Although the natural act of breastfeeding has so many benefits for both Mum and baby, learning this new skill can present as a challenging time and among the most common support Bubba Mumma's seek, is to overcome the condition of mastitis.
Mastitis affects up to 30% of lactating mothers and is a common contributor to the cessation of breastfeeding. 75-95% of cases occur within the first 12 weeks post birth, as your body is still adapting to the milk supply needed to nourish your baby.1,2
Be comforted in knowing that you are not alone, there is support available (including the 24 hour Breastfeeding Helpline). I'm also sending you a love note today with info to empower you for your nursing journey. Here I want share some practical ways to prevent and overcome mastitis, to make your transition into and throughout breastfeeding smoother for you and bubs.
Mastitis is an inflammatory condition of the breast tissue, which may cause pain, redness, swelling, lumps or firm tissue of your breasts. Milk supply is often also reduced.
The condition can progress quickly, from non-infective, to infective, to the development of an abscess in cases that are not properly managed. Symptoms can therefore come on quickly, causing flu like symptoms such as fever, chills, high temperature, fatigue, joint aches, headaches and weakness.1-3
Causes can include cracked nipples or stagnant milk flow and/or a blocked milk duct, allowing opportunistic pathogenic bacteria to travel into the breast tissue and compete with the beneficial microbiome. Two primary pathogenic bacterium involved in mastitis include Staphylococcus aureus and S. epidermis.2,1,5 Staphylococcal species have the ability to form a protective biofilm layer and become antibiotic resistant, therefore contributing to recurrent chronic mastitis infections in breastfeeding Mums. 4
Risk factors of mastitis can include:3,1
*Compromised immunity is common with new-Mumma broken sleep, indicating the need for supporting your body in other ways throughout your breastfeeding journey.
Be comforted knowing that you are never alone and there are options available for you to prevent and overcome issues that may arise for you. Depending on your cause of mastitis, you may need to:
Further recommendations on supplements and therapies for mastitis can be found in Thriving Bubba.
"Clinical data has demonstrated that certain certain lactobacillus and bifidobacterium strains can be a rapid and effective intervention for the treatment and prevention of lactating mastitis by significantly reducing Staphylococcal bacterial counts in breast milk, ameliorating breast pain and promoting endogenous immune and anti-inflammatory processes..." 4,5,1,7,8 As explained by Naturopath Georgia Marrion in the June edition of InFocus.
If your breast engorgement and mastitis is due to oversupply of milk, or if strong milk flow and production is contributing to colic in your baby, here are some ways you may be able to reduce your milk flow.
Sage herbal tea, 3 cups daily. Discontinue once your supply has balanced out.
Peppermint essential oil (5-10 drops per 10mls carrier oil), massaged over the breasts just after breastfeeding and wipe off any reside before the next feed, twice daily.
Apply large frozen cabbage leaves to your breasts between feeds.
By being aware of mastitis signs and symptoms and taking swift action to keep warm, rest and support your lymphatic and immune system, you can support your body with mastitis and may prevent antibiotic therapy.
In the case of antibiotics being required, there are specific nutritional and probiotic therapies that can help restore your gut, protect your baby and prevent future immune challenges.
You can read further information and guidance for preventing and treating a lactation mastitis, within the baby book, Thriving Bubba.