Mastitis - Breast Infection

WHAT IS MASTITIS?

A suffix of 'itis' means inflammation of the part to which 'itis' is added. In this case it means inflammation and infection in the breast of a woman who has recently given birth. It occurs in about 1% of new mothers and is more likely in women who are breast-feeding.

SIGNS & SYMPTOMS

Symptoms may occur anytime while nursing, but usually begin 3 to 4 weeks after delivery. Common symptoms include:

  • Fever.
  • Tender, swollen, hard, hot breast(s).

CAUSES

Infection from bacteria that enter the mother's breast from the nursing baby's nose or throat. The most-common germs are Staphylococcus-aureus and beta-hemolytic streptococcus.

MORE COMMON IN

  • Abrasion of the nipple.
  • Blocked milk ducts from wearing too-tight bras, sleeping on the stomach or waiting too long between feedings.

HOW TO PREVENT

  • Wash nipples before nursing. Wash hands before touching breasts.
  • Wear a comfortable bra that is not too tight.
  • Ask your doctor to recommend a cream, if a nipple cracks or fissures,.

DIAGNOSTIC MEASURES

  • Observation of symptoms.
  • History and examination by a doctor.

POSSIBLE COMPLICATIONS

Without treatment, may lead to breast abscess.

PROBABLE OUTCOME

Usually curable in 10 days with treatment.

TREATMENT

SELF-CARE

  • Apply an ice pack (ice in a plastic bag, covered with a thin towel) to the engorged breast 3 to 6 times a day. Use for 15 to 20 minutes at a time. Don't use ice packs within 1 hour of nursing - use warm compresses instead.
  • Wear an uplift bra during treatment.
  • Continue to breast-feed, even though breasts are infected. Offer the affected breast first to promote complete emptying.
  • If an abscess develops, stop breast-feeding on the affected side. Use a breast pump to empty the infected breast regularly, and continue breast-feeding on the unaffected side.

MEDICATION

Your doctor may prescribe:

  • Antibiotics to fight infection.
  • Pain relievers.

DIET

No special diet. Drink extra fluids while you have fever.

CALL YOUR DOCTOR IMMEDIATELY, IF

If the following occurs during treatment:

  • Fever spikes to over 101F (38.3C).
  • You have signs of a developing abscess: a localized area with increasing redness, pain, tenderness.