Breast Infection (Mastitis)

Common Challenges of Breastfeeding

Mastitis is soreness or a lump in the breast that can be accompanied by a fever and/or flu- like symptoms, such as feeling run down or very achy.

Some women with a breast infection also have nausea and vomiting. You also may have yellowish discharge from the nipple that looks like colostrum. Or, the breasts may feel warm or hot to the touch and appear pink or red. 

A breast infection can occur when other family members have a cold or the flu. It usually only occurs in one breast. It is not always easy to tell the difference between a breast infection and a plugged duct because both have similar symptoms and can improve within 24 to 48 hours. Most breast infections that do not improve on their own within this time period need to be treated with medicine given by a doctor. 

What you can do:

  • Breastfeed often on the affected side, as often as every two hours. This keeps the milk moving freely and keeps the breast from becoming overly full.

  • Massage the area, starting behind the sore spot. Use your fingers in a circular motion and massage toward the nipple.

  • Apply heat to the sore area with a warm compress. Ice may also help to relieve swelling.

  • Get extra sleep or relax with your feet up to help speed healing. Often a breast infection is the first sign that a mother is doing too much and becoming overly tired.

  • Wear a well-fitting supportive bra that is not too tight, because this can constrict milk ducts.
Ask your doctor for help if you do not feel better within 24 hours of trying these tips. If you have a fever, or if your symptoms worsen, you might need medicine.

See your doctor right away if:

  • You have a breast infection in which both breasts look affected.

  • There is pus or blood in the milk.

  • You have red streaks near the area.

  • Your symptoms came on severely and suddenly.

Even if you are taking medicine, continue to breastfeed during treatment. This is best for both you and your baby Ask a lactation consultant for help if need be.

Updated June 6, 2016

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