Mastitis Symptoms and Treatments for Breastfeeding Moms

I think I have mastitis.  What are the symptoms and how can I resolve it without taking medication?


tendernessMastitis is an inflammation in your breast tissue.  It usually occurs in the early months of breastfeeding, but may also occur after you’ve been nursing for a few months.

What are some of the symptoms you may feel before your mastitis is diagnosed? Many breastfeeding moms notice changes in their breasts, like red patches or the breasts are warm and painful to touch. Moms also may feel like areas of their breasts are burning while nursing or experience consistent burning feels throughout the day.

In addition to uncomfortable breast changes, moms report feeling flu-like symptoms that include chills, a fever, and aches and pain throughout their bodies. Mastitis will wear you down and leave you feeling exhausted.

There are two types of mastitis inflammation: infectious or non-infectious. Non-infectious mastitis is usually caused by milk staying too long in the breast.  If you have a plugged milk duct, a problem with your baby properly latching, or if your baby simply doesn’t drain the breast well while nursing, you might develop a non-infectious mastitis inflammation.

On the other hand, infectious mastitis is caused by a bacterial infection. This type of mastitis may develop if your nipples are cracked or damaged, allowing bacteria to enter your body. This infection needs immediate attention from your doctor.

If you are diagnosed with non-infectious mastitis, a session with a lactation consultant may be beneficial to you and your baby. You might have to focus on using different breastfeeding methods and positions so your baby does a better job of draining milk from your breasts while feeding.

You may also want to pump after your baby nurses to ensure that your breasts are emptying properly. Other breastfeeding tips for non-infectious mastitis include warming your breasts shortly because nursing to help with loosening milk flow, especially if you notice one breast does not empty as efficiently as the other.

If your doctor determines that you have infectious mastitis, then you will need to take an antibiotic to successfully treat the inflammation. It is very important to start taking your prescribed antibiotic within 24 hours of your diagnosis to reduce the return risk of your mastitis. Follow your doctor’s orders and take the entire prescription even if you feel better a few days into the treatment—you do not want infectious mastitis to return just as you are starting to get stronger. Talk to your doctor about your breastfeeding concerns while taking the antibiotic and what you can do for your baby while your body fights the inflammation.

While on antibiotics, you will want to incorporate some of the techniques listed before for non-infectious mastitis to ease your breast pain. Sometimes, doctors will recommend that a mother will have to wean her baby if the inflammation is serious enough. In most cases though, weaning is not necessary. