Get the silent treatment

Milk congestion - when the breast becomes inflamed while breastfeeding

What is a breast infection?

When breastfeeding, it is important that the milk flows well. If this is not the case, the breast will only be insufficiently emptied. The milk builds up and the breast can become infected. It begins to tense, is sensitive and painful. In the technical language this is called Milk congestion. If the symptoms in the chest get worse and the whole body reacts to the inflammation, for example with a fever, it is a so-called Mastitis.

How does breast inflammation come about?

Various causes can disrupt the flow of milk and lead to a blockage of the milk, for example:

  • The baby is not laid out properly.

  • The baby is not sucking hard enough.

  • The baby drinks too seldom or too briefly.

  • The nipples are sore.

  • The clothing is too tight in the chest area.

  • The milk production is excessive.

  • You have stress or lack of sleep.

Mastitis can develop from blocked milk. Mastitis can also develop when bacteria enter the body through small injuries to the breast or nipples.

Recognize a milk blockage

If the breast is blocked, the symptoms are limited to the chest. This is painful and tense. You can feel lumpy, hardened areas in your chest. Sometimes the affected area feels a little warm or it is reddened. Increased body temperature can be added, but does not rise above 38.4 ° C. You don't feel "really sick".

Recognize mastitis

The symptoms of mastitis are more pronounced than those of congestion. The chest is very painful, swollen, red and warm. In addition, symptoms similar to those of a "flu" occur: You feel dull, have headaches and aching limbs or chills. Over time, the fever rises to over 38.4 ° C.

What you can do yourself

Get professional help
If there are problems with breastfeeding, the midwife and lactation advisor are the first point of contact. Let us show you the correct breastfeeding position and application technique. It often helps to take the advice into account and to receive some encouragement. And: midwives or lactation consultants will accompany you throughout your breastfeeding period, not just when difficulties arise.

Continue to breastfeed
The most important thing is to empty the affected breast as completely as possible. This will ease the pressure in the chest. Try to continue breastfeeding regularly. Neither congestion nor mastitis harm the baby. If it is not possible for you to apply it to the diseased breast, carefully spread it out towards the nipple or pump out the milk.
It can be helpful if you warm up the chest beforehand, for example with warm compresses or a warm shower. Then the milk will flow more easily. After breastfeeding, you can cool the breast, for example with cooling pads, cabbage leaves or quark. This will reduce swelling and pain. Choose the warmth or cooling that is most comfortable for you.
First, place the child against the affected breast. Then the breast is emptied more completely. If this is too painful, start with a healthy chest. This way you can stimulate the flow of milk better. When the milk flows, switch back to the affected side.

Put the baby on correctly
An improperly emptied breast or sore nipples can indicate that the baby is improperly laid on. The following signs show you that your baby is lying well against your breast and is suckling:

  • The child's mouth is wide open. It covers the nipple completely and a lot of breast tissue.

  • The baby's nose is close to the chest.

  • The lips are turned outwards.

Keep calm
Try to avoid stress. You are sick and should take it easy. It's not always easy with a baby, especially when you have more children. Let your partner, grandparents or friends help you around the house and with the baby. Some tasks don't need to be done right away.

You can also relieve pain and fever with medication, such as ibuprofen. It only passes into breast milk in small amounts. You can take it for a short time during breastfeeding.

When do I need medical help?

If the symptoms do not improve after 24 to 48 hours or even worsen, bacteria are probably involved. Restrictions on breastfeeding and, in the worst case, purulent ulcers or blood poisoning can be possible consequences. You should therefore consult a doctor. Experts are now recommending a drug that works against bacteria, a so-called drug Antibiotic. There are a number of antibiotics that you can take while breastfeeding that will not affect the baby.

You do not have to wean.

In order for the antibiotic to work, take it as prescribed by your doctor: in the prescribed amount and at appropriate intervals. Do not shorten or lengthen the duration of the intake. If there is no improvement after about 48 hours, the drug is probably not working. Contact your doctor again.

Do alternative procedures help?

At the moment it is not possible to say whether acupuncture, homeopathy or vibration will help. There is a lack of meaningful studies.

May 2017, published by the German Medical Association and the National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians