Do you need help with mastitis?

Mastitis

Mastitis is usually the result of a blocked milk duct that hasn’t cleared. Some of the milk that has banked up behind the blocked duct can be forced into nearby breast tissue, causing inflammation. The inflammation is called mastitis (also sometimes called ‘milk fever’). Infection may or may not be present. It can progress to an infection and even an abscess. Mastitis can be treated with ultrasound, in conjunction with antibiotics and heating/cooling therapy applications.

Breast-feeding mothers develop mastitis mostly in the first couple of months with their baby when both mum and baby are working on their routine and also technique (for some mums there is no real issue while others have to work hard to develop the breastfeeding relationship).

Early symptoms of mastitis can make you feel as if you are getting the flu. You may begin to get shivers and aches.

Some mothers do not experience the early signs of a blocked duct & appear to get mastitis out of the blue.

The breast will be locally sore like it is with a blocked duct, only worse. It is usually red and swollen, hot and painful. The skin may be shiny and there may be red streaks. Mum will feel ill. It is common for the ill feeling to come on very quickly.

Therapeutic ultrasound does not show any pictures on a screen, it is purely a device that is used for treatment.  Ultrasound that produces pictures on a screen is know as diagnostic ultrasound,  such as that used to assess your baby during pregnancy.

How does therapeutic ultrasound help mastitis?

Mastitis treatment with therapeutic ultrasound can create a micro massage effect within the tissues which may loosen the tissue structure and causes a breakdown of the material causing the blockage. Ultrasound may stimulate the blood flow through the tissue, which will assist the transport of the blockage material from the breast. Due to the stimulation of the breast tissue with the ultrasound, a let-down can occur during treatment.

Treatment is ideally timed so Mum arrives with a hungry baby that will feed immediately after treatment. This takes advantage of the potential stimulation to the blockage encouraging milk flow through the treated area but also may minimise breast stimulation between feeds. However, it is not unusual for the baby to refuse to drink from the treated breast because when the milk flows from behind the blockage it is often stale and tastes ‘off ‘ to the baby. If this occurs, the Mum is encouraged to express all the milk from this side and dispose of same (unfortunate, but only a one off).

Advice for mum

  • Use a soothing level of heat on the affected breast area
  • Gently massage tender, red spot in the shower under warm water, massaging towards the armpit
  • If engorged,  “express the top off the breast” to allow some suppleness for baby to latch (this is temporary until baby’s mouth grows and breasts settle)
  • Paracetemol 4 hourly for fever if present
  • If unable to feed baby off affected breast, express the milk and keep practicing feeding on the unaffected side
  • Mums can become over-zealous with expressing, especially those of us that produce loads of milk.  The more the breast is stimulated the more milk it produces.  So whilst trying to prevent/manage mastitis, over-expressing may increase milk production further. Just express what you have too (ie. feed times or to take the pressure off engorged breasts)

Breastfeeding & Engorgement

Some women produce an abundance of milk for their baby. When you produce a lot of milk you breasts become incredibly firm and can look swollen (known as engorgement). This makes it very difficult for a new baby to latch because there is no suppleness to allow the baby to suck the areola into baby’s mouth (see right). The baby needs to get the nipple right back in their mouth to extract milk.

Even if you are not engorged, new babies have little faces and little mouths. This can be a poor fit initially with mum’s breasts but be reassured, baby will grow and be able to latch better in time and with practice.

So if the breast is too full or too large, baby can only attach to the nipple which means:

  • No milk
  • Crying baby (equals stress for everyone)
  • Poor draining of the breast (stagnant milk)
  • Nipple injuries from poor latching, deterring mum to feed due to pain

If you want to breastfeed, just keep trying.  Everyone’s journey is slightly different, but many of us who have experienced mastitis have gone on to have very successful breastfeeding relationships for months to years with our babies.

Need a Lactation Consultant?

We have some lovely and experienced consultants on-hand.  Let us know if you need some assistance.

For adequate drainage of the breast, baby needs to be able to get the majority of the areola into their mouth.
It’s not you – establishing good breastfeeding management is not easy for many new mums!