Mastitis is a painful breast infection caused by germs entering through cracked nipples.  Even though it can happen at any time, mastitis is more likely to strike in the first six weeks when cracked nipples are more likely.

Symptoms include:

  • Breast warmth and/or extreme soreness
  • Swelling and hardness
  • Redness over the infected duct
  • Flu-like feelings with chills, fatigue and a fever of  38 degrees celsius or higher

Call your doctor as soon as you suspect an infection because it could easily turn into a breast abscess -  an excruciatingly painful condition often requiring surgical drainage.  If you develop an abscess, feed only on the healthy side until it heals.  However, you’ll have to pump the infected breast to maintain your milk supply.

Prevent mastitis by:

  • Getting adequate advice and support on proper latching techniques to prevent cracked nipples
  • Vary your feeding positions to fully drain your breast
  • Wear a well-fitting bra, as one too tight can restrict milk flow

To treat mastitis your doctor will probably prescribe antibiotics and possibly bed rest and pain relievers.  As painful as it is, continue to feed your baby from the infected breast and make sure it’s adequately drained (the breast will feel soft).  If it's not completely drained, you could develop milk stasis, causing more pressure on the ducts and milk leakage into the breast tissue. This can cause an abscess as well.

Make sure that you drink plenty of fluids and rest as much as possible to help fight the infection.

Related stories:


Breastfeeding positions
Breastfeeding benefits
Lactation aids
Breast care

Written by Linda Drummond for Kidspot, New Zealand's leading pregnancy and parenting resource.



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