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For new mummies who are experiencing mastitis, Dr Anthony Tang from The Breast Clinic shares important tips to make your breastfeeding journey an easier one in this article.

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What is Mastitis

Even before ladies give birth, there are many changes that occur in their breasts. A lot more milk is produced in the lobules of the breasts, which lead towards milk ducts and finally the nipple.

Sometimes, these milk ducts can get blocked by oily secretions, causing the milk produced in the lobules to get stuck and it cannot come out through the nipple. If these blockages are not relieved and continue to fester, the milk that is stuck inside can start to get infected, resulting in the start of mastitis.

Signs and Symptoms of Mastitis

I. Mild

One of the earliest symptoms of mastitis is that certain areas of the breast start to feel a little bit hard and if you press on it, it might be a little painful as well.

II. Moderate

As mastitis gets worse, the skin over the particular area becomes red and fever may develop.

III. Severe

If it progresses even further, an abscess will form in the breast. An abscess is similar to a big pimple in appearance. One area of your breast might feel a bit soft and fluctuant, as though there is some liquid behind it. This is often accompanied by fever and your breast area feeling quite tender.

How is Mastitis Treated

The treatment varies depending on which stage of mastitis you are in. If you see the doctor when your symptoms are still mild to moderate e.g. when no abscess has formed yet, then you would probably just require antibiotics.

If an abscess has already formed, then it might need to be aspirated. This means that the pus within it will be drained using a fine needle. Sometimes, a small surgery needs to be done to drain the pus. These treatments are typically performed by breast specialists.

Tips to Manage Mastitis at Home

Since the cause of mastitis is the blockage of milk ducts, there are measures you can take to relieve this blockage in the early stages of mastitis.

I. Continue breastfeeding

It is important for mummies to continue breastfeeding. Furthermore, you should try to breastfeed in multiple positions as this tends to release different ducts.

II. Apply a warm compress before breastfeeding

You can also apply a warm compress over the breast about 5 mins before breastfeeding. This warmth helps to dissolve the oily secretion that is in the duct and might help to restore the flow of milk.

Why See a Breast Specialist for Mastitis

It is pertinent to see a breast specialist if you observe redness, pain or discomfort in your breasts especially during or after pregnancy. This is because the symptoms might be due to another condition known as inflammatory breast cancer. In this condition, the breast becomes quite red, with a lump underneath.

As the symptoms for mastitis and inflammatory breast cancer can be pretty similar, it is important to visit a specialist who will be able to distinguish between the two conditions.

Hence, it is advisable to get the issue accurately diagnosed and properly treated by a specialist, especially when it happens for the first time.

To all mummies out there, do try to continue to breastfeed. If you have difficulties, whether it is pain, congestion or infection, see a suitable specialist to help you through this particular episode, so that you can continue that special bond with your child through breastfeeding.

Dr Anthony Tang is a Breast Cancer surgeon with over 20 years of experience in Minimally Invasive and Breast Cancer surgery. His clinical interests include Breast Conservation Surgery, Breast Reconstruction (Oncoplasty) and Sentinel Node Biopsy.

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Incorporated in 2005, Singapore Medical Group (SMG) is a healthcare organisation with a network of private specialist providers across four established pillars - Aesthetics, Diagnostic Imaging & Screening, Oncology and Women's and Children's Health. Within Singapore, SMG has more than 40 clinics strategically located in central Singapore and heartland estates. Beyond Singapore, SMG also has an established presence in Indonesia, Vietnam and Australia. Learn about our privacy policy here.

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