A study in Spain has shown that the probiotic strain Lactobacillus fermentum CECT5716 can help prevent mastitis in half of breastfeeding mothers.
Mastitis is an inflammation of the breast that commonly happens during the first 6 months of breastfeeding. A cracked or sore nipple sometimes allows bacteria to enter, causing an infection. Mastitis also occurs when the mother goes for long periods without breastfeeding, or if the breast isn’t completely emptied, causing blockages.
This inflammation is painful, and can be accompanied by fevers, chills, and body aches. More advanced cases include swollen, painful lymph nodes in the armpit and flu-like symptoms, and can even lead to an abscess, which is a hard, painful lump. Mastitis will also often discourage the mother from breastfeeding.
CECT5715 can help prevent mastitis
A randomized, double-blinded controlled trial in Spain included 625 women being given 3 billion CFUs (colony-forming units) of L. fermentum CECT5716. The goal was to prevent mastitis by lowering the amount of Staphylococcus bacteria, which is the main cause of the disease.
By the end of the trial, there were 291 women left who completed the entire 16-week treatment period. 139 were in the probiotic group (given CECT5716) and 152 in the control group (given placebo). 16 women in the probiotic group developed mastitis, versus 30 in the control group. This means that L. fermentum CECT5716 decreased the rate of mastitis by 51%.
There was also significantly less Staphylococcus bacteria in the women in the probiotic group than those in the control group.
Other ways to treat and prevent mastitis
Regular breastfeeding is one of the most important things you can do to prevent developing mastitis. Don’t delay feeding — if the baby isn’t ready to feed, however, you can pump.
Make sure to completely empty the breast as well. Again, if the baby is too full to keep nursing, pump out the rest of your milk.
These two things help keep your breasts from getting engorged, which can cause blockages. Not only is a blockage painful in itself, but it also increases the risk of infection.
Also, make sure that your baby is properly latched on and sucking effectively. Not only does this help prevent engorgement, it also prevents cracked nipples, which increases the risk of bacteria entering and infecting the breast. A cracked nipple can also cause mothers to delay further breastfeeding or even stop it altogether, which can, again, lead to breasts that are too full.
(Featured image taken by photographer Mae Burke)