By Aaron Woolley, Physiotherapist.
Mastitis is a very common complaint in breastfeeding women, occurring in at least 1 in 10 women. Despite mastitis being so common few people understand why it occurs, the warning signs to look out for and how to best treat it. Mastitis is characterised by inflammation of the breast tissue. There are two types of mastitis:
- Non-infectious – this is usually caused by blocked milk ducts causing milk to remain within the breast.
- Infectious – this is where a bacterial infection of the milk occurs.
If left untreated non-infectious mastitis may develop into infectious mastitis. This occurs when the blockage allows bacteria to accumulate, infecting the milk which remains in the breast tissue.
Mastitis occurs with both local and/or systemic symptoms. Typically, more severe infections will lead to more systemic symptoms. Here are the symptoms to look out for.
- A reddened area of the breast which may be tender, hard and painful (with or without an obvious lump)
- Localised heat around the painful area
- Red streaks extending outward from the affected area
- Fever ranging from low grade (38.5° or less) to severe (above 38.5°)
- Flu-like symptoms including body aches, joint pain, nausea and lethargy/fatigue (often with a rapid onset)
- Most importantly keep removing the milk either via breastfeeding or expressing. And don’t worry its quite ok for your baby to continue drinking this milk
- Apply warmth to the breast, especially prior to feeding or expressing. This can be achieved with a gently warmed heat pack and/or nice warm shower
- Gentle massage can be effective but be careful to massage towards the areola and not hold your breast in a way to create another blockage.
- Ultrasound therapy provided by a physiotherapist is highly underrated. It is very effective, pain free and quick. The ultrasound waves help to loosen and break up the clogged duct allowing milk to flow once again. The Physio’s at Robina Physio on the Gold Coast have additional training to provide this treatment technique so please BOOK NOW.
If you are experiencing severe systemic symptoms don’t hesitate to seek medical advice as there is a good chance you will also require antibiotic therapy to help treat your mastitis.
A Quick Word of Support
After watching my wife struggle with repetitive bouts of mastitis and even bigger issues with keeping her supply up with the demands of our little bubs I realised the mental toll on mums with breastfeeding babies is incredible. She tried everything ranging from the above treatments to diet changes, supplements, booby bickies, and even medication to help increase her supply. Eventually she was forced to make the tough call and switch to formula. It was obvious this made her feel like a failure as a mum and was a really hard transition for her, although was an easy change for our babies. In the end our babies have grown into 3 amazing kids (most of the time), so please don’t be too hard on yourself and get down with these early struggles, cause at the end of the day breastfeeding is bloody hard work and everything will work out perfectly in the end.
If you’re struggling with mastitis the team at Robina Physio on the Gold Coast are here to help, share our knowledge and support you in a caring and compassionate manner. Call our clinic on (07) 55787233 or BOOK NOW online.