LivingBreast abscess during lactation: why it occurs and how...

Breast abscess during lactation: why it occurs and how it is solved

The Alba Lactancia Association defines breast abscesses as the obstruction of a milk duct due to alterations in bacteria, which, when proliferating, adhere to the walls of the ducts together with calcium molecules and end up plugging them .

It is the biggest complication that can occur during breastfeeding, but it does not have to imply the end of it. We explain how a breast abscess develops and what treatments exist.

Breast abscess and mastitis, what is the relationship?

Breast abscesses are caused by accumulation of pus in the breast , and are the result of a mastitis that progresses and is not treated effectively. That is why, in the face of any unusual symptoms or discomfort when breastfeeding the baby, it is essential to seek professional help who knows how to diagnose the problem and find a solution.

Symptoms and evolution

The first symptom that the woman notices is the appearance of a lump in the breast that is hard and painful on palpation . Contrary to what happens when there are small obstructions, this lump does not disappear after breastfeeding. Little by little it becomes more and more painful, fever and general malaise may appear and the skin becomes red, shiny and tight.

What to do (and what not to do) with a breast abscess

Given the initial symptoms, it is important not to apply local heat , as bacteria could proliferate and complicate the problem. From LactApp they recommend applying cold so that the lump deflates, and if there is no fever, monitor how it evolves . It may also help to massage the affected quadrant, and when breastfeeding find a position that favors drainage, placing the baby with his chin in the direction of the obstruction.

If there is no improvement or other symptoms appear, you should see a doctor immediately , as it may be necessary to drain the pus using one of these techniques:

  • Ultrasound-guided fine needle aspiration. It is a minimally invasive technique that consists of inserting a needle into the cavity of the breast abscess and extracting the infected fluid using a syringe. Recovery in this case is immediate and the mother can continue to breastfeed her baby normally.

  • Through a surgical incision , especially if the abscess is very large or there are several. This system requires open drains so that the infected fluid continues to flow out before the wound closes, as well as cures to avoid infection and antibiotic treatment compatible with breastfeeding.

Recovery is slower, but not only is there no reason to abandon breastfeeding , it is recommended to continue breastfeeding, although it is important to ensure that the baby’s mouth does not come into contact with the drains or the infected area. If the incision is close to the areola and the baby cannot latch on, it will be necessary to express the milk manually or with a breast pump.

LactApp recommends not abandoning breastfeeding at this point , but if the woman wishes to stop breastfeeding, she must wait until the abscess has been completely resolved.

We all know that breastfeeding is the best food for the baby, but when complications arise it can be very frustrating and painful for the mother. Therefore, it is essential to go to health professionals who know about lactation, lactation consultants or support groups or IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant for its acronym in English) who can help diagnose and solve the problem .

More information | Cochrane

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