My breast feels hot and hard. Is this mastitis?

It could be. Many cases of mastitis begin with a hard knot in the breast. Often this hard spot is caused by a clogged milk duct.

What is a clogged duct?      Breast milk contains a variety of fats and proteins so that it is complete nutrition for your baby. The fats and proteins are different shapes and sizes. Sometimes they get tangled and get stuck in the milk duct. Most clogs release from the breast with frequent nursing and/or pumping. If your baby releases the clog while nursing, it is perfectly safe. Your baby will not have digestive upset from nursing out a clog.

What is mastitis?      Mastitis is inflammation of the breast tissue. It may or may not be caused by a bacterial infection. Mastitis is a relatively common condition. Women who suspect mastitis should keep nursing and seek treatment. Mastitis that is caused by infection is in the breast tissue, not in the milk. The milk is safe for the baby.

Common first aid recommendations for mothers experiencing the symptoms of clogged ducts or mastitis:

1. Keep nursing the baby. Frequent nursing is the best treatment. The milk is perfectly safe for the baby.
2. Rest. Mastitis tends to escalate more frequently in mothers who are over stressed. Staying in bed with your nursling has amazing benefits.
3. Drink plenty of clear fluids, just as you would with a cold or flu.
4. Apply heat to the affected area. Heat helps increase blood flow to the area and open the milk ducts so clogs can pass. A hot shower is a great place to hand express. Nursing directly after applying heat is beneficial as well.
5. Ibuprofen is a known anti-inflammatory that is compatible with breastfeeding. Contact your health care provider to discuss appropriate dosing.

Some mothers explore home remedies and traditional medicines. lavender

– essential oils massage oil: blend 1 part eucalyptus, 2 parts lavender, and 3 parts chamomile. Apply oil over skin, avoiding areola and nipple. Massage in. Cover with moist heat for 20 minutes. Repeat 3-5 times per day or until clog releases.

– herbal compress: chamomile is a known anti inflammatory. A chamomile tea bag can be used as a hot wet compress over the affected area.

– potatoes: grated raw white potato is said to draw out infection when placed over infected area

garlic– garlic: Garlic is considered naturally antibiotic and anti inflammatory. One study showed that babies nurse more when moms are taking a garlic supplement.

-lecithin: lecithin is a dietary supplement that is purported to keep fats smooth and flowing in the milk. A dose of 4000 mg is commonly recommended. Lecithin is derived from either soy or sunflower.
What to avoid

1. Cold. Ice or cool packs cause constricting.
2. Tight fitting bras or clothing.
3. Doing too much
4. Alcohol

Antibiotics are very effective in treating bacterial mastitis. Drugs from the penicillin family are commonly given to treat this condition. Amoxicillin and many others are very safe for breastfeeding. There is no need to wean to treat this condition, and evidence shows weaning during mastitis exacerbates the condition.

The information provided on this blog is not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure. Always contact your health care provider and LC to work as a team during illnesses while breastfeeding.

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Breastfeeding During Cold and Flu Season

One of the big questions that comes up this time of year:

If I nurse my baby while I’m sick with a cold or flu, will my baby get sick too?

The answer is simple: nursing through the cold or flu is the best protection for your baby.

Human milk is full of active immune properties like white blood cells, proteins, fatty acids, and antibodies that protect your baby from illness. In fact, during your period of illness, your body begins making special antibodies to protect your baby against your cold. Every time your baby latches to the breast, the two of you exchange biochemical signals that tell your body what subtle changes to make in the milk. Breasts are smart.

If your baby does catch your cold, it’s not from the milk. The two of you probably picked up the virus days before from a play group, shopping cart, door knob, or other public place. Nursing moms often feel sick long before their nurslings show any symptoms because the breasts go right to work making antibodies. Breastfed babies tend to have less severe symptoms than their bottle fed counterparts and recover more quickly.

Nothing is more heartbreaking than a sick child. Breast milk is the best medicine for most colds and flues. Unless directed by your doctor, most babies under 6 months do not need any additional fluids or supplements to recover from a cold or flu- just breast milk. Human milk is considered a “clear fluid.” It is not a “dairy” product and should be continued while mom and baby fight the cold. Some “medicinal” uses for breast milk include:

– Squirt a few drops up a stuffy nose to loosen mucous before using a nasal aspirator
– Squirt milk into dry, itchy, or irritated eyes as a soothing salve and to break up discharge
– Squirt milk over skin rash or chapped areas to speed healing

If your symptoms seem like too much to handle, use caution when taking over the counter remedies. Many of the common cold medicines like pseudoephedrine are not recommended for breastfeeding mothers because they are shown to cause a decrease in milk supply. Contact your health care provider for recommendations on what is safe to take to stave off cold and flu symptoms. The LactMed Database and Dr. Hale’s Infant Risk Center are great free resources for checking the safety of your medications while nursing.

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