To give an infected breast the opportunity to heal — and to prevent mastitis from occurring in the first place — it can help to completely empty a breast every time you nurse. Dr. Daneshvar tells her patients to empty breasts fully by using ongoing breastfeeding, pumping and/or hand expression at each feeding. “Do not stop breastfeeding because of treatment,” she says.
As is the case with most health problems, and especially breastfeeding struggles, the best treatment is always prevention. “Mastitis is a bacterial infection that requires antibiotics. If left untreated, it can progress to breast abscess, which may require surgical treatment,” Laurie MacLeod, a midwife at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, says. “If a woman has only a plugged duct, which is typically the precursor to mastitis, it is OK to manage this with nonmedical treatment. Emptying the breast can be helpful in addition to warm compresses and massage at the site. If a patient has a fever, malaise, body aches, warmth or redness in the breast, she should call her health care provider immediately.”
Sometimes it really is that easy. As part of mastitis prevention and to manage discomfort after an infection has occurred, MaryJo Butler, RN, lactation specialist at St. Louis Children’s Hospital, says, “Wearing a supportive brassiere that is not constricting can help reduce discomfort with movement.”
Sore and infected breasts can make you feel like a total flop as a new mom, but take comfort in the fact that many of us have been there before. Mastitis, which may affect up to 20 percent of new moms, can serve as a great reminder to take things slow, take care of yourself and try to enjoy this quiet time with your new baby. At this time, Butler says, “Mothers should be encouraged to stay hydrated — rest for the mother is imperative.”
And when all else fails, Dr. Daneshvar suggests popping a few anti-inflammatory meds, like ibuprofen or Motrin, as you kick back and allow your breast to heal.
Originally published January 2011. Updated July 2016.
And you'll see personalized content just for you whenever you click the My Feed .
SheKnows is making some changes!