The Effects of Mastitis on Infants

February 24, 2019
When it comes to breastfeeding, some uncomfortable situations and risks may be involved for the mother and the infant. One of them is known as mastitis, which is associated with pain for the mother, discomfort for the infant, and symptoms of obsession and anxiety.

Mastitis is a fairly common condition that happens to some women while they’re breastfeeding. Mothers with mastitis suffer more than just physically; besides the acute pain, there’s concern about the effects of mastitis on infants. Sometimes, it can become an obsession that generates a lot of anxiety.

Mothers are aware of the importance of giving their babies breast milk. That’s why anything that can interfere with the possibility of breastfeeding can make them nervous. Consulting with your doctor is always a safe measure.

What causes mastitis?

Mastitis is an inflammation of the mammary gland caused by infection. What are the causes of breast infection and mastitis?

  • Sometimes, the breasts become infected by microbes that penetrate through cracks in the nipple or small imperceptible injuries. When a baby is sucking, the breasts can get hurt – this is a widespread cause of mastitis. Staphylococcus aureus is the most common agent behind mastitis infections.
  • There is a type of mastitis that is caused by skin bacteria that move into the inside of the breasts.
  • Often, it’s the breast milk itself that causes inflammation, due to it stagnating inside the lining of breast ducts. This occurs when the mother produces a lot of milk, but the baby only consumes only a small amount. The breast doesn’t empty out completely. The fluid then remains stagnant and becomes the cause of infection and mastitis.
  • A low immune system is a factor that can contribute as well. Stress and an unbalanced diet can cause the immune system to become temporarily weak. The woman is, therefore, more vulnerable to infections.
The Effects of Mastitis on Infants

What are the effects of mastitis on infants?

Indeed, one the effects of mastitis on infants is associated with breastfeeding. Because mastitis is an infection, there are always toxic agents present that can cause harm.

Therefore, the milk that comes from a mastitic gland will have a higher concentration of microbes. While breastfeeding, these germs can transfer to the baby.

Scientists haven’t found any evidence to suggest that mastitis causes diseases in babies. Research has shown that children who were fed milk from a breast with mastitis for several months developed normally and healthily.

Although ingesting mastitic milk doesn’t cause health problems for children, there are discomforts both for the mother and the children. The mother will feel intense pain when the child feeds.

On the other hand, the baby will be upset because the milk doesn’t always come out. Also, the flavor of the liquid may change since the mastitic milk is a bit saltier.

Anything that can interfere with the possibility of breastfeeding can make mothers nervous. Consulting with your doctor is always a safe measure.

In cases of severe mastitis, the breast may become blocked, and the milk may not come out, which gives way to the formation of a milk-filled cyst. This is one of the most disturbing effects of mastitis on infants since they can’t suckle.

Certainly, the child will go from being calm and relaxed to being irritable. Breastfeeding will take longer and become more frequent because each draw will contain less milk.

It’s essential to consult with your doctor because sometimes breastfeeding with mastitis prevents the breasts from healing. A professional has the elements to evaluate each situation and suggest a treatment. Also, they’ll always tend to avoid weaning, which is only recommended in extreme cases.

The Effects of Mastitis on Infants

Preventing mastitis while breastfeeding

There are some prophylactic measures that help to avoid mastitis:

  • Healthy nutrition. It’s advisable to consume food rich in vitamins and minerals.
  • Maintain healthy hygiene.
  • Emptying the breasts is also important. You ought to prevent milk from getting clogged in the ducts. If the baby doesn’t consume all the liquid, the rest should be extracted.
  • Accustom the child to attach well to the nipple.
  • Don’t use tight bras.
  • Massage the breasts if you notice any hardening.

The conclusion from everything presented above is that a mother who breastfeeds her child should continue to do so despite mastitis. The effects of mastitis on infants will not go beyond irritability along with a little frustration.

  1. Ripley, D. Mastitis. Primary Care Update for Ob/Gyns (1999). doi:10.1016/S1068-607X(99)00004-9
  2. Cullinane, M. et al. Determinants of mastitis in women in the CASTLE study: A cohort study. BMC Fam. Pract. (2015). doi:10.1186/s12875-015-0396-5
  3. Leung, A. K., Sauve, R. S. & Calgory, F. Breast Is Best for Babies. J. Natl. Medicl Assoc. (2005).