Why Mastitis is More Common in the Winter

If you’ve ever had mastitis or heard of the horrible pain it causes, you wouldn’t want to get it in any season. But mastitis is more common in the winter and cold weather in general so keeping it at bay this time of year is more important than ever. Today we’re exploring why mastitis is more common in winter and how to try to avoid it.

Mastitis is an infection in the breasts that affects at least one in 10 lactating moms in the U.S. It occurs when milk is clogged in a milk duct and the area becomes inflamed. This usually happens when a baby is not latched or suckling milk properly, a mother is not breastfeeding or pumping often enough, or if a mom has an oversupply of breast milk. It is marked by flu-like symptoms, fever, hot spots, redness on the breasts and severe sharp pain.

Why Mastitis is More Common in the WinterMastitis can also occur during breastfeeding or not when bacteria enter the breast through cracked nipples. For nursing moms, cracked nipples are especially common in the early stage of breastfeeding when both mom and baby are learning the ropes.

Like the rest of your skin, cracking of the nipples is more likely in colder weather when the air is dry. Moisture helps hydrate skin and keeps it supple and smooth. Without it, skin and nipples are susceptible to cracking, chaffing and other irritation, which can lead to mastitis.

The risk of mastitis is also more common in the winter because vessels in the breasts constrict causing vasospasms. This may make the passage of milk harder, especially the valuable fattier hind milk, but can also lead to cracked nipples that can invite bacteria.

Winter clothes may exacerbate the problem because women tend to bundle up in the wintertime. Layers upon layers of restrictive clothing may hamper the free flow of milk and become a breeding ground for bacteria.

To try to avoid mastitis in the winter, try to keep your breasts warm and comfortable without being constricted under heavy layers. A nursing tank top or a stretchy, breathable nursing bra is the best first layer. Wear nursing pads to absorb any extra moisture and keep it away from your breasts. Then add loose fitting clothing on top and take off coats once you come indoors. At home wear nursing sleep bras or leisure bras to protect your nipples while also enjoying gentle support.

If you feel a clogged milk duct, take care of it right away by using a warm compress and massaging the area. You can even submerge in a warm bath but do not let your nipples air dry in cold weather because exposure may lead to cracking.

Sources: WebMD and Romper

5 Times Not to Stop Breastfeeding

5 times not to stop breastfeeding__1452884175_50.243.196.179Weaning your baby is big decision and one that you will have to negotiate with your baby.  The terms of your breastfeeding relationship are unique to your special bond and weaning should not be taken lightly.  Many new moms mistakenly stop breastfeeding when it becomes challenging due to illness, baby’s habits, baby’s age, scheduling conflicts or other circumstances.  However, most of these are not truly signs that breastfeeding must end.  Today we’re pointing out 5 times not to stop breastfeeding.

First, we should go over the healthcare recommendation for breastfeeding.  The American Academy for Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding exclusively for the first 6 months of your baby’s life.  They also urge mothers to continue breastfeeding until at least one year of age even after introducing other foods into your baby’s diet.  The AAP recognizes many benefits of breastfeeding beyond a year for both babies and mothers too.

With that said, there are many times when moms unnecessarily wean rather than working through some common breastfeeding challenges.  These are some common examples of times not to stop breastfeeding:

When your baby has a cold:  Just like you, when your baby has a cold, he may not feel like eating much.  He may also find it difficult to breathe while breastfeeding when his mouth is sucking and his nose is clogged.  But breast milk is actually the best nutrients for your baby during a cold because it contains essential antibodies to help your baby fight off illness and infections.  Try to clear your baby’s nose with an aspirator and saline mist before feedings to help him breathe while nursing.  Also feed on demand as much as possible, even if this means short frequent feedings rather than longer scheduled feedings.  Your baby will likely give you signs as to what he needs to help him feel better so be hyper aware of his cues.

When your baby gets teeth:  Many moms dread their babies getting teeth and use it as a reason to stop breastfeeding.  In actuality, teeth should not be a reason to wean and many babies and moms continue breastfeeding comfortably through many teeth ruptures.  In fact, breastfeeding may soothe your baby as teeth are breaking through.  This uncomfortable time can cause ear and nasal congestion that are relieved through sucking.  If your baby does bite your breasts with his new teeth, make him unlatch, tell him “no, biting hurts mommy,” and then continue feeding.  Stopping the feed temporarily each time your baby bites will help him learn not to repeat that behavior.

When you get mastitis or clogged ducts:  The common breast infection known as mastitis, as well as clogged ducts, can cause pain in your breasts.  However, the best solution is to continue breastfeeding or pumping through the pain.  Mastitis and clogged ducts both cause a blockage in one or more channels through which your breast milk flows.  You need to clear the path by continuing to express milk.  Use warm compresses or lanolin cream to alleviate pain or soak in a warm bath when possible.  Despite a few days of discomfort, weaning at this time is not necessary.

