How can I prevent recurring mastitis?

Often the causes behind recurrent mastitis can be attributed to lifestyle stresses such as overdoing things and becoming exhausted or stressed. Stress and health issues such as low iron (anaemia) can lead to a depressed immune system that makes you more prone to infections.

Missing feeds or scheduling feeds too strictly and too far apart (your newborn will need 8 to 12 feeds in 24 hours) can result in poor breast drainage and blocked ducts.

Poor attachment and latch or a sleepy baby can contribute to inadequate milk removal. A baby with tongue tie who is having difficulty attaching may not be draining the breast effectively (especially if mastitis recurs in the same area of the breast).

How to prevent recurring mastitis

Empty the breast: Watch your baby, not the clock. Avoid overly full breasts and empty both breasts at each feed – if you feel tender or full after a feed, express a little milk for comfort (no more, you don’t want to encourage ‘oversupply’). If you feel very full (perhaps if baby has slept a long stretch), offer your baby a feed –  he will probably nurse enough to relieve your fullness even if he is sleepy.

Check attachment: If you are uncertain about your baby’s latch, if breastfeeding hurts or your nipples look ‘squashed’ after a feed, get a lactation consultant to check your baby’s position and attachment.

Massage: If you feel any lumpiness that signals a potentially blocked duct, massage your breast GENTLY under a warm shower (not hot) and hand express for comfort. One tip if you have a hard lumpy patch is to massage ‘in front’ of the lump (the side closest to the nipple) to try and clear the blockage, then as baby feeds, GENTLY massage the rest of the lump towards the nipple.

Avoid under-wire or tight bras that may compress milk ducts. Also take care when you are sleeping that you don’t sleep in a position that may squash your breasts – such as lying on your stomach.

Take care of yourself. Try to get some rest each day. A nutritious diet and relaxing activities that make you feel good will reduce the effects of stress and boost your immune system.

Try a probiotic: You may like to try a probiotic specifically created for breastfeeding mothers such as Qiara which has been shown in clinical trials to have beneficial effects on the breast health of mothers who have recurring mastitis.

Dietary supplements may be helpful. For instance, many mums have found vitamin C and lecithin helpful in preventing recurrent blocked ducts.

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