1) Common signs of nipple infection
There are certain signs common to most bacterial infection:
- Loss of function
Nipple infections will often ooze pus which is a yellow or white, creamy, thick liquid that contains bacteria, white blood cells, and dead tissue. It may also be bloody. It will often cause sticking to the breast pad or bra.
Infection can be very obvious and aggressive, as is common soon after the birth of the baby, or it can fester slowly, as with a pressure sore from teeth.
A breast infection (mastitis, abscesses) often results from infected nipple damage.
2) The progression to nipple infection soon after the baby’s birth
Nipples are most likely to become infected with bacteria shortly after the baby’s birth, since this is when mothers are most likely to have nipple damage.
A typical pattern of infection soon after the baby's birth is as follows:
- On Days 1 and 2 after birth, the nipple becomes damaged, allowing bacteria to penetrate the top layers of skin and release toxins that further damage the skin. Mothers notice more blistering, scabbing, or dead skin.
- By Day 3 onward, the nipple may:
- Have dead yellow skin or missing skin.
- Have many small puncture-like wounds.
- Look red and swollen.
- Ooze yellow or bloody pus that makes the nipple stick to a breast pad.
- Mothers may develop mastitis, typically in the second week after the baby starts breastfeeding and may progress to an abscess.
Until treated, nipple sensitivity and the pain when breastfeeding increases each day. The area of damage may grow and become deeper.
Many questions remain about the best and safest prevention and treatment of infected nipple damage.