When you’re breastfeeding, you want to ensure the health of your child and yourself. Breastfeeding is different for everyone.
While you may want to focus on your baby, it’s vital to remember your own health while breastfeeding during postpartum. Taking preventive measures and seeking help early can prevent conditions such as mastitis or clogged ducts from worsening during breastfeeding.
Postpartum parents are at risk for various health conditions; one of the most common being mastitis.
If you’re breastfeeding, it’s crucial to understand mastitis, mastitis treatment, and what the signs are so you can seek help from an IBCLC ( International Board of Lactation Consultant ), also known as lactation consultants.
Learn more about the signs and symptoms of mastitis below – plus, how to seek help from a lactation consultant covered by insurance for treating mastitis if it happens to you.
6 Symptoms of Mastitis
Mastitis isn’t always serious, but it’s vital to catch the signs of mastitis early before an infection worsens. Also, because mastitis is usually painful and uncomfortable, you deserve to get relief from the discomfort.
Here are six symptoms and signs of mastitis postpartum parents should know:
- Breast tenderness: One of the top signs of mastitis is tenderness around the breast. While some tenderness may occur as you begin breastfeeding, excessive tenderness or pain is a sign of mastitis.
- Warmth and redness around the breast: Another notable sign of mastitis is redness on the skin. The skin on the breast will also feel warm to the touch.
- Pain or burning while breastfeeding: Mastitis can be painful, and this pain is usually most intense while breastfeeding. If you feel continuous pain or burning sensations while feeding your baby, work with a professional to treat your mastitis.
- A breast lump or thickening tissue: While a breast lump could have another underlying cause, it can be a symptom of mastitis in connection with other symptoms.
- Feeling sick or ill: It’s normal for postpartum parents to feel tired. However, if you feel something is abnormal, don’t hesitate to contact a medical professional.
- A fever: While a fever might be a sign of another infection, it is a common symptom of mastitis when connected with some of the other symptoms.
If you notice these symptoms, don’t wait to seek assistance from a medical professional or lactation consultant, especially if you have a worsening fever or feel increasingly ill.
Can You Prevent Mastitis?
Some breastfeeding parents may be more prone to mastitis than others, but there are some things you can do to help avoid mastitis.
Follow these prevention tips to reduce your chances or developing mastitis:
Drain the milk supply regularly.
One of the best ways to prevent mastitis is by constantly draining the milk supply from both breasts. It doesn’t matter if this is done through pumping or breastfeeding, but you want to avoid the build-up of too much milk.
Removing milk consistently also helps you feel more comfortable and reduces pain from engorged breasts.
Ensure your baby latches well.
If you want to prevent mastitis, ensure your baby latches onto the breast as they should. When your baby isn’t latching and consuming enough milk, you may wind up with plugged ducts and other uncomfortable issues.
If your child is tongue-tied or has other latching problems, work with a lactation consultant or other medical professional to find the best solution for you and your child.
Pump if you can’t breastfeed.
Breastfeeding isn’t always an option. Even if you normally breastfeed, you may have to pump when you’re ill or at work.
So, when you can’t consistently empty your breasts at feeding times, ensure you have a breast pump to reduce the risk of mastitis.
Keep your nipples dry.
Whether you’re breastfeeding or pumping, airing out your nipples is important. After expressing your milk supply, be sure to dry and clean the nipple area, which is crucial if you have nipple or areola trauma.
Wear loose-fitting clothing.
While you may have many tighter-fitting bras or shirts you like, wearing these can increase the risk of mastitis. So, while nursing or pumping, try to wear loose-getting options instead.
The best choice is going without a bra when possible. When you need support or modesty, try wearing a sports bra or loose undergarment.
How To Treat Mastitis
If you have a fever along with mastitis symptoms, you should reach out to your doctor or midwife. A fever is a sign of a potential infection, and you may need antibiotics to treat the problem.
One of the best ways to address mastitis symptoms is by working with a lactation consultant. An experienced professional can help care for a new parent with mastitis. Make sure to find an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), as they are experts in helping new parents with breastfeeding and can help parents navigate their breastfeeding journey. You can have a consultation with a lactation consultant covered by insurance at the comfort of your own home via telehealth communication or in-person support.
Finally, you should get extra rest as your body heals. Also, try to keep breastfeeding. Stopping breastfeeding will likely worsen your symptoms.
At-Home Relief For Mastitis
There are things you can do on your own to find immediate relief from pain and discomfort.
Here are some things you can try to help with mastitis in the meantime:
- Take over-the-counter pain relievers – check with your provider to determine which is best.
- Breastfeed frequently/drain the breast.
- Change breastfeeding positions.
- Massage the breast using a downward motion toward the nipple.
- Place ice packs or other cool compresses on the affected breast.
Remember to listen to your body and if something feels wrong, consult with a lactation professional.
It’s better to be safe than sorry!
More Breastfeeding Resources For Postpartum Parents
Nursing or breastfeeding is an often enriching experience for postpartum parents, but it does have its challenges. Mastitis is just one potential health problem associated with breastfeeding, although it is possible to reduce the risks.
If you have questions about breastfeeding, pumping, or any other postpartum concerns, you’ll find many resources such as IBCLC to assist you. Your doctor or midwife is your first go-to for help, but you can also partner with other professionals, including lactation consultants.
Lastly, consider connecting with other breastfeeding parents for support. Having a network of people, including friends and family, is vital during this big change in your life.
Being a parent is hard but rewarding work. Take care of yourself in the process, too, and your baby will also be better off. Don’t forget to ask for help when you need it.