“These days a lot of women are choosing to breastfeed exclusively for the first six months. This should really be encouraged and I would like to briefly explain why. Breast milk is the only natural food designed for the baby, it protects babies from infections and diseases, it provides health benefits for mums, it’s free and available whenever and wherever the baby needs a feed at the right temperature, it builds a strong physical and emotional bond between mother and baby and ultimately gives the mum a great sense of achievement,” said Nurse Martha Sebina at Nkoyaphiri Clinic. Sebina said the same breastfeeding is not always a bed of roses and that mothers wishing to breastfeed should have all the necessary education handy before their babies are born, as this will better equip them to be the best that they can be at taking care of their babies.
“There is a condition called Mastitis which causes a woman’s breast tissue to become painful and inflamed. As more women choose to breastfeed, so do we see the rise in this condition as it affects mostly nursing mums and in this case it’s called Lactation Mastitis,” said Sebina. She said 1 in 10 women are affected especially within the first three months and it is often caused by a build-up of milk within the breast. “Milk building up in the breast may be because the baby is not attaching or latching on properly to the breast during feeds. The baby may have problems sucking milk effectively out of the breast or missing feeds or even not feeding the little one frequent enough could be the cause,” explained Sebina.
Sebina said the most important thing is for mums to know the symptoms so that they can get their breasts attended to as soon as these show up. “I don’t want to scare women but in some cases this build-up of milk can also become infected with bacteria which then complicates the case even further, some end up needing surgery. Hence the need to seek treatment as early as possible,” she said. Sebina said Lactation Mastitis usually affects one breast and the symptoms develop rapidly.
“The mum should look out for signs such as a red swollen area on her breast that may feel hot and painful to touch, a breast lump or area of hardness on her breast, burning pain in her breast that may be continuous or may only occur when she is breastfeeding, nipple discharge which may be white or contain streaks of blood. She may also experience flu-like symptoms such as aches, a high temperature or fever, chills and tiredness,” said Sebina.
She said when women go to health facilities with Lactation Mastitis it is very important for them to try and not feel like they are being blamed, tested or judged as breastfeeding properly can take time, especially with first time mums. “We might even ask the mum to demonstrate her technique,” said Sebina. She said this condition can usually be fully treated and most women will recover very quickly but also self-help measures could be very helpful. She said these include getting plenty of rest and staying well hydrated, using over-the-counter painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen to reduce any pain or fever, avoiding tight-fitting clothing including bras until symptoms improve and continuing to feed the baby while ensuring proper attachment to the breast.
“Breastfeeding the baby when mum has Mastitis even if there is an infection will not harm the little one and can help improve the symptoms. It may also help to feed more frequently than usual and to even express any remaining milk after a feed as well as expressing milk between feeds,” said Sebina.