There is nothing more you can do for your child—affecting him/her both emotionally and physically—than breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is far more than feeding your child—it provides warmth, security, comfort, love and nutrition. The nutrition from breast milk contains all the vitamins and nutrients your baby needs in the first six months of life. Breast milk is also packed with disease-fighting substances protecting your baby from illness. It has also been shown to protect your baby from developing allergies, it may boost your child’s intelligence and protect your child from obesity.
As the benefits of breastfeeding have been shown, it is not without challenges. Milk supply, latching issues and engorgement are frequently experienced. Mastitis is another common condition affecting one third of nursing moms. Mastitis commonly presents as a warm, sensitive area on one breast and a slight fever with flu-like aches and chills. Having mastitis does not necessarily mean it is associated with an infection. A non-infection based mastitis usually clears on its own in two to four days. If there is an infection, it will not typically clear with straightforward breast care—you may want to consult your medical practitioner for further evaluation.The basic treatment for mastitis is simple:
- Empty breast
- Lots of rest
- Drink plenty of fluids
It is important to continue plenty of nursing or milk expression to prevent engorgement. Breasts must be kept soft and supple. It may also be beneficial to avoid wearing a bra while symptomatic, as bras often hold the breast rigid and may actually contribute to some of the symptoms.
Since inflammation is present, cold may relieve some of the symptoms. Applying a cold compress to the area (e.g. frozen bag of peas) and alternating 20-minutes on and 20-minutes off, may be beneficial. Cabbage enjoys wonderful properties that can be soothing to a sore breast. Remove the outer leaves and crumple them gently in your hand, then apply them to your breast.
Mastitis often occurs with exhaustion. Resting means taking it easy and putting your feet up—as much as possible. It is easy to overdo things as new mother. Rest will allow you to recover more quickly.
Hydration is vitally important to help with lymph and milk flow. Make sure you are well hydrated—drinking up to a gallon of water a day.
Gentle massage to the breast will also help reduce symptoms. Try a “bag of marbles” massage. Hold your breast with interlaced fingers, pretending it’s a bag of marbles and gently knead your breast tissue to shift the marbles all around inside the bag. This massage should be performed several times a day and is helpful in allowing lymph flow to take away the body’s waste.
If the symptoms persist after basic treatments of the empty breast, rest and plenty of fluids, it may be time to consider consulting us at Brannick Clinic, for further management of mastitis.
Dr. Jenny Ma ND, DC