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Mastitis: how to prevent and treat

It is one of the biggest fears of new mothers but there are several ways to prevent it. This article helps you to know everything about mastitis and keep it away!

Mastitis: how to prevent and treat
Margarida Gamboa
by Margarida Gamboa
Breastfeeding is one of the main challenges in the postpartum period and raises many challenges for new mothers. One of the most common complaints about breastfeeding is the appearance of mastitis: they are uncomfortable and very painful. But there are ways to prevent it.

What it is and when it appears?

Mastitis is an inflammation of the breast, which may or may not have infection. It can appear at any time in life women and even men (it is enough that due to an injury to the nipple, for example, bacteria enter the breast), but it is much more common to happen during breastfeeding.

It should be treated as soon as possible, in order not to progress to infection and not to worsen its (normally) painful symptoms. As a rule, mastitis affects only one breast, since it is a local inflammation, and the symptoms have a quick evolution (1 to 2 days).

Puerperal mastitis (during breastfeeding) usually occurs due to the accumulation of milk and its contamination by bacteria that enters the breast through, for example, cracked nipples. The reasons that contribute to the appearance of mastitis at this stage are:
. Blocking the galactophore channel with milk accumulation;
. High milk production and accumulation: infrequent feedings, of low intensity or with a bad "grip" of the baby;
. Wean too fast, at a time when the body still produces too much milk;
. Breast pressure caused by clothing;
. Nipple injury;
. Maternal stress or malnutrition.

How to identify mastitis?

You will immediately realize the appearance of mastitis: the breast becomes red, hard, painful and hotter than usual. As the inflammation progresses, other symptoms may appear, such as fever above 38Âș, general malaise, severe pain in the breast that gets worse when the arm moves, headache and even nausea and vomiting.

If mastitis is not treated, it can progress to breast abscess and surgical drainage. It may also be necessary to use antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs.

The important thing is to seek specialized advice, either from a specialized nurse or from your doctor, so that you can get help and mastitis does not develop into an infection.

How to prevent mastitis?

There are many behaviors that you can adopt in most cases and, if well applied, prevent the vast majority of mastitis. It is therefore important that the baby completely empties the breast before giving another one (if he is unable you should to empty the breast manually), varying the breastfeeding position so that the milk is removed from all parts of the breast, placing the baby in the correct position and making a good breastfeeding latch, breastfeed more often.

In addition to the issues directly linked to the baby's feedings, you should avoid: the use of a breast pump because it stimulates milk production (it is giving your brain an indication that it needs more milk), the use of tight clothing, in particular bras, and the use of milk-collecting shells.

You can also apply hot compresses before breastfeeding to promote drainage of milk and cold compresses after breastfeeding to relieve breast tension. The application of lanolin to the nipple is also a form of prevention (lanolin can and should always be applied after each feeding and is completely safe for the baby).

Very important: with mastitis you should continue to breastfeed and even more often if possible; the baby emptying your breast is the best way to drain the milk and improve the inflamed area.

How to treat mastitis

Most importantly: with mastitis you should continue to breastfeed and even more often if possible; emptying the breast by the baby is the best way to drain the milk and improve the inflamed area. Other complementary but also important ways to treat mastitis are:
. Change the breastfeeding position and breastfeed more often;
. Take a rest and stay calm;
. Drink at least 2 liters of water a day;
. Massage with circular movements the affected area (a homemade trick is to use a bag of frozen peas for the massage - they will help to break the lumps in the breast);
. Apply cold compresses;
. Wear very comfortable clothes that do not tighten;
. If the baby does not completely empty the breast, do it yourself;
. The ideal is to do it manually, but you can even use the pump if only to remove the excess;
. If the pain is very severe, you can take painkillers or anti-inflammatories properly identified as safe for the mother and baby.


If after 2 days there is no improvement, you should contact a specialist nurse in child health and / or your doctor again. Antibiotics or, in very rare cases, surgical drainage may be necessary.
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