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Discover the causes, symptoms and treatment options for mastitis, a common condition that can impact breastfeeding mothers and their infants.


Mastitis Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

Mastitis occurs in approximately 10 percent of U.S. mothers who are breastfeeding.1 For many, it leads to the premature end of breastfeeding. With proper treatment, this doesn't have to be the case.

What Is Mastitis?

Mastitis is a breast inflammation that most often occurs when a mother is breastfeeding. It is caused by the swelling of the ducts that carry milk to the nipple or from a bacterial infection.2 This infection can make the breast swollen and red. It may also make breastfeeding painful.

a mother holding her newborn baby

What are the Symptoms of Mastitis?1

  • Hard, swollen or red breast area
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Flu-like symptoms

If left untreated, your breast milk may stop being produced and you may develop an infection that could turn into an abscess. That is why it is important to seek care if you suspect mastitis.

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How to Prevent Mastitis

One of the simplest ways to treat mastitis is frequent and effective milk removal. Breastfeed more frequently, starting with the affected breast. This is also a good reason for your child to feed from both breasts. If one is tender, you can switch to the other breast.

After initial feeding, milk should be expressed by hand or breast pump. This may speed healing. When combined with lymphatic massage and warm compresses, the breast may drain more properly. Cool compresses, however, will reduce pain and edema.1

Before feeding, consider using a hot compress or hot shower. This may enable the milk to be released more effectively. To help the healing process, get proper rest, nutrition and fluids.

Can my baby drink my breastmilk if I have mastitis? Yes. A healthy infant will experience no health risks if they continue breastfeeding from a mother with mastitis.

What if they don’t want the breastmilk any longer? If you’re unable to continue breastfeeding or if your child refuses to breastfeed, you should express the milk from the breast by hand or breast pump. This is because suddenly ending breastfeeding could lead to an abscess.

What prescriptions can help with mastitis? While most of the therapy comes with properly emptying the breast and the techniques listed above, your provider may prescribe a prescription to speed recovery. As pain interferes with your breasts’ lactation ability, ibuprofen may be considered. Antibiotics may also be prescribed. Speak with your provider to learn more.

The Importance of Breastfeeding

A mother holding her newborn after breastfeeding

Why is breastfeeding important? The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the World Health Organization (WHO) recommend exclusively breastfeeding for children up to six months. After six months, they recommend continued breastfeeding and introducing complementary foods. Breastfeeding may continue for a year or longer as mutually desired by mother and infant.

Breastfeeding offers many developmental and protective benefits:3

  • Reduced childhood infection
  • A possible increase in intelligence
  • Reduction in overweight condition and diabetes

Nursing women may also gain protection against:3

  • Breast cancer
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Type 2 diabetes

The Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine studies state that 3 percent to 20 percent of women suffer from mastitis as they breastfeed.1 Without getting the proper treatment, mastitis inflammation can lead to an abscess and further complications. To start feeling better and get some peace of mind, visit MedExpress today and speak with our providers about mastitis.


1 American Family Physician. Management of Mastitis in Breastfeeding Women. Accessed November 15, 2023.

2 Health. What Is Mastitis? Last updated August 18, 2023. Accessed November 15, 2023.

3 National Library of Medicine / National Center for Biotechnology Information. Mastitis While Breastfeeding: Prevention, the Importance of Proper Treatment, and Potential Complications. Last updated August 9, 2020. Accessed November 15, 2023.

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