When your baby goes on a nursing strike:  Nursing strikes can happen for many reasons but they don’t mean you have to stop breastfeeding.  Many moms mistake a short nursing strike as a sign their babies want to wean.  Rather, it may be something completely unrelated that is causing your baby not to want to breastfeed.  LaLecheLeague says most nursing strikes last 2 to 4 days and some common reasons for them include: baby is sick or in pain, nursing positions are uncomfortable, baby has been separated from mom, baby is distracted, a change in routine or schedule and baby’s needs are not being met.  Instead of weaning, try to identify the cause of the nursing strike and address it directly.  Also, continue to offer the breast as much as possible to encourage your baby to get back on track.  Usually babies rediscover their love of breastfeeding (and cuddle time with mom) after a few short days.

When you introduce solids:  As the AAP guidelines indicate, breastfeeding should continue after introducing solids.  Breast milk will continue to be the main and best source of nutrients for babies who are just getting the hang of eating new foods.  It takes some babies awhile to learn to appreciate solids and actually swallow them.  While you may breastfeed less often, your baby’s appetite will continue to grow as he gets older and bigger.  By offering both breast milk and solids, your baby will be getting a healthy diversity of nutrients and flavors to become a wholesome, balanced eater.

Before you stop breastfeeding, make sure you are weaning for the right reasons.  Only you and your baby can make that important decision together.

Nipple Cream for Breastfeeding Moms

Nipple Cream for Breastfeeding MomsWhen it comes time for you to decide if you want to breastfeed your baby you might be wondering about the effects it will have on your breasts. While breastfeeding has the best nutritional benefits for you and your child, it can also leave you with dry, cracked or even bleeding nipples if not cared for properly. Nipple cream is an essential when it comes to breastfeeding. A good nipple cream is able to soothe and heal, while locking in moisture and keeping your breasts rejuvenated and pain-free.

Over the Counter Methods

Many breastfeeding moms turn towards hypoallergenic and all natural products. It’s best to look for nipple creams that don’t necessarily need to be wiped off before breastfeeding because that way your baby won’t be harmed if a little gets in their mouth. Lanolin nipple creams are one of the bests. Lanolin is a fatty substance in sheep’s wool. It contains about 25% water and is used immensely to make moisturizers, soaps and various other creams. You should always make sure the lanolin cream you are using is 100% pure. Lansinoh Lanolin nipple cream is a good one to try out. Other suggested nipple creams are Mother Love, Earth Mama, Nipple Nurture Balm, and My Best Friend Cream. All are made from all natural products.

Alternative/Homemade Remedies

Some mothers use an alternative method and have made their own homemade nipple creams with things they have in their homes. Coconut oil is a great substitute compared to conventional nipple creams. What’s great about coconut oil is that it’s not only awesome for your health but it promotes skin rejuvenation, moisturizes, and fights off infections like thrush. Olive oil, shea butter and cocoa butter are other products that work well with dry or damaged skin. As long as these products are all natural they are safe for your baby. Also, using your own breastmilk is said to work in relieving dryness.

Things to Avoid When Considering Nipple Creams

You should never use creams, lotions or ointments if you are not experiencing dry or cracked nipples. This could lead to serious issues if you breasts are being excessively moisturized, including mastitis or thrush. Numbing creams or Vitamin E should never be used because it’s harmful towards your baby if ingested. Also, scented products are always a no no because it can alter the taste of your breastmilk causing breastfeeding to be difficult at times if your baby has grown used to the flavor.

The Best Option for YOU

Always ask your lactation consultant or doctor before choosing what to put on your breasts for sore nipples when breastfeeding. Some products may say “all natural” but it’s safer to ask a licensed professional who knows you and your body before you use something that could harm you or your baby.

Breastfeeding Onwards: Working Through Plugged Ducts, Mastitis and Thrush

Even the healthiest of people get colds, rashes, aches and pains sometimes.  The same is true of healthy breastfeeding:  It’s an amazing gift for you and your baby, but sometimes there are a few technical blips in the road.  Luckily most breastfeeding health challenges can be resolved with a bit of effort and perseverance.  That includes some common breast conditions and infections, including plugged ducts, mastitis and thrush.

Plugged Ducts occur when pressure builds in a milk duct that has not fully drained.  This is very common and most women who breastfeed experience at least one plugged duct.  Usually it only occurs in one breast at a time and does not cause a fever or illness.  It does, however, cause inflammation and irritation around the plugged duct, which is the body’s way of naturally trying to correct the issue.

