Breastfeeding and mastitis: What you need to know

Breastfeeding is the normal and natural way of feeding babies. Every pregnant woman dreams of perfect bonding sessions with her baby. But for some, breastfeeding can be challenging.

Some mothers may experience mastitis, an inflammation of the breasts that can be accompanied by infection. Mastitis symptoms include pain, swelling, redness, and increased temperature of the breast. The good news is that early intervention can minimise the risk of discomfort and other problems.

How to prevent mastitis?

“Nursing mothers can receive safe antibiotics and painkillers to minimise discomfort. Stopping breastfeeding might create engorgement and worsen matters,” says Dr Yong Tze Tein, Senior Consultant at the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Singapore General Hospital (SGH), a member of the SingHealth group, and President of the Association for Breastfeeding Advocacy (Singapore).

Mastitis can have many causes, such as cracked nipples which facilitate the transmission of bacteria commonly present in an infant’s mouth. Prevention is better than cure. Preventive measures include:

  • Breastfeed regularly, completely emptying the breast each time. Pump your breast if you’re separated from your baby, as engorged breasts can lead to mastitis.
  • Feeding should be on demand. Look at your baby, not at the clock.
  • Cracked or sore nipples can be caused by poor positioning or latching-on. Seek assistance early to get it right from the start.
  • Build your resistance to infection by controlling any condition that affects your immune system, such as diabetes or anaemia.
  • Get enough rest and eat properly. Do not be afraid to ask your friends and family members for help for your household responsibilities.

“Most women worry even before they start breastfeeding. It is important to be prepared, read or attend classes before your baby arrives. Start breastfeeding immediately after delivery, get the right latch and feed on demand. This will go a long way towards preventing mastitis. Otherwise, mastitis can be easily treated by antibiotics, painkillers and prevention of engorgement,” says Dr Yong.

Read on to learn about milk supply during breastfeeding - why you shouldn't quit even when you think your milk supply is low.

Ref: Q15