Managing Mastitis: What’s changed?

Tara Boylan – Physiotherapist

move beyond team tara boylan 2

Tara Boylan is a Women’s Men’s & Pelvic Health Physiotherapist at Beyond Ocean Grove and works with many clients that suffer from Mastitis.

Mastitis is a common inflammatory condition of the breast that impacts women most often in the early months of breastfeeding and commonly contributes to early cessation of breastfeeding.In more recent times, Mastitis is now believed to occur due to narrowing and congestion of the milk ducts, which is worsened by overstimulation of milk production, resulting in inflammation in the breast tissue. It is not the blockage of a single duct, as previously thought.Mastitis often occurs in the early days and weeks of breastfeeding, when supply is being established. It may also occur later as your baby starts to reduce feeds, until your supply responds to the reduced demand.Recurrent episodes of mastitis should be investigated further to ensure your baby is latching well and adequately transferring milk during feeds.Other contributing factors include microbial factors (breast and milk microbiome), use of breast pumps and nipple shields and the use of antibiotics.

What are the signs I should I look out for?

  • Redness
  • Swelling or palpable lump/area of hardened tissue
  • Tenderness/pain
  • Increased warmth in affected breast tissue
  • Flu-like symptoms including fever, fatigue and chills

If I have Mastitis what can I do?

Continue to breastfeed on demand, from both sides equally, no longer favouring the affected side in an effort to ‘unblock the duct’. Feeding from the affected side only results in increased stimulation and milk production, contributing to a cycle of hyperlactation and ongoing inflammation.
Gentle lymphatic drainage massage. This involves light strokes from your nipple towards your armpit and collarbone, where lymph nodes support lymphatic drainage and therefore reduction in swelling and inflammation. Aggressive massage towards the nipple should be avoided, as this can damage delicate breast tissue.

Minimise breast pump usage where possible, as pumps can cause trauma if the wrong size flange is used, suction is too high or pumping time is excessive. Breastfeeding also allows the exchange of bacteria between your baby’s mouth and your breast, which supports a healthy microbiome. If needing to pump, limit frequency to the same frequency and length of time you would breastfeed.

Reserve the use of antibiotics for bacterial mastitis, as use of antibiotics for inflammatory mastitis disrupts the breasts natural microbiome.

What else can I do?

  • Rest, rest, rest (as much as possible!)
  • Wear an appropriately fitting supportive bra
  • Use ice and NSAIDS to reduce inflammation and provide symptomatic relief
  • Consider trialing probiotics and sunflower or soy lecithin (5-10g daily) to reduce inflammation in ducts and emulsify milk
  • Seek help from a practitioner who is trained in treating mastitis

How can a practitioner at Beyond help?

  • Use of therapeutic ultrasound is an effective treatment to reduce inflammation and swelling. It is recommended to have treatment on 3 consecutive days for best results.
  • Lymphatic drainage massage.
  • Education regarding the causes, contributing factors and support you to help manage your symptoms at home.

If you or a loved one are experiencing any of the symptoms above you can book in with one of the team for an assessment and education support today.

Sign up to catch the latest from the Beyond Team
Looking to Book an Appointment?

Beyond is here to help you Move through life! Booking an appointment online is the most convenient way to lock in the location, practitioner & time you want.