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Mastitis While Breast-Feeding - Home Treatment

From the time you begin breast-feeding until your baby is weaned, take measures to prevent mastitis. For example, learn about different breast-feeding techniques so that you will know how to completely empty your breasts. Not emptying your breasts completely when nursing or going too long between feedings may lead to mastitis. View a slideshow on latching slideshow.gif to learn how to get your baby to latch on.

If you have symptoms of mastitis, you may need to call your doctor right away. Delaying treatment can lead to an abscess forming in the affected breast. Severe infection can require intravenous antibiotics in the hospital.

Breast-feeding with mastitis

Along with oral antibiotic treatment, continuing to nurse your baby and being careful to empty your breasts completely will help shorten the duration of the infection.

You can safely continue breast-feeding your baby or pumping breast milk to feed your baby during illness and treatment. Your baby is the most efficient pump you have for emptying your breasts. Your breast milk is safe for your baby to drink, because any bacteria in your milk will be destroyed by the baby's digestive juices.

  • Before breast-feeding your baby, place a warm, wet washcloth over the affected breast for about 15 minutes. Try this at least 3 times a day. This increases milk flow in the breast. Massaging the affected breast may also increase milk flow.
  • If possible, continue breast-feeding on both sides. Ideally, start on the affected side—it's critical that you empty this breast thoroughly. If starting with the affected breast is too painful, try feeding your baby with your healthy breast first. Then, after your milk is flowing, breast-feed from the affected breast until it feels soft. Switch back to the healthy breast and breast-feed until your baby has finished.
  • Pump or express milk from the affected breast if pain prevents you from breast-feeding. Nipple pain can be caused by the baby latching on to sore nipples. For more information on pumping or expressing breast milk, see the topic Breast-Feeding.
  • A lanolin-based cream, such as Lansinoh, may help heal sore or cracked nipples.
  • If you use nursing pads, replace them frequently so they are dry and clean.

Self-care measures for mastitis

In addition to taking your prescribed antibiotics and continuing to breast-feed or pump breast milk, there are other steps you can take to make yourself feel better until the mastitis goes away.

  • Take acetaminophen (such as Tylenol) to relieve your pain, fever, or discomfort. You can take ibuprofen (such as Advil) along with acetaminophen to reduce inflammation if needed.
  • Rest as much as possible.
  • Apply an ice pack or a warm compress to the affected breast to help reduce your pain. If you use an ice pack, place the ice outside of your bra or clothing. Do not put the ice directly on your bare skin.
  • Drink extra fluids.
  • If your breasts are very full (engorged), pump or express a small amount of breast milk before breast-feeding. This will make your breasts less full and may make it easier for your baby to latch on to your breast.
  • If pus is draining from your infected breast, wash the nipple gently and let it air dry before putting your bra back on. A disposable breast pad placed in the bra cup may absorb the drainage.

Most women can successfully continue breast-feeding during a breast infection. If mastitis makes it difficult for you to continue breast-feeding while the infection is being treated, remember that emptying your breasts regularly is essential. Don't hesitate to talk to your doctor or a lactation consultant for further help and support.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: January 10, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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