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Mastitis While Breast-Feeding - Treatment Overview

Mastitis will not go away without treatment. If you have mastitis symptoms, you may need to call your doctor today. Prompt treatment helps keep infection from rapidly getting worse and usually improves symptoms after about 2 days.

Mastitis treatment

Treatment for mastitis usually includes:

  • Oral antibiotics to destroy the bacteria causing the infection.
  • Regularly emptying the breast well by breast-feeding or pumping breast milk. Adequate emptying of the affected breast helps prevent more bacteria from collecting in the breast and may 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.
  • Your baby may seem reluctant to nurse on your painful breast. This is not because your milk tastes strange, but more likely because your breast feels different and it is harder for your baby to nurse. Try expressing a little milk first. This will soften the breast and make it easier for your baby to latch on.

Breast abscess treatment

If you have mastitis because of a blocked duct and you delay treatment, your breast infection may develop into an abscess. Treatment for an abscess includes:

  • Draining the abscess. Abscess healing can take 5 to 7 days.
  • Oral antibiotic treatment to destroy the bacteria causing the infection. (Antibiotics are given intravenously only in rare cases of severe infection.)
  • Emptying the breast well and regularly by breast-feeding or pumping, which is essential to keeping a good milk supply.

Most women can continue breast-feeding on the affected breast while an abscess heals. With your doctor's approval, you can cover the abscess area with a light gauze dressing while breast-feeding.

If you are advised to stop breast-feeding from the affected breast while an abscess heals, you can continue breast-feeding from the healthy breast. Be sure to pump or express milk from the infected breast regularly.

For more information on pumping or expressing breast milk, see the topic Breast-Feeding.

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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