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Mastitis: What Breastfeeding Parents Need to Know

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When an area of a nursing parent's breast does not drain enough, this can lead to inflammation and a condition called mastitis. In more severe cases, bacteria may begin to grow and cause an infection. Learn more about mastitis and what to do if you develop symptoms while breastfeeding.

Symptoms of mastitis

Symptoms of mastitis include swelling, warmth, burning, redness or pain. You may also have fever, flu-like symptoms or general aches. If you have any of these symptoms, let your doctor know right away.

Mastitis may start with inflammation that can be treated with medication like ibuprofen. If symptoms continue for more than 24 hours or get worse, contact your doctor. They may recommend antibiotics.

How is mastitis treated?

Treatment for mastitis includes cold compresses and antibiotics, along with frequent breastfeeding, rest, plenty of fluids and anti-inflammatory pain medication.

When your doctor prescribes antibiotics for mastitis, it is important to complete the entire amount prescribed. If you are not feeling better within 72 hours after starting the antibiotic, talk with your provider. Another antibiotic or treatment approach may be needed.

Many nursing parents are concerned about the antibiotic being transmitted in the breast milk and affecting the baby, so they either don't take the medicine or stop earlier than recommended. However, the antibiotics given to treat mastitis generally do not cause any problems for the nursing infant.

Plus, failure to complete the course of antibiotics may increase your chance of developing another episode of the infection. Repeat or untreated breast infections may cause scarring, which can impact your milk production even with future pregnancies and breastfeeding experiences.

Should I keep breastfeeding with mastitis?

It's important to continue breastfeeding or expressing your milk while you have mastitis; frequent nursing helps drain your breasts and prevent the infection from worsening. Your baby will not be harmed by drinking your breast milk.

If it is too painful to have your baby nurse on the infected breast, move to the other breast. Milk should be emptied from the breast either by the baby or by expressing or pumping it. Be cautious about only expressing what your baby would normally be eating and not overpumping.

More information

Last Updated
American Academy of Pediatrics Section on Breastfeeding (Copyright © 2024)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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