Learning the art of breastfeeding—like picking up any new skill—requires time, practice, and a whole lot of patience. The first six to 12 postpartum weeks are a critical time, as many moms will decide whether or not to continue nursing their infants during this period, with some coming to that conclusion after experiencing lactation mastitis.
Mastitis is an infection of the breast tissue, typically only affecting one breast, which results in redness, swelling, and severe pain. It is often either caused by a clogged milk duct from a partially emptied breast, or bacteria that enter through the broken skin of a nipple or milk duct opening. Flu-like symptoms, including fever (101 degrees F or more) and chills, are typically the first to arise, followed by a painful and/or burning sensation, as well as overall tenderness to the touch. At the onset of this combination of symptoms, consult your healthcare provider, who will prescribe an oral antibiotic to effectively clear the infection.
Preventing mastitis is easier said than done, but there are a series of risk factors that can increase your chances of suffering from this ailment, including: not emptying your breast during a feeding, favoring one nursing position and/or breast, wearing an ill-fitting bra that may constrict milk flow, sore/broken nipples, poor nutrition, and stress. Nursing moms, especially those prone to developing mastitis, should invest in a comfortable, hassle-free nursing bra—like the Au Lait Seamless Lounge Nursing Bra—that will properly support the breasts both during and in between feedings without restricting them.
To relieve mastitis pain, fellow moms, doctors, and lactation consultants alike agree on the following tactics:
1. Drink fluids throughout the day
2. Rest whenever possible (surely you’ve heard “Sleep when the baby sleeps”)
3. Empty breasts completely, and hand express (if needed)
4. Reduce the edema by gently massaging the affected area towards the nipple, using Nine Naturals Vanilla + Geranium Replenishing Belly Butter as a gentle, vitamin-rich lubricant
5. Apply cold packs following a feeding to ease the hot pain
6. Wear a properly fitting nursing bra or tank that is supportive of your breasts without being constricting.
It is most beneficial for you and your baby to continue breastfeeding, even during your bout with mastitis, so don’t allow the temporary discomfort dissuade you from continuing to provide your child with the ultimate nourishment.
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