Managing Mastitis 

Mastitis is inflammation of the breast tissue, and may also involve infection. Mastitis most commonly occurs in the first six months of breastfeeding, and some mothers are more prone to it than others.
If you’ve had mastitis once, you’re more likely to get it again, so it’s worth following our guidance on avoiding mastitis at the bottom of the this article.

Signs/Symptoms of mastitis 

  • Red, wedge-shaped area of the breast. In mastitis you will generally see just one area of the breast is red, rather than the whole breast.
  • The area may feel hot and will be painful to touch.
  • Your baby may be more fussy feeding on this breast (this is due to a change in taste of the milk).
  • Flu like symptoms including fever and headaches. 
  • May be associated with a lump/blocked duct clearly able to be felt in that breast.
  • Pain or burning sensation while breastfeeding. 

Causes of mastitis 

1) Blocked ducts

Mastitis may be caused by a blockage in one of your milk ducts. This can be due to milk stasis (the breast not being emptied well, and frequently), poor latch or tight/ill fitting bras.

This blockage will usually appear as a sore lump under the skin. It may feel painful to feed. If not cleared quickly it can progress to mastitis.

2) Infection

Cracked/damaged nipples are an easy route for bacteria to find its way into your breast and lead to mastitis. Healing, and dealing with the cause of cracked nipples as soon as possible is really important.

Home Remedies for mastitis 

  • Keep feeding your baby! Never stop breastfeeding or expressing due to mastitis. The most important thing is to keep that breast regularly, and effectively drained. Make sure you’re feeding your baby as per their usual routine, and in between, use hand expressing or an electric pump to soften that breast at least every 3- 4 hours. 
  • Remove enough milk from your breast to leave it feeling soft/deflated at least every 3-4 hours.
  • Take ibuprofen and use cool compresses on the breast to reduce inflammation – use gentle massage over the blocked area if you can feel a lump under the skin. Using a little coconut oil on your hands makes this more comfortable. You can also try using an electric toothbrush or vibrator over the area whilst feeding or pumping.
  • Drink plenty of fluids and ensure you get sufficient rest
  • If the breast isn’t softened after feeds, hand express or use breast pump on low suction until breast feels softened.
  • If you get reoccurring mastitis, you should seek breastfeeding support to deal with any deficiencies in your baby’s feeding or to manage oversupply.

See your GP if…

  • Symptoms don’t improve within 24-48 hours
  • You have a fever over 38.3 degrees celsius.
  • Your symptoms worsen

How to avoid mastitis

  • Make sure your breasts feel comfortable and well drained after each feed
  • Massage any areas of your breast which still feel full/lumpy during feeding
  • Check your breasts regularly for lumps and massage/pump/feed as soon as possible to clear the lump
  • If you are suffering with nipple pain/damage get some skilled breastfeeding support from a lactation consultant to identify the cause and rule out undiagnosed restricted tongue function (tongue tie).