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Mastitis & New Moms: November 14, 2011

When Lauren Smotrila chose to breast feed baby Scarlet she knew of all the benefits, but not the potential complications.

“I started getting fevers and the higher the fever got I got a little more concerned.”

Lauren’s doctor diagnosed her with mastitis. It’s an infection in the breast tissue, not uncommon in breast-feeding women.

“On the breast itself you’ll get a red area that’s a little bit hard, firm and very tender to the touch. And then the fever women really notice and can be quite high to 103 degrees. And in addition to the fever people feel almost like they have the flu, body aches chills pain,” says Dr. Sarah DiGiorgi, an obstetrician/gynecologist with Lee Memorial Health System’s medical staff.

Some moms are more likely to get mastitis.

“The risks would be if you’ve had mastitis with another pregnancy or if you have any breast tissue that’s not draining very well or cracked nipples or over-engorged breast tissue. Those are all situations in which mastitis is far more common,” says Dr. DiGiorgi.

There are no long-term health consequences to mastitis. A doctor will generally rule out an abscess, then treat it with antibiotics. It’s important that nursing moms don’t stop what they’re doing.

“You need to make sure that the breast does not continue to get engorged. So you need to continue either nursing the baby or using a pump to get the milk moving. The milk itself is not infected and so it’s not required that you throw the milk away but many people generally choose to do so,” says Dr. DiGiorgi.

Mastitis is most common in the first three months after giving birth. Despite the rocky start, things are flowing smoothly between Lauren and baby.

“I was more worried about her getting something than I was about myself. But everything’s fine with her.”