One minute you are breastfeeding your beautiful baby - staring into her sleep-filled eyes, breathing in her sweet scent, and enjoying the serene moment of bonding. The next minute you feel a searing pain, burning its way across your chest and inflaming your whole body.
It is mastitis - an infection of the breast tissue that causes swelling, redness, and pain. Other symptoms include fever, chills, and nausea. As described above, sometimes the signs and symptoms come on quite suddenly, while other times they may start slowly as tenderness in the breast area and build progressively until treated.
Mastitis most often occurs while breastfeeding. It is caused by either a blockage in the milk duct or the introduction of bacteria to the milk ducts through a crack or break in the skin of the nipple.
So what do you do if you get it?
Get checked. If you suspect you have mastitis, contact your health care provider so that she can make sure that's what is really going on and help you plot a course of action to recover.
Keep breastfeeding. I know it hurts, but the best thing you can do to clear a blocked milk duct is to breastfeed your baby - particularly on the side where you feel the blockage. Mastitis won't hurt your baby, but it can slow down your milk supply in the affected breast - another good reason to nurse frequently on that side.
Go hot and cold. Warm showers and cold compresses may also help to clear the blockage and relieve pain.
Take care of you. When you have mastitis, you need to care for yourself as well as your baby. Catch up on your rest, drink plenty of fluids, and take it easy over the next few days until you feel a bit better.
Have you ever heard a bout with mastitis? How did you treat it?
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