What causes mastitis?
Mastitis is often a complication of engorgement – a build-up of milk in the breast. This often happens in the first weeks after the delivery, while the baby is still getting the hang of breastfeeding, or if you skip a few nursing sessions, i.e. if you’re going back to work or if you’re travelling. Poor latching on is a very common culprit of engorgement and consequentially, mastitis, so do make sure that your nipple is positioned properly in your baby’s mouth. Encourage your baby to empty the breast completely while nursing to prevent milk build-up. Start new feeding session with the breast you ended the previous session to make sure the breast is completely empty.
Instead of sticking to a feeding schedule with long breaks between feedings during which milk can accumulate and cause inflammation in the breast tissue, nurse your child whenever you notice the first signs of hunger (increased alertness, rooting or mouthing). Good breastfeeding practice can do wonders in protecting you from mastitis and other uncomfortable issues, such as sore nipples.
Cracked skin of the nipples presents the open doorway for microbes – this is how bacteria or thrush can enter the breast tissue and cause an infection. A proper latch will allow your baby to nurse without causing you pain, but if you are suffering from cracked and sore nipples, try using breast compresses that can speed up the healing process.
Any sort of constant pressure to your breasts can also lead to mastitis – this means that a nursing bra that doesn’t fit you well, tight clothing, a seat belt or if you sleep on your stomach, can all be culprits of inflammation.
Offering your baby a pacifier or a bottle before breastfeeding has been established, has been identified as another potential cause of mastitis. Giving your baby a pacifier too early on can lead to nipple confusion when your baby starts rejecting the breast, therefore disrupting the breastfeeding routine.