Mastitis is a breast infection that causes flu-like symptoms.  It’s often coupled with a lump in the breast, breasts that are warm to the touch and pinkish in color.  On occasion, a yellowish discharge may come from the infected breast.  Usually it only occurs in one breast at a time and may be triggered by family members with a cold or flu.  Unlike plugged ducts, mastitis may require medication to clear up.  Discuss options with your doctor as some antibiotics are unsafe to pass to babies through breast milk or may cause gassiness and dehydration.

Breastfeeding Onwards:  Working Through Plugged Ducts, Mastitis and ThrushWhat to do about plugged ducts and mastitis?

While the area may be sore, breastfeed on!  The best way to clear a plugged milk duct and mastitis is to breastfeed as often as every two hours to encourage milk to pass and unclog the duct.  Massage the area in a circular motion and apply warm compresses to encourage milk flow.  Be sure to wear a nursing bra that does not constrict your breasts, such as our crossover leisure sleep bra or any of our nursing bralette styles.  As you’re working through your plugged duct or mastitis, take it easy.  These conditions can occur when moms are not getting enough sleep and feel stressed, run-down or overloaded.

Thrush is a fungal or yeast infection that presents on the nipple and breasts.  Breast milk can cause an unhealthy balance of bacteria and result in this infection.  Women with thrush are often plagued with cracked or blistered nipples that are itchy and flakey, or feel deep, shooting pains in the breast.  Thrush may actually start in your baby’s mouth and be passed to you, or vice versa.  When a baby has thrush, you may notice white spots in his mouth, including on the tongue, cheeks and gums.  Babies may also be gassy or cranky and get a diaper rash that is resistant to normal diaper creams.  Thrush can be caused by antibiotics that you may be taking, and in general, some women are just more susceptible to yeast than others.

What to do about thrush?

If you think you or your baby has thrush, you’ll definitely want to see your physician and pediatrician.  Thrush can continue to volley back-and-forth between mom and baby so it should be addressed immediately.  Your doctor may prescribe a topical anti-fungal for both you and baby, and you can probably take an over-the-counter pain reliever as well.  You may want to add some friendly bacteria to your diet, like that found in yogurt.  Ask your doctor and pediatrician if it is safe to continue breastfeeding.  If it is too painful, pump until you can resume feedings more comfortably.

To prevent thrush from spreading, wear washable nursing pads and change them several times a day.  Also change your nursing bra daily, if not more often.  Wash everything that comes in contact with your breasts or your baby’s mouth.  Towels and clothes should be washed in very hot water and breast pump parts, pacifiers, toys and any bottle nipples you may use should be boiled in hot water daily.  Also, wash your hands and your baby’s hands often, especially if he’s a finger or thumb sucker.

Plugged ducts, mastitis and thrush are common challenges but should not dictate an end to breastfeeding.  Seek help if you are having trouble overcoming these issues.  Usually you can get back on track in less than week and you and your baby can be a happy breastfeeding team again.

How to Handle an Oversupply of Breast Milk

Before you begin breastfeeding, your biggest concern might be whether you can do it at all.  You may worry about whether your body will produce enough milk to sustain your baby’s entire dietary existence.  Miraculously, almost every human mother can breast feed if she has the desire and perseverance to do it.  And believe it or not, sometimes oversupply of breast milk is a bigger issue than not enough.

Oversupply of breast milk is definitely a better problem than too little, however it be painful for mom and can cause difficulty for baby as well.  Oversupply is usually a result of overactive letdown, meaning that the release and ejection of milk happens quite forcefully all at once and more often than the baby needs.

Mom_nursingIn mothers, too much milk causes engorgement and sometimes plugged ducts and mastitis.  Each of these can be quite excruciating, not only in the breast, but also throughout the body.  Mastitis, for example, can present as a flu-like fever, achiness and lethargy in moms.

For babies, the pressure of forceful let-downs may cause a gagging reflex, inability to latch, pulling off the breast, clamping down during feedings, or require the baby to drink so fast that she swallows too much air and is gassy, spits up or gets the hiccups.  All of these issues lead to fussiness and that is no fun for anyone.  Of course the goal is to ensure your baby is getting all the right nutrients from your breast milk, which is hard to achieve if she’s not nursing properly.

Additionally, not all breast milk is created equal.  There’s the foremilk, which is sweeter and high in lactose, and the hindmilk, which is thick and richer in fat and calories.  When a baby is only nursing for a short time on each breast, she will get a disproportionate amount of foremilk and hindmilk, which is not ideal for growth and development.

Luckily there are some ways you can curb the issue.  We recommend trying several of these solutions until you find the combination that works best for you.

