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