Agonising pain during breastfeeding is the cruel tell tale symptom of mastitis. Sadly, mastitis can transform our dream connection between us and our baby into an excruciating nightmare.
But there are simple ways to prevent and avoid mastitis and to treat and get rid of mastitis naturally – without antibiotics – if we know how to spot the very early signs of mastitis inflammation before it becomes an infection.
So I’ve put together for you all the tips I wish I’d had when I first started breastfeeding covering:
- What is mastitis?
- Signs & symptoms of mastitis
- How to avoid and prevent mastitis
- Simple remedies for mastitis
I really hope they help you enjoy breastfeeding your little one. Do let me know how you get on.
1. What Is Mastitis
Very simply mastitis is inflammation of our breasts that can both be the result of and cause blockage in our milk ducts and infection.
2. Symptoms & Signs of Mastitis
The classic symptoms of mastitis are:
- red, swollen patches in our breasts
- lumps and hardening
- burning pain when feeding
- strange nipple discharge that can include blood.
The earliest signs of mastitis are typically the redness, swelling and lumps so its really important to keep an eye out for these as obviously the sooner we respond the better able we are to treat it.
3. How To Prevent Mastitis
There are a few simple things we can do when breastfeeding that can help to prevent mastitis. I’ll take you through these first and then talk about a bigger prevention issue.
Give Our Breasts Room
Clothes and maternity bras can cut across our breasts putting pressure on certain spots. This can lead to inflammation and then blockages. So as far as you can:
- Open clothes right up.
- Chose maternity bras that open right up. When feeding in public a cover will let you open everything up comfortably.
- Make sure nothing else is pressing on your breasts.
- Try feeding in different positions – you can even feed upside down! – so baby isn’t always pressing on the same point.
- Try sleeping on different sides each night.
Really Let Our Milk Flow
Ideally we want baby to reach the thick, creamy milk at the end of the feed. Both because baby needs it – especially if they struggle with reflux – but also because we don’t want it left hanging around in our breasts.
But babies aren’t ideal. And sometimes go for quick snacks.
If this is happening:
- Empty your breasts at the end of the feed by expressing
- And try to express the milk if you miss a feed
Both these simple tips can help prevent mastitis but we also need to make sure we’re looking after our immune system because mastitis inflammation and infection is usually a sign we’re running on empty.
Boosting Our Immune System
Caring for our new baby is obviously exhausting but in our crazily, busy world we have made things much worse and so one of the best things we can do to prevent mastitis is boost our immune system.
And the simplest ways to do that are:
- Rest and sleep at every possible opportunity – forget the super mom act, our bodies need to recover.
- Avoid skipping meals – our bodies start to release stress hormones when we miss meals and they are a big trigger for inflammation.
- Get plenty of iron & protein – I’m an almost lifelong vegetarian but so wish I had started eating meat pre-pregnancy because it is very hard for a new mum to beat the instant boost of a good quality steak. Many, many new mothers are iron deficient – it is a significant cause of post natal depression – so do check out this big guide to iron rich foods to boost your levels.
- Get outside loads – loads of us are vitamin D deficient from being inside too much so get outdoors with baby as much as possible, it will help you fight inflammation and infection and help baby sleep!!
- Drink plenty of fluids – so many of us are simply dehydrated so fill your water bottle at the start of the day and make sure you get through it.
- Look after your gut – healthy bacteria in our gut is absolutely key to preventing and fighting infection so use these simple tips for restoring gut health to care for yours.
4. Natural Remedies For Mastitis
If you do spot the early signs of mastitis with lumps and inflammation in your breasts then try these simple natural remedies:
- A hot shower before feeding can help unblock breast ducts
- Apply a warm flannel to breasts before feeding
- Gently massage breasts before and after feeding
- Get partner to feed off breast to make sure they are fully drained!!
Unfortunately, I have to be honest and say sometimes these remedies will not work and will not get rid of mastitis inflammation and pain.
If you are still in pain breastfeeding or if your breasts are infected then I’m going to be controversial and say it is very probably time to stop.
Breastfeeding can be wonderful but it is not more important than our health and our relationship with a baby. We do go through all sorts of pain for our babies but that should not include breast feeding. And we certainly don’t want to be feeding our child whilst on repeated cycles of antibiotics.
So even though there are many benefits of breastfeeding, the best thing we can do for our baby is to look after ourselves and enjoy connecting with them.
I do hope these tips and thoughts help. For more super simple remedies do follow me on Pinterest and have a read of these posts:1, 2