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Inflamed breast

Do not stop breastfeeding

Aus unserer Serie »English Lesson«: It comes out of nowhere: suddenly a breast starts to tighten, swell and hurt. Palpation reveals knotty, hardened areas. Some women develop an increased temperature. The joy of breastfeeding is then over for the time being.
Marta Campbell
13.01.2023  09:00 Uhr

The symptoms described indicate a milk stasis. This problem can occur throughout the breastfeeding period, but most women are affected in the first few weeks. Possible causes: The breastfeeding technique is not optimal or the baby is not sucking hard enough. Breastfeeding periods may be too infrequent or too short. Leftover milk can thicken in the milk ducts, forming lumps that block the milk ducts. Clothing that is too tight and constricting makes it harder for the milk to flow. Stress inhibits the release of the hormone oxytocin. This is normally released when the baby sucks. It causes the smooth muscles around the milk ducts to contract and allow milk to be secreted. Excessive milk production can also lead to congestion in the milk ducts.

Due to the increased pressure during milk stasis, the permeability of the capillaries increases and more minerals (sodium, chloride) enter the milk from the serum. This can make the milk taste saltier, and some babies reject it. The transition to mastitis is fluid. This occurs when bacteria penetrate through small injuries (rhagades) in the nipple and areola. This is usually Staphylococcus aureus, which gets onto the mother's skin from the baby's mouth and throat. In such mastitis puerperalis, general symptoms such as fever, chills and a feeling of weakness occur in addition to the local symptoms. The affected breast shows clear signs of inflammation, is reddened and overheated. A yellowish, purulent discharge may emerge from the nipple, occasionally containing streaks of blood. The lymph nodes in the armpit enlarge.

No harm to the baby

The good news is that neither milk stasis nor mastitis harm the baby. So breastfeeding can and should be continued. If there is a milk stasis, the milk ducts must be completely emptied again. Midwives and breastfeeding counsellors can explain which measures help. They will show you the correct breastfeeding position and know how the mother can best put the baby to the breast. To relieve blockages in the milk ducts, the woman gently strokes from the painful area to the nipple to stimulate the flow of milk. Milk flows better when the breast is warm. Warm compresses are good, and taking a warm shower or shining a heat lamp on the breast also helps the milk flow.


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