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What is Breast Infection? Why is my breast red/blue? Why do I have a fever with engorgement? What is Mastitis?

Mastitis is a condition wherein the breast is inflamed with or without infection. It is more often than not the result of a plugged/clogged duct that is not cleared out. The build-up of milk that occurs in the duct due to obstruction of the duct causes the area to swell up and get inflamed. When it is not addressed in due time, the inflammation worsens and turns into mastitis.

Most symptoms of mastitis are the same as plugged/clogged ducts; but more severe. The pain is more, there is more redness and swelling of the area, the lump is hot, harder and the breast feels more tender. The skin may be shiny and there can be red streaks. It may cause excruciating pain to nurse the baby directly or to express the milk either by hand expression or pumping. In addition to the above, Mastitis is usually accompanied with low grade fever, chills, ache, weakness and flu-like symptoms. If there is fever, it is the right time to seek medical help in order to prevent it from progressing to an infection.
Milk production in the affected breast may drop when the mastitis symptoms are at peak. But it is important to keep nursing from the affected breast to ensure drainage. It is absolutely safe to nurse the baby during an episode of mastitis and it also aids recovery.

The medical interventions usually contain pain relievers, anti-inflammatory drugs and a course of antibiotics. It is essential to complete the entire course of medication to recover fully and prevent a relapse. If the course is not completed, there are high chances of mastitis recurring.

Other care measures that can contribute to a speedy recovery are as follows –

  1. Getting plenty of rest is vital while having mastitis. Stay in bed with the baby.
  2. Consume plenty of fluids and keep yourself well hydrated.
  3. Nurse often from the affected side.
  4. Massage the breast gently as the baby-nurses.
  5. Hand express after nursing to drain the breast completely.
  6. Use moist heat (wet cloth or diaper) to clear out the lump.
  7. Cold compress (ice packs) can help reduce inflammation and pain between feeds.
  8. Avoid wearing bras until you are recovered.

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