by: Kimberly C. Bowman

When facing breast infection issues, it is important to know the differences between a plugged duct and a bacterial infection. A plugged duct comes on gradually, may shift in location with little or no warmth in the area. Pain is mild and localized with a temperature lower than 101F. A breast infection comes on suddenly, is localized, with redness and swelling, pain is intense and flu-like symptoms are accompanied by a temperature of 101F or higher.

The mastitis mantra is rest, rest, rest but this begins beforehand. Plugged ducts are often the first sign that you are doing too much. It is difficult to relax and slow down but a plugged duct is a message from the universe or God, or whomever you wish to hear it from, that the time is now. An untreated infection steals time away from life’s responsibilities quicker than rest during the day. Sleep when baby sleeps. Lie down in an older child’s room where they can play, lock the door and let them quietly play while mommy has a time-out. Feeling guilty, like you’re not doing enough and need to keep at it? Burning 500 calories a day just lactating is doing enough, sister.

Though rare and only occurring in a small percentage of women with infectious mastitis, breast abscess is a potential effect of untreated mastitis. It is serious and painful and requires immediate medical attention as it must be aspirated or surgically drained. Then it is followed by a course of antibiotics. A simple course of antibiotics to begin with is a better choice.

Antibiotics are often the only option when dealing with an infection and thank goodness they are available to us. Most antibiotics are safe to take while nursing. This information can be verified with your doctor, your pharmacist, a non-emergency call to Poison Control and/or by calling upon your local La Leche League International Leader to look up any medication in Dr. Hale’s Medications and Mother’s Milk. To combat intestinal tract upset, eat yogurt or add your favorite probiotics product to your daily regimen. Continue rebuilding your gut’s healthy bacteria after your antibiotics course is finished to keep your immune system armed and ready.

Mamas with plugged ducts and mastitis need to tap their inner vigilante with one eye on the worst case scenario. It is not worth waiting it out and having to deal with something worse down the road.