breastfeeding, chestfeeding, mastitis

Mastitis, ouch!

Mastitis is an inflammation in your breasts which may become an infection if not addressed.  It affects about 1/3 of lactating parents but can be prevented and treated with quick resolution.


Mastitis most often occurs when milk isn’t fully removed often.   This can lead to inflammation and discomfort. 

If left untreated, you may develop an infection.  Early symptoms include a painful, heavy full feeling in your breasts, fatigue, and/or tender areas of the breast (especially on the bottom and near your armpit). 

For some parents, the feeling happens during milk ejection (letdown) and can feel like a burning or stinging sensation starting at the nipple and moving deeper into the breast.

Most commonly mastitis occurs during the first 2-4 weeks.  Your risk of developing mastitis is higher if you have diabetes or if you have had antibiotics during or after delivery (ie, Group B Strep).  It’s especially important to feed baby often and well in these situations.

Your milk is safe for baby when you have mastitis

Your Lactation Consultant can help you figure out how to
prevent mastitis from re-occurring.

Self-care can resolve the inflammation in most cases without the use of medication.

Cool compresses, an anti-inflammatory like ibuprofen, rest, with gentle lymphatic massage are helpful and may prevent an infection. You should feel better in 24hrs with self-care.

Older recommendations included warm compresses, feeding and pumping very often, as well as vigorous massage. We now know this can increase symptoms.

Multiple studies have reported that probiotics (beneficial bacteria) are effective in treating infectious mastitis and also resulted in a lower occurrence of repeat mastitis compared to antibiotic treatment.

Look for Lactobacillus fermentum, Lactobacillus salivarius, and Lactobaccillus gasseri (it may be listed as L. fermentum, etc). 

Check with your IBCLC or provider for recommended products. Better quality probiotics are generally refrigerated and contain 10 billion CFUs or higher. Continue taking the probiotics for 2 weeks after symptoms resolve.

Call your doctor if you experience:

Fever over 101F
Flu-like aches
Nausea and chills
Pain and swelling in the breasts
Red, hot, tender area which is often wedge shaped
Red streaking toward the armpit

You should start to feel better in 8-24 hours.  If you are not feeling better with self-care or you develop a fever, flu-like symptoms, or any signs of infection you will need to see your physician.  Most people feel much better after 2 days but it’s important to take all 10-14 days of your medication or you may develop an abscess which requires surgical treatment.  The most common antibiotics prescribed for mastitis are dicloxacillin or flucoxacillian.  

Antibiotics can cause digestive symptoms so follow your doctor’s directions and taken your probiotic dose 2-4hrs after your medication.

Work with your Lactation Consultant to prevent mastitis from happening again. 

If you get mastitis frequently or it’s always in the same area, your doctor may order an ultrasound to get more information.

❤ Megan Dunn, IBCLC

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