How to deal with recurrent mastitis or plugged ducts

According to a certain study, 20% of mastitis cases reoccur. Re-occurrence of mastitis may be triggered by the same conditions present during the first onset.

In most cases, mastitis is more likely to recur due to irregular breastfeeding patterns (i.e. skipping nursing or pumping sessions, and bottle feeding instead of getting baby to latch on). Recurrent episodes of mastitis may also mean that mum’s immune system is taking a back seat, mostly due to stress and tiredness.

What causes a breast abscess or mastitis?

A study published in the International Journal of Epidemiology shows that recurrent sub-areolar breast abscess is associated with cigarette smoking. It was found that 60 patients who smoked heavily have an unusually high frequency of suffering from a recurrent sub-areolar breast abscess. Quoting from the study, “cigarette smoking could either have a direct toxic effect on the retroareolar lactiferous ducts or an indirect effect via hormonal stimulation of the breast secretion. Both hypotheses could explain the recurrent aspect of the disease”.

Another study, authored by Fetherston and Hartman in 2008, reveals that there is a possibility of recurrent mastitis in a mother with immunoglobulin A deficiency. The subject of the study is a mother who suffered 7 episodes of blocked ducts during the first weeks of lactation. Analysis reveals that there was no detectable sIgA present in her milk samples and further medical referral and testing resulted in a diagnosis of selective IgA deficiency, of which the mother had not been previously aware.

RELATED: Why am I experiencing sudden nipple soreness while breastfeeding?

Secretory immunoglobulin A (sIgA) is the dominant immunoglobulin in human milk which contributes much for the infant’s protection against diseases. Furthermore, sIgA plays a role in the defence of the mammary gland. To enhance the body’s ability to produce sigA, the woman needs to enhance her daily intake of vitamins and minerals. At the end, it was concluded that absence of sIgA in this mother’s breastmilk may have been a contributing factor in her experiencing recurrent blocked ducts.

Find out how to treat mastitis on the next page.