Pain in breastfeeding

By Ifeyinwa Ugo-Amadi

Breastfeeding supplies infants with the most superior nutrients required for immune development and survival. However, an inflammation of the breasts known as mastitis can make this a difficult task. Mastitis can result in breast pain, breast swelling, redness and warmth.  It is common amongst breastfeeding mothers where it is known as puerperal mastitis and affects one breast at a time. In other persons, it is called non-puerperal mastitis. It rarely occurs in men but inflammatory breast cancer must be ruled out due to identical symptoms.
Mastitis could develop when breast milk is not properly released from the breast due to inappropriate latching of the baby to the breast or inability of the baby to suckle effectively. Direct trauma to the breast tissue or contamination of a breast implant or any other foreign body can also cause mastitis. It may or may not be caused by an infection. Infection may arise when germs invade the breast tissue through a cracked nipple.
Risk factors include incomplete emptying of breast while breastfeeding, poor nutrition, pressure on breast due to tight fitting bra or anything that restricts milk flow, stress, breastfeeding using just one position etc. Foods that contain zinc (e.g eggs, meat and oats), calcium (e.g raw vegetables, low-fat dairy products, almonds etc), vitamins, and a healthy supply of protein and carbohydrate are good for lactating mothers.
Treatment requires use of antibiotics and pain-relievers. A lactating mother will need to ensure that the baby latches on correctly. Drinking enough water, taking rest and eating the right meals are essential for quick recovery. Continuous breastfeeding despite pain helps to clear any infection and prevent secondary infection. Due to antibodies present in breast milk, the baby can’t get infected. A supportive bra is best, underwire bras and bras that are too small could worsen the case.
Complications that may arise from mastitis include a breast abscess. This can result in a surgery or needle aspiration. It may also hinder the mother from breastfeeding despite its benefits.


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