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Breastfeeding > Mastitis (Infection of the Breast)

Mastitis (Infection of the Breast)

Mastitis is an inflammation or infection of the breast tissue around the milk ducts. Symptoms may include a tender or painful, reddened, warm or hardened area on your breast (usually on only one breast). You may also have a fever (101º or above) and chills, feel very tired, have a headache and experience overall achiness.

Antibiotics and the following measures will help relieve the symptoms, usually in 24 hours. Call your (Mother's) physician for treatment options. Most Ob/Gyn and family practice doctors know what medications are safe to use with breastfeeding.

If your baby is able to breastfeed

  • Apply warm moist heat to the involved breast prior to each feeding.
  • Nurse on the involved side first. This allows the breast to empty more completely.
  • Change your baby’s position with each feeding (cradle, side-sitting, lying down, football) to empty the ducts more completely.
  • Do not spend longer than 20-30 minutes attempting to nurse your baby.
  • Feed your baby in a quiet relaxing place.

If your baby is currently not breastfeeding and you are pumping

  • Apply warm moist heat to the involved breast or take a warm shower prior to each pumping.
  • Gently massage and stroke the breast towards the nipple to help the milk flow.
  • Pump in a quiet, relaxing place.
  • Pump with a high quality double set-up electric breast pump. Pump every 3 hours for 10-15 minutes.

Other helpful tips

  • Take the antibiotics as prescribed. Continue these antibiotics until they are gone, even if you feel better.
  • Rest every time your baby does at least for the next 24 hours. Rest is important! If your baby is hospitalized, rest when you can.
  • Drink fluids to satisfy your thirst. Your body needs more fluids if you have a fever.
  • You may use acetaminophen (Tylenol®) or ibuprofen (Advil®) for discomfort as needed (if you are not allergic to these medications).
  • Take care of yourself by getting enough rest, eating nutritious foods, drinking enough fluids and asking for help with your baby and household responsibilities.
Remember: Mastitis is an infection of the breast tissue, not the breast milk. Your breast milk is safe for your baby. If you stop breastfeeding even for one feeding healing may be slower. You may also notice that the infected breast may make less milk for a short period of time while healing.

This page is an adaptation of a Children's Mercy Care Card.

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