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Mastitis and clogged milk ducts are an inflammation due to the obstruction of a milk duct. This obstruction can sometimes be caused by an infection, or may lead to infection if it goes untreated. Mastitis most commonly occurs to nursing mothers in the first few months of breastfeeding. However, mastitis can occur in women not currently lactating.
How Do I know If I Have One?
Mastitis or clogged ducts will create a painful area in the breast. This area may become hard and warm to the touch.
The difference between mastitis and a clogged duct, to put it simply, is that mastitis is more severe. Mastitis usually presents with a high fever (above 101.3), red streaks on the affected breast, and flu-like symptoms.
- Lowered milk supply on effected side, if mastitis goes untreated it could effect the mother’s overall milk supply.
- Thickened or stringy appearance of milk- do not be overly alarmed by this, the milk is still okay for your child to eat.
- Some infants may fight nursing on the affected side due to decreased supply or a change in taste.
What To Do
A clogged duct will usually resolve itself when given proper care and attention, usually within the first 24-48 hours. Anyone suffering from mastitis for more than 24 hours will likely be placed on an antibiotic by their physician. Be sure to contact your physician at the first sign of symptoms so they can give you an appropriate course of action.
- Increase fluid intake and rest
- Continue nursing and pumping, especially on affected side
- Heat and massage effected area
- Nurse while on all fours over your baby; preferably with the baby’s chin in the direction of the affected area.
- Avoid placing unnecessary pressure on effected breast (tight bra, sleeping position, etc.).
- Keep baby close to maintain a steady milk supply.
- Vary nursing position to insure ducts are clear.
- Take pain reliever/ anti-inflammatory as directed on bottle ( ibuprofen or acetaminophen).
- Do not schedule or restrict the length of feedings or pumping sessions.
- Care for broken cracked nipples to prevent from an infection traveling to the milk duct.
- If you are prone to mastitis, avoid sleeping on your stomach or the frequently affected side.
- Recurrent episodes may mean your immune system is rundown or you are overly stressed, take care of your general health to prevent an occurrence.