Whether it is your first pregnancy or not, you may still find the breastfeeding experience pretty much unique. While some women do not encounter any difficulties with breastfeeding, there are others who may have problems, especially during the first few weeks after the birth of the baby. Caring for a newborn is already a challenge in itself, and when a woman experiences breastfeeding problems, it may affect one’s resolve to continue with breastfeeding.

Mastitis is an infection of the breast tissue that causes inflammation. It usually occurs during the first six weeks after birth, but it can also occur at a later time. The organism that causes the infection usually enters a woman’s body, through cracked and fissured nipples. Since breast milk is an ideal medium for bacterial growth, the bacteria can multiply thereby causing the infection.

The factors that may put a woman at risk for developing mastitis are:

– Sore or cracked nipples – possibly caused by poor positioning, or improper latch on
– A history of mastitis
– Inability to breastfeed or pump at regular intervals – Failure to completely empty the breast during feedings, may cause the breasts to become engorged. This may then lead to mastitis.
– Anemia – A lowered resistance puts an individual at risk fro an infection.
– Wearing a tight fitting bra or a breast binder – A tight bra can restrict milk flow, and breast binders can suppress milk production.

The symptoms of mastitis can appear suddenly, and it is usually unilateral, or it affects only one breast. A woman may feel flu like symptoms, or a general feeling of being ill. The affected breast may appear red, and a wedge-shaped pattern may be noticed. It may also be swollen, and warm to the touch. A woman may feel pain during breastfeeding, while others may continuously feel the discomfort. It may also cause fever of 101 degrees Fahrenheit or greater.

If you suspect that you have mastitis, consult your health care provider. Your doctor may probably order oral antibiotics for the treatment of mastitis. The medicine will not harm your baby, and it is important that you finish the course of medication as ordered. You may also ask your physician for a safe medication that you can take for the discomfort.

Many mothers may worry that it may make them stop breastfeeding. However it is still safe to breastfeed at this time, and it even helps in the treatment of mastitis. By keeping the breast empty, growth of bacteria can be prevented. You may also apply warm moist heat to the affected breast. Try to do this for at least three times a day before breastfeeding. This promotes comfort and increases circulation.

If you find breastfeeding too painful, you can start feeding on the unaffected breast first. After the milk has started flowing easily, you can then switch sides. If you really can’t bear the discomfort, you may manually express milk. However, it is important that you pump at regular intervals so that your milk supply is maintained. It is also essential that you take in more fluids, and get plenty of rest.

Mastitis can really make breastfeeding difficult, but it should not hinder your desire to breastfeed your baby. If you are having problems, you may consult a lactation consultant so that you will be guided accordingly. With the benefits of breastfeeding, it is definitely worth the effort in making sure that it can go on despite the challenges.