First, try nursing only one side per feeding.  This will ensure that your baby gets the full cycle of foremilk and hindmilk that she needs per feeding.  If she pulls off before you feel she’s had enough, offer the same breast again after taking a short break.  If your other breast is too full, pump out just enough to make yourself comfortable.  You want to ensure you have enough milk in the second breast for the next feeding.

Never restrict your baby from nursing if she is hungry, but do try to stay on one side within the 2-3 hour window before the next feeding.  Sometimes nursing more frequently is helpful.

You may want to express a bit of milk before you encourage your baby to latch.  If you can bottle some of the overactive letdown, your baby will be able to enjoy a more steady flow and you’ll have some breast milk stored for a rainy day.

When you notice your baby gagging or choking, take her off the breast immediately and express the forceful spray into a towel.  If you can nip the problem early, your baby won’t be afraid to latch in the future.  Also, burp your baby often throughout the feeding to get the gas out immediately.

Change your nursing position to give your baby more control of sucking and swallowing.  For example, if your baby is sitting on your leg and latching straight forward into your breast or you are lying down next to your baby, she’ll be in better position to handle the milk.

L377-Nude-prod-pageTry not to stimulate your breasts between feedings by pumping or taking a warm shower.  Cool compresses on your breasts can discourage blood flow and milk production.  Use a nursing bra that has slits for removable modesty pads and insert the compresses inside.  Do not discourage milk within the first 4-6 weeks of giving birth.  That is the time when you need to build a healthy supply and ensure you and your baby get into a good breastfeeding rhythm.

If your oversupply is so great that you must pump, it is always nice to have extra milk available when you cannot feed your baby.  If you have an over abundance of frozen milk, donate it to a human breast milk bank.  You’ll be helping another baby get a great start too.

Finally, remember to be patient.  Your supply may level off as your hormones rebalance after pregnancy.  Plus, babies grow and develop rapidly.  Your baby may adjust to your milk supply over time, and may even thrive on having a plentiful supply.  The important thing to gauge is whether your baby is gaining weight at a healthy pace.

Mastitis Symptoms and Treatments for Breastfeeding Moms

I think I have mastitis.  What are the symptoms and how can I resolve it without taking medication?

 

tendernessMastitis is an inflammation in your breast tissue.  It usually occurs in the early months of breastfeeding, but may also occur after you’ve been nursing for a few months.

What are some of the symptoms you may feel before your mastitis is diagnosed? Many breastfeeding moms notice changes in their breasts, like red patches or the breasts are warm and painful to touch. Moms also may feel like areas of their breasts are burning while nursing or experience consistent burning feels throughout the day.

In addition to uncomfortable breast changes, moms report feeling flu-like symptoms that include chills, a fever, and aches and pain throughout their bodies. Mastitis will wear you down and leave you feeling exhausted.

There are two types of mastitis inflammation: infectious or non-infectious. Non-infectious mastitis is usually caused by milk staying too long in the breast.  If you have a plugged milk duct, a problem with your baby properly latching, or if your baby simply doesn’t drain the breast well while nursing, you might develop a non-infectious mastitis inflammation.

On the other hand, infectious mastitis is caused by a bacterial infection. This type of mastitis may develop if your nipples are cracked or damaged, allowing bacteria to enter your body. This infection needs immediate attention from your doctor.

If you are diagnosed with non-infectious mastitis, a session with a lactation consultant may be beneficial to you and your baby. You might have to focus on using different breastfeeding methods and positions so your baby does a better job of draining milk from your breasts while feeding.

You may also want to pump after your baby nurses to ensure that your breasts are emptying properly. Other breastfeeding tips for non-infectious mastitis include warming your breasts shortly because nursing to help with loosening milk flow, especially if you notice one breast does not empty as efficiently as the other.

If your doctor determines that you have infectious mastitis, then you will need to take an antibiotic to successfully treat the inflammation. It is very important to start taking your prescribed antibiotic within 24 hours of your diagnosis to reduce the return risk of your mastitis. Follow your doctor’s orders and take the entire prescription even if you feel better a few days into the treatment—you do not want infectious mastitis to return just as you are starting to get stronger. Talk to your doctor about your breastfeeding concerns while taking the antibiotic and what you can do for your baby while your body fights the inflammation.

While on antibiotics, you will want to incorporate some of the techniques listed before for non-infectious mastitis to ease your breast pain. Sometimes, doctors will recommend that a mother will have to wean her baby if the inflammation is serious enough. In most cases though, weaning is not necessary. Be sure to have a conversation with your doctor, your baby’s pediatrician, and even a lactation consultant so you have a full idea of your best treatment options and plans. Remember, one of the best things you can do for your baby is keep yourself healthy, especially if you’re breastfeeding.