can affect the baby?
The good news is that your baby is your best (and breast) friend when it comes to mastitis. An inflammation of breast tissue, mastitis may (or may not) be associated with an infection, according to the Mayo Clinic. While anyone can get mastitis, (yep men can get it, too, according to Verywell Health), it’s most common with breastfeeding moms during the first six months of nursing. Luckily, that cute little baby who might have been the culprit for your mastitis may also help you heal. “Not only does mastitis not affect baby, but your baby can actually clear things up quicker if nursing well on that side,” Ashley Georgakopoulos, Motif Lactation Director and IBCLC, tells Romper.
So how the heck do you get mastitis, anyway? Well, within your breasts is an intricate duct system which allows your milk to flow. From time to time, some of the ducts can become blocked, which prevents the milk from flowing properly, reported La Leche League. The buildup can be a breeding ground for bacteria, so if the duct doesn’t clear, the milk can build up and cause your breast to become sore and ache. Eventually, your breast can become infected, which leads to mastitis.
Clogged ducts aren’t the only way you can contract mastitis. It can also be caused by a bacterial infection, Healthline reported. Since bacteria lives on the skin, all it takes is one cracked nipple for it to enter into your system and cause inflammation which might ultimately lead to an infection.
But how do you even know if you have mastitis? Signs of mastitis include breast pain, redness, skin that is warm to the touch, and swelling. You might also get a fever of 101 (or higher) and chills, which might make you believe that you have a cold. You can also start to feel run down.
Now, if you feel like your boob is broken, probably the last thing you want to do is pop it into your baby’s sweet little mouth. After all, you wouldn’t want to potentially pass along an infection to your child. Thankfully, mastitis is located within the breast tissue (and not your breast milk), so you should be able to nurse your baby even if you have mastitis, Healthline reported. And if you have mastitis in one breast and plan to nurse solely from the non-infected side until it clears, think again: Not only are you going to wind up with super lopsided boobies, but you’ll also run the risk for making the mastitis worse, since stopping nursing from that side will only increase the buildup, as per WebMD.
Treatments for mastitis can include antibiotics to treat the infection, to ibuprofen, which can help reduce your fever and the swelling. “While breastfeeding with mastitis is inherently safe, if mastitis has progressed to the point of needing antibiotics, its important to make sure the doctor has prescribed an appropriate one to continue breastfeeding safely,” advises Georgakopoulos. In more severe cases, when mastitis leads to an abscess, you might need a surgical procedure to drain the affected area.
Fortunately, there are ways to prevent mastitis from happening in the first place. Make sure to nurse your baby frequently, and use a breast pump to allow for adequate drainage if need be, advised Today’s Parent. Be sure to keep your breasts clean to avoid any bacteria from breaking through your skin. Also, if you’re planning on weaning, try do so slowly over several weeks, to give your breasts time to adjust.
Mastitis can be scary stuff for a new nursing mom, but don’t let it deter you from breastfeeding if that's how you want to feed your child. And if you do happen to get mastitis, know that it is very common (as many as 1 in 10 breastfeeding women get mastitis), and very treatable, too. With proper care, your girls should be as good as new in no time.