Last updated on Jun 21st, 2021 at 11:04 am

When considering breastfeeding and the difficulties mothers experience during the process, it is important to look at breast and nipple conditions that can occur. In doing this, it is also important to remember that although all breasts are different and may change during pregnancy, all are suitable for sustainable breastfeeding.

What is mastitis?

Mastitis is the inflammation of breast tissue and is generally caused by a blocked milk duct. This blocked duct means that milk gets stuck in one part of the breast and if left untreated, the breast can be become infected with bacteria resulting in infective mastitis.

Symptoms of mastitis

A woman with a blocked duct may feel a lump on the breast with redness of the skin surrounding the bump. It is generally tender to touch but the mother will feel well and be in good health. A woman with infective or non-infective mastitis however may present with one or all of the following symptoms:

  • Pain and redness in the area
  • Fever and chills
  • Tiredness or nausea
  • Headaches and general aches and pains

What causes blocked ducts?

Blocked ducts and mastitis are caused by a few factors:

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  • Infrequent breastfeeding. This could be due to missed hunger cues or a busy mother. The baby may also have long sleep patterns so feeds are skipped.
  • Inadequate removal of milk from one area of the breast.
  • Local pressure on the breast. This may be caused by tight clothing the mother wears, lying on the breasts, fingers on the breasts and any trauma to the breast area.

Treatment of mastitis

To treat mastitis it is important that the mother removes milk frequently to prevent the formation of an abscess. The best way is to continue breastfeeding the baby frequently or even expressing milk between feeds. There may be an attachment problem which will need to be addressed so ensure that the baby is attached correctly to the breast. It is helpful to improve milk flow by massaging the blocked duct, applying a warm cloth before breastfeeding and avoiding the use of tight clothing.

Never stop breastfeeding. Rest the mother, not the breast!