My sister’s dutch Kraamzorg (postnatal nurse) explained “If you have a baby sucking at your breast for most of the day and night, of course it’s going to hurt!”
After breastfeeding my 3 babies my experience is that it is almost always uncomfortable and your nipples can become even more sore and painful if baby is not opening their mouth wide enough and taking in a good mouthful of nipple and breast! Also I find for the first 6 weeks my nipples are very sore until they become used to the constant sucking. Things always got easier after that. They toughened up a bit!
Mastitis is something else however. It is an very painful inflammation of the breast. I was surprised to learn that non-breastfeeding women can also suffer. Read on for some very useful information of symptoms and treatment, provided by the NHS.
Mastitis usually only affects one breast and symptoms often develop quickly.
These symptoms include:
- a red, swollen area on your breast that may feel hot and painful to touch
- an area of hardness on your breast
- a burning pain in your breast that may be continuous or may only occur when you are breastfeeding
- nipple discharge – which may be white or may contain streaks of blood
Over half of women with mastitis may also experience flu-like symptoms such as:
- high temperature (fever) of 38C (100.4F) or above
- shivering and chills
- feeling generally unwell
Visit your GP immediately if you experience these symptoms, and you also have a red, tender area on your breast.
Mastitis is not usually a serious condition, but advice and prompt treatment may be needed to stop the condition getting worse.
Speaking to your GP or midwife will also help to reassure you.
Mastitis can usually be easily treated and most women will make a full recovery very quickly.
Most cases of non-infectious mastitis can be treated using a number of self care techniques such as:
- making sure you get plenty of rest
- drinking plenty of fluids
- using over-the-counter painkillers, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen, to reduce pain and fever; a small amount of paracetamol can enter the breast milk but it is not enough to harm your baby (aspirin is not safe to take while breastfeeding)
- not wearing tight-fitting clothing or a bra until your symptoms improve
- placing a warm compress (a cloth soaked with warm water) over your breast to help relieve the pain; a warm shower or bath may also help
You should try to continue breastfeeding if you have mastitis. Following the advice outlined below should improve your symptoms.
- Keep breastfeeding or expressing milk by hand or using a pump (a device to help you express milk). If necessary, express milk between feeds.
- Feed from the affected breast regularly (at least 8-12 times a day) if you are only breastfeeding your baby (that is, if you are not bottle feeding as well).
- Make sure that your breast is empty after feeds by expressing any remaining milk.
- Massage your breast to release any blockages. Stroke from the lumpy area towards your nipple to help the milk flow.
- Make sure that your baby is properly positioned and attached to your breasts. Your midwife or health visitor will advise you about how to do this.
- Experiment by feeding your baby in different positions to see whether it makes feeding more effective.
- Warming your breast with warm water can soften it, making it easier for your baby to feed.
- Visit your GP for additional advice or treatment if your symptoms do not improve or they get worse despite trying these techniques.
Infectious mastitis will need to be treated using a combination of the above techniques and antibiotics (medication to treat infections caused by bacteria).
If you are breastfeeding, your GP will prescribe an antibiotic that is safe to use. This will usually be a tablet or capsule that you take orally (by mouth) four times a day.
A very small amount of the antibiotic may enter your breast milk and may make your baby irritable and restless or your baby’s stools looser (runnier) and more frequent.
These effects are usually temporary and will resolve once you have finished the course of antibiotics. They do not pose a risk to your baby.
Your nipples may become sore if your baby is not properly attached during feeding. Your GP, midwife or health visitor will be able to advise about how to improve your breastfeeding technique. You can also call the National Breastfeeding Helpline on 0300 100 0212 for advice.
If your nipples do not heal, you should return to your GP because you may have an infection. If you still have mastitis or pain in your breast, your GP may prescribe an oral antibiotic (see above).
Sore nipples can also be a sign of thrush, a fungal infection caused by the yeast fungus, Candida albicans. If you have thrush, you may also have:
- a burning pain in your breast
- very itchy breasts
- pain that is worse at night or after feeding
Your GP may prescribe a cream that you will need to apply to your breasts after every feed, for two weeks. Your baby may also need to be treated if they develop thrush in their mouth.
This information is from the NHS site here.
Have you experienced Mastitis? How did you cope with it?
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