Almost 80% of women who breastfeed tend to develop a breast infection at least once during their breastfeeding period (from the delivery up to the time they stop breastfeeding). Although a breast infection (also called as mastitis) is considered quite a normal condition and if often considered as a natural process, it can cause some alarming side effects that can be very hard to handle, especially for first time mothers.A breast infection is characterized by a dull ache followed by the hardening of the breast area.
The infected breast would become warm to the touch and would develop a red rash like streak on the skin. In certain cases, the nipples may become dry and cracked, making it extremely painful for the mother to breastfeed. A breast infection can also cause blockages in the mild ducts inside the breast, inhibiting the free flow of milk during lactation. This would result in lumps appearing across the infected breast followed by the inability to feed properly. And certain cases of breast infections can also lead to body aches, sudden chills and fever.
Simple And Effective Home Remedies For A Breast Infection
Although severe cases of breast infections need to be treated by a doctor, mild cases of the condition can be treated effectively at home with the help of certain home remedies. Given below are some of the more common home remedies that are usually recommended for breast infections.
Take A Hot Shower
Letting hot water from a shower run over the infected breast can help release blockages either caused by the infection or contributing to the infection. In addition to this, the hot water from the shower can help soften the breast tissues and wash away any impurities like sweat and yeast in and around the breast region, thereby keeping breast infections at bay.
It is considered wise to shower at least a couple of times a day while breastfeeding to prevent breast infections. Make sure to wipe the breasts dry with a soft towel immediately after showering though in order to prevent the buildup of moisture which would again cause infections.
Apply Hot Compresses
Placing a hot towel over the infected breast can help loosen up the blockages in the milk ducts and reduce the symptoms of a breast infection (including pain, irritation and burning etc.) to a great extent. For best results, apply the hot compress a few minutes before breast feeding in order to remove blockages and stimulate the flow of milk.
Try Cold Compresses As Well
Those who don’t find hot compresses comforting during a breast infection can opt for the alternative; cold compresses or ice packs that can numb the area temporarily and provide relief from the discomfort and pain experienced during a breast infection.
The best option would be to place ice packs on the breasts after breast feeding (placing them on the breasts before breastfeeding can inhibit the free flow of milk). Wear a bra over the ice packs in order to keep them in place. Remove the packs if you feel numbness in the area though for too much exposure to cold can cause frostbite.
Using soaps to clean the breasts during a breast infection can further aggravate the symptoms of the condition. Soap can cause the nipples to become cry and cracked. This in turn can increase the chances of them getting infected. A mild cleanser on the other hand will help the skin in and around the breast region (including the nipples) retain its natural oils and remain hydrated for extended periods in the process.
Drink Plenty of Water And Fluids
Water can flush out all kinds of infections from the body, including breast infections. Water can also keep the body hydrated and increase the milk supply in the breast.
Those who suffer from breast infections should make it a point to drink at least 10 glasses of water every day until the infection and its symptoms disappear completely. Water can be substituted with fluids in the form of fresh fruit and vegetable juices as well.
Many mothers feel that feeding from the infected breast can cause the infection to spread to their baby. The truth however, is that the baby would not be affected by the infection causing bacteria at all. Which is why it is considered essential to feed from the infected breast during a breast infection.
In addition to emptying the breast of milk (and the infection in the process), this would help bring down the symptoms of the infection to a great extent. Of course, it may be painful to feed from the infected breast, especially if the symptoms include pain, inflammation and cracked nipples. However, breastfeeding from the infected breast is considered as the best natural remedy to treat a breast infection at home.
Wear Supportive Bras
A tight bra would cause more discomfort during a breast infection. Bras made of synthetic materials would also increase the risks of a breast infection. These bras would not allow air flow and would lead to excessive sweating which would in turn trap moisture in and around the breast skin. These areas would then become potent breeding grounds for bacteria which would cause a breast infection in no time at all.Always make it a point to wear good quality bras, preferably those made of cotton or other natural fibers which would encourage air flow in and around the breast region, thereby preventing perspiration and infections in the process.
Use A Breast Pump
Breast infections can lead to cracked nipples in which case it would become very hard and painful to feed from the infected breast. In these cases, a breast pump can be used to remove the milk from the breast. A good quality breast pump can help pump out excess milk from the infected breast, releasing blockages in the process and bringing down the symptoms of the infection effectively.
Apply Castor Oil
Rub some castor oil over the infected breast to get relief from the pain, irritation and inflammation caused by breast infections. Castor oil has antibacterial properties that would help remove the bacteria causing the infection and promote quick healing as well.
Use Supports While Breastfeeding
It is imperative that the baby is positioned in such a way that his/her mouth is level with the nipple during breastfeeding. Holding the baby lower or higher would make him/her tug at the nipple while breastfeeding. This can potentially aggravate the symptoms of a breast infection and cause recurrent infections as well. The best option in this case would be to place a pillow on the lap and the baby over it while breastfeeding.
Apply Olive Oil
Applying some olive oil on the infected region can help bring down the pain and swelling caused by a breast infection. Rubbing some olive oil on dry nipples can also prevent chapping in between breastfeeding sessions.
Expose The Breasts To Air
Wearing a bra for extended periods can make the breasts sore and increase the chances of an infection. Milk leakages after breastfeeding (quite common in nursing women) could get trapped inside the bra and aggravate symptoms like itching and irritation.So make it a point to air your breasts out at regular intervals throughout the day, preferably for 10-15 minutes after each breastfeeding session. Don’t wear a bra to bed or unclasp the bra before going to bed as this can ease the pressure placed on the breast during the day.