A serious condition that usually requires medical attention – Mastitis is caused by the ingress of bacteria into the tissue of the mammary gland or through the accumulation of milk, which passes into the tissues and becomes inflamed. Most often it occurs in nursing mothers.
The milk congestion as a precursor of mastitis
The forerunner of a breast infection is usually a congestion: a breast infection in the puerperium usually does not develop “out of the blue,” but almost always follows a congestion. Stagnation can occur during the entire breastfeeding period, but as a result of the not yet perfect adaptation of mother and baby to breastfeeding, it also usually occurs during the first weeks of life of the child.
In its first one to three days of life, the newborn, if it is breastfed, feeds on the very nutritious milk (colostrum), only then shoots the actual breast milk in the mother’s breast. Among other things, the milk flow comes through the suckling reflex of the baby, after the milk injection, it is continuously re-formed.
Stagnation can occur if individual breast areas are not drunk empty by the child and the subsequent breast milk finally accumulates in these breast regions. The chest begins to stretch, becomes nodular and above all very sensitive to pain, many women feel uncomfortable and often a little feverish.
Through rest, warmth and cooling after breastfeeding, gentle breast massages, breast stroking, proven home remedies such as curd compresses and above all the frequent application of the child – at least every two hours – can be a good way to effectively and efficiently treat a congestion.
Trigger of a bacterial mastitis – a normally harmless skin germ
In a real breast infection, however, bacteria come into play. The trigger is usually a normally completely harmless skin germ called Staphylococcus aureus, which in 20 to 50 percent of all people belongs to the normal flora of the skin and mucous membranes.
The germs, for example, from the mouth or nose of the baby or by touching the mother to the breast and finally into a milk channel. In its warm, humid environment, they find ideal conditions for their reproduction.
Non-infectious breast infection, for example, may develop from congestion, from a false breastfeeding technique or pressure on the chest due to a poorly fitting nursing bra. In both cases, a role in their development also plays a role in the fact that the immune system of newly minted mothers first has to regain their full potential after the burden of childbirth and the first tiring days with the baby.
What symptoms cause a breast infection?
Breast inflammation is a serious condition that is accompanied by significant and distressing symptoms. Typical signs of the disease are:
- Red, hardened or sores on the chest
- the breast is hot and swollen
- Tiredness, exhaustion, shivering
- A headache and body aches
- Fever over 38.5 or even 39 degrees Celsius
As a rule, only one breast is affected by the breast infection, inflammation of both breasts is extremely rare. In most cases, a breast infection occurs in the first weeks of life of the child, after the completion of the first month of life, the risk of breast inflammation decreases significantly.
Home remedies for the treatment of a breast infection
Breastfeeding mothers, who feel the first symptoms of breast infection, can first try to find out if some home remedies help against it, which, by the way, are also used at the first signs of a milk congestion:
- Protection and possibly also bed rest is a must for the time being.
- Frequent breastfeeding is the best medicine to empty the chest as completely as possible and flush out any germs that may be present.
- Warmth before breastfeeding – by warm showers, warm envelopes or red light – supports the breastfeeding process. After breastfeeding, the breast is cooled, for example, with anti-inflammatory quark.
- If a woman does not want to or can not breastfeed because of the painful inflammation, the breast milk should be pumped out with an (electric) breast pump at regular intervals that are as short as possible – at most two hours. In mastitis, pumping is usually much less painful than stroking the breast. Even if the baby does not empty the breast completely when breastfeeding, the breast pump should be used.
- Quark or white cabbage wraps have been used by our great-grandmothers to relieve chest pain – they have a cooling, analgesic, anti-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory properties.
Acupuncture and homeopathy as a natural cure for mastitis
Often it is useful and possible to support the self-healing powers of the body by acupuncture or homeopathic remedies for the treatment of mastitis. Always seek the advice of your midwife or doctor. Midwives are very often trained accordingly, alternatively offers the consultation of a non-medical practitioner.
Medical help is usually indispensable for mastitis
A self-treatment without medical support is not recommended for a breast infection. Affected women should discuss with their midwife or doctor at the onset of the first symptoms if the attempt were made at all. If the symptoms have not subsided significantly after 24 hours at the latest – with a very high fever already much earlier – a visit to a doctor is unavoidable.
For treatment, the doctor will then usually prescribe an antibiotic. Breastfeeding mothers no longer need to worry about the fact that antibiotics could harm their baby through breastmilk. For breastfeeding treatment, there are some well-effective but still-tolerated supplements that do not pollute the baby’s body.
Rapid medical intervention is also important in breast inflammation, as delayed mastitis can result in a breast abscess that may even result in surgery or drainage.
Physical rest and home remedies support the recovery process even with antibiotic therapy. Important during this time are also plenty of drinking and a healthy, invigorating and balanced diet. The disease usually heals after 10 to 14 days.
Weaning because of a breast infection?
Breast inflammation is no reason to stop the baby. On the contrary, breastfeeding is the best medicine – studies have shown that regular and frequent breastfeeding has been shown to speed up the healing process. Many women fear that breastfeeding in mastitis is extremely painful. In practice, the opposite is often the case, since breastfeeding and milk discharge relieve the inflamed chest.
If putting on the inflamed side is very painful, the baby should first get the other breast. By sucking the Milchspendereflex starts in both breasts, even breastfeeding on the inflamed side will be possible with significantly less pain or no pain. Regular breastfeeding is also important for the time after breast inflammation so that the milk flow is not stopped.
Can breastfeeding be problematic for the baby in a breast infection?
Breastfeeding during a breast infection is not impaired for the baby. The debilitating germs of bacterial mastitis are not dangerous to a newborn. It may take a little more power to drink at the chest than in healthy days, but this is not a problem for a healthy baby.
MIDWIFE TIPS BY INA ILMER
- To prevent a build-up of milk, it is important to pay attention to regular good breast emptying. Different breastfeeding positions such as the footballer grip, the weighing attitude, and the breastfeeding while lying down ensure that the breast is emptied evenly.
- Warm potato wraps have proven to be very effective in lactating milk before breastfeeding. Also, acupuncture treatments can help well. Sometimes the “knot” is also of a psychological nature – when a problem can be solved, most of the tears flow, and the milk and milk congestion is resolved. A lot of warmth, rest and total relaxation are important to bring the milk back to life.
- A bacterial breast infection usually needs to be treated with antibiotics. To find the right medicine, breastmilk can be taken to the lab to avoid resistance and improve efficacy. Antibiotic treatment does not mean that you have to be weaned. The gynecologist will advise you about a breast-friendly antibiotic.
- Remember that the milk pump also increases milk production, too much pumping stimulates the formation, which can cause a new jam. Extinguishing empties the breast without stimulating milk production. However, care should be taken to ensure a gentle emptying technique so as not to irritate the gland tissue. Also vibration movements such as an electric toothbrush help in solving a milk congestion.