Mastitis is a condition that can cause your breasts to become painful and inflamed and make you feel unwell if left untreated.

Symptoms include:

  • fever and/or flu-like symptoms such as feeling run down or very achy
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • yellowish discharge from the nipple that looks like colostrum
  • breasts that feel warm or hot to the touch
  • breasts appear pink or red (on white skin tones).

If you are breastfeeding and think you may have mastitis, it’s important to continue to breastfeed your baby. If that’s not possible, express regularly.

There’s no need to increase expressing or express after each feed to ‘empty the breast’. Doing so can lead to an oversupply which could make the mastitis worse. Hand expressing a small amount of milk until comfortable is a better option if your breasts are uncomfortably full.

Firm breast massage used to be recommended to release block ducts but now evidence suggests this makes tissue swelling worse. The latest recommendation is to use light sweeping and gentle touch. Use pressure no firmer than if you were applying a body lotion. You can find a demonstration of lymphatic massage on the video below.

You can also:

  • position your baby with their chin in line with the sore area to help them remove milk more effectively from that spot
  • apply cold packs every hour for no more than 20 minutes at a time, if it feels ok
  • consider using ibuprofen to relieve inflammation and pain, or a painkiller such as paracetamol.

Make sure:

  • you contact a health professional for advice, support and treatment if needed
  • your clothes and bra aren’t too restrictive on your breasts as this can add to the pressure
  • you remember to eat and drink plenty of fluids, and get as much rest as possible
  • check your breast pump fitting if expressing as a poor fitting breast pump can have an impact too.

Taking these steps quickly can prevent mastitis, which could result in an infection. If you don’t start to feel better within 24 hours and continue to have a fever and/or fast heart rate, ask your healthcare provider whether a course of antibiotics should be the next step.

If you are prescribed antibiotics, it’s important to carry on breastfeeding while you complete the course. If you have questions about the medication prescribed to you visit The Breastfeeding Network.

What is a milk bleb?

A ‘bleb’ is a small blockage to one of the pores on your nipple.

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