The Christmas period can be so busy, visiting family and friends, people coming to stay, trips out and about, parties etc. When we have a little one it is even more magical. It can also come along with a few more challenges and the risk of getting mastitis can become one of them. So, what is mastitis, why are there more cases over Christmas? What are the symptoms and how do I safeguard myself from getting it and if the worst comes to the worst how can we treat it? In this blog I am going to explain everything!
What is mastitis?
Mastitis in an infection of the breast tissue. It is inflammation and can be very painful. It doesn’t always mean that it is an infection though. The cause of mastitis isn’t completely obvious but is thought to be due to things such as milk not being moved through the breast, nipple damage, and stress all being likely factors.
Why do we get more cases over Christmas?
· Longer gaps between feeds (due to any of the following points)
· Distracted babies so not feeding for as long
· Babies may be taking in more solids
· We potentially drink more alcohol, so may try and extend the length between feeds
· We are more likely to put on a pretty bra instead of our maternity bra, ill-fitting
· More people have an opinion on what/how/when/where and frequency of feeds which may make us alter what we’re doing
· May feel self-conscious and so not feed as often as normal
· Feel uncomfortable in front of family members and so not feed as frequently.
· Wearing non-breastfeeding clothes, which may be a bit tighter on your breasts.
How do you know if you have mastitis?
Symptoms can include pink or redness of the breast or over an area of the breast, shiny breasts, swollen or firm/hard breast, temperatures or flu like symptoms, pain in the breast, feeling a lump or solid area in the breast and generally feeling very unwell.
So how you can prevent it?
Feed as you normally would as much as possible. Use breast compressions if you think baby hasn’t fully drained the breast. Remember your breast always has milk in it, but it’s about it feeling how it normally does post-feed for you. Try having some feeds somewhere quiet where baby isn’t distracted to ensure they have a good feed. Don’t wear clothes that put pressure on your breasts and make sure you drink lots of fluids and eat regularly.
What to do if you do get mastitis?
There has been a lot of research into mastitis and the way we treat it has changed a lot in the past year. Please do not get information from Mum’s with older babies about what to do, their information may be out of date. Even while collecting my research for this blog, I was surprised that so many websites have not updated the information that they are providing people within terms of treatment.
The current treatment for mastitis is:
Most importantly to rest as much as you can. Just like with any infection in the body we want to be kind and gentle with ourselves.
Breastfed as usual, but don’t add in extra feeds or pumping sessions. We want the breast to be able to rest and recover so draining it more frequently is not advised.
Reduce your stress, keep hydrated and eat well.
You can use anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen to help reduce some of the inflammation in the breast. You can also use paracetamol to help with the pain or temperature. Follow the dosage instructions from the pack.
The information regarding cold or hot treatment varies – You can use a cold flannel on the breast for 10-minute intervals (10min on, 30 min off). You could also try a warm flannel before a feed again for about 10 mins. Do what feels best for you.
Antibiotics may be used if you have bacterial mastitis, speak to your GP or midwife if you are concerned as they can help.
Enjoy the Christmas period, but make sure you look after yourself. Try and feed regularly throughout the day, without skipping feeds or pushing them out longer. Make sure baby feeds well off the breast and if you don’t think they had a great feed you can express a little afterwards, so your breast feels soft.
Have a happy Christmas and a lovely new year. If you need any help or have any questions regarding this blog or anything baby related, please get in touch.