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Women's Health Blog

What to Do About: Mastitis

You are breastfeeding. Everything is going pretty well. And suddenly, you get sick. You may have a fever, breast discomfort, lack of energy, or you may even be vomiting.


What is Going On?

You may have mastitis (mast-EYE-tiss), which can happen when other family members have a cold or the flu, or a plugged milk duct has gone unrelieved. It usually affects one breast and can result in yellowish discharge or a breast that feels hot to the touch. Your breast will generally be pink or redder than usual. 

Mastitis can cause nausea, fever or flu-like symptoms, vomiting, and an achy, run-down feeling. Mastitis can come on slowly and happen anytime during the breastfeeding experience.

It is not always easy to tell if you have an infection or a plugged duct because the symptoms are similar. However, if the symptoms last for more than 24 to 48 hours, talk to your doctor about medications that can help.  


What You Can Do

It can be hard to know what to do when you are shivering on the couch and have a hungry baby on your hands. While it may seem counterproductive, you still need to move the milk through your sore breast. After nursing, you should hand express or pump that breast more frequently than you normally would—if the breast is allowed to become overly full it can lead to increased pain.

Another way to help alleviate the pain is to massage the area, starting behind the sore spot. Move your fingers in a circular motion and massage toward the nipple. You may also want to use a warm compress on the sore area.

The best medicine can often be rest and to empty the breast frequently. Getting extra sleep can help speed up your recovery. You should do nothing but rest and take care of the baby for 24-48 hours. In many cases, a breast infection can be a sign that a mother is doing too much and becoming overly tired.

If it’s more comfortable, wear a well-fitting, supportive bra. Avoid underwire and anything tight because it could constrict milk ducts.

Continue breastfeeding, but contact your doctor right away if:

  • You have a fever of 101 or above
  • You have a breast infection in which both breasts look affected
  • There is pus or blood in your breast milk
  • You have red streaks near the affected area of the breast
  • Your symptoms came on severely and suddenly
If you are concerned and are not sure what to do, contact our IBCLC Certified Lactation Consultant, Nancy Hastings, at (302) 645-3577.