Breastfeeding Moms: Here’s What You Need to Know About Mastitis

Breastfeeding Moms: Here’s What You Need to Know About Mastitis

“Breast feed,” they said. “It’ll be fun!” they said.

Breastfeeding is an excellent source of nutrition for infants and babies with myriad health benefits but oftentimes, the actual experience can be trickier than some women anticipate. Nursing can inflict certain health complications on the mother, such as mastitis, which is the painful inflammation of the breast area.

If you’re a new mommy or a mother looking for more information on what’s going on with your body, we compiled everything you need to know about the frustrating health issue that often accompanies breastfeeding.

What Is Mastitis?

Mastitis is the inflammation of the breast, a direct result of infection, according to Mayo Clinic. Symptoms can include a red, sore area that’s hard; the area also may give off heat, much like a fever. Oftentimes, swelling indicates infection but that is not always the case. People with mastitis can suffer from a fever, the chills, and fatigue.

Jessica Martin-Weber, founder of the Leaky Boob, went viral for her post on what was then her second flare up of mastitis.

“I was texting my husband that I was certain I was dying,” she explained in the Facebook post. “With my breast inflamed an angry red, streaks running across my chest, my body aching, pain radiating everywhere, and having several small children at home to still care for, I didn’t feel I was being dramatic in telling my husband that I needed to get to the hospital. Or at least that I wanted to chop my boob off.”

What Are the Causes?

According to La Leche League International, mastitis can be triggered by a wide range of factors. When milk doesn’t leave the breasts, it can lead to painful ramifications and even infection. The breasts can become engorged, the milk ducts plugged. In another scenario, first-time moms sometimes experience cracked nipples. Just like getting a cut on any other part of the body, cracks in the nipples are susceptible to contamination by germs. The most common bacteria to find their way into the breasts are Staphylococcus aureus, S. epidermidis, and streptococci.

How Common Is Infection?

There are 200,000 cases annually in breastfeeding women, according to PR News Wire. It’s a generally short-term infection that will likely last only a few days to a week.

“I’ve struggled with mastitis,” Shelly K., a mom of eight who has breastfed for years, tells HelloFlo. “One time, I had a clogged duct that became infected. The first week or two, it was engorged with milk, making my nipples so sore.”

While many women are able to self-diagnose mastitis based off of a quick Google search and comparison to the current state of her breasts, it’s important to seek medical attention for best next steps, as cases can vary.


Cover image courtesy of Getty Images.