Labour. Hospital. Delivery. Home.
That’s the usual sequence in the life of a woman from pregnancy to delivery and then nursing the child.
One beautiful aspect of this which has been described to be one of the bonding experiences between mother and child is breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding is hence a pleasurable activity for both mother and child. Well, until the child erupts his or her first teeth, and in an attempt to practice for adult feeding, stops taking Breast milk and bites on his mother’s nipples. Some people joke and say the child wants to practice or have an experience of what meat feels like. That’s on a light note.
Asides from the momentary pain that the mother feels, it could result in something more serious that’s referred to as Lactational Mastitis.
And when this happens, breastfeeding becomes a chore and the mother doesn’t exactly look forward to the activity. The young one tho is completely oblivious of what he or she has done.
So, What Is Mastitis?
Mastitis is an inflammation of breast tissue that could also sometimes involve an infection, resulting in breast pain, swelling, warmth, and redness, with occasional reports of fever and chills.
Lactational Mastitis hence, is when occurs in breastfeeding mothers.
Lactation mastitis can really be very disheartening and could cause the mother to feel run down, making it difficult to care for her baby, and sometimes indeed, could lead a mother to wean her baby before she intends to.
What Are The Symptoms Of Lactational Mastitis?
Firstly, the woman has to be breastfeeding.
- Breast tenderness
- Breast warmth to touch
- Obvious swelling to the breast and on touch
- Thickening of breast tissue, or a breast lump
- Pain or a burning sensation continuously or while breast-feeding
- Skin redness, often in a wedge-shaped pattern
- Generally feeling ill
- Fever 38.3 C) or even greater.
What Causes Mastitis?
Milk trapped in the breast is known to be the main cause of mastitis.
Other causes include:
- A blocked milk duct: If a breast doesn’t empty during feedings, one of the milk ducts could become clogged, causing milk to back up, thus leading to breast infection.
- Bacteria: Bacteria from the skin’s surface and the baby’s mouth can enter the milk ducts through a crack in the skin of your nipple or a milk duct opening. Stagnant milk in a breast that isn’t emptied provides a breeding ground for the bacteria.
Sometimes, however, mastitis could occur due to no fault of the baby, as other risk factors from the mother could predispose to this very painful condition.
Some of these risk factors include:
- A previous bout of mastitis while breast-feeding
- Having sore or cracked nipples
- Wearing a tightfitting bra or putting pressure on your breast when using a seat belt or carrying a heavy bag, which may restrict milk flow
- Improper nursing technique, as seen in some first-time mothers who may not put their child in the perfect breastfeeding position.
- Becoming overly tired or stressed with work and chores at home.
- Poor nutrition
- Smoking is also implicated.
Diagnosis of Lactational Mastitis is clinical.
This means from taking a careful and thorough history, together with a complete examination of your body, your doctor can easily make a diagnosis of Mastitis. However, just to confirm, blood tests and radiologic investigations like a mammogram and an ultrasound can be requested.
Treatment of mastitis typically involves the following:
- Antibiotics: A 10-day course of antibiotics is usually needed and it’s important to take all of the medication to minimize your chance of recurrence. If your mastitis doesn’t clear up after taking antibiotics, follow up with your doctor, who may then recommend a form of surgical intervention, known as an incision and drainage, to evacuate the pus.
- Pain relievers. Your doctor may recommend an over-the-counter pain reliever, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen.
To your perfect health, mothers, and babies.