Breastfeeding is going great! Baby is latching well, your supply seems to be enough to satisfy your baby. Then, it happens. Maybe you notice a sore spot one day that progressively gets more painful, or maybe you wake up to an angry, red breast and flu symptoms and you wonder what is up. Mastitis is an infection of the milk ducts; Often it is caused by bacteria from a baby's own mouth plus a clogged duct, creating a warm, stagnant environment, perfect for bacteria to grow in and cause an infection. So what do you do if you have a clogged duct or suspect you might be at risk for developing mastitis? Here are my favorite tips:
1. Let it flow!
Keep your milk flowing. Keep up your pumping or breastfeeding schedule. If you need to wean, do so gradually by cutting out only one session at a time to give your supply a chance to adjust. If milk isn't sitting stagnant in your breasts, there will be less opportunity for bacteria to grow and multiply.
2. Manage Clogged Ducts
Once again, stagnant milk in your ducts creates a cozy environment for bacteria to grow and infections to develop. A clog is usually some sticky milk fat that has gotten "stuck" in a milk duct and is causing milk to back up behind it. This creates the sensation of a lump or a knot that can be tender. If you have a clogged duct, deal with it promptly by nursing frequently, pumping, dangle feeding, and hand expressing. It can be particularly helpful to massage the clog and in front of the clog to help open a passageway in the duct for the clog to clear. Some women find that they have recurrent clogs that never seem to go away. There has been some evidence that taking Sunflower Lecithin supplements may help reduce the "stickiness" of a lactating person's milk and make clogs less likely to develop.
Jiménez, E, et al. “Oral Administration of Lactobacillus Strains Isolated from Breast Milk as an Alternative for the Treatment of Infectious Mastitis during Lactation.” Applied and Environmental Microbiology, American Society for Microbiology (ASM), Aug. 2008, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2519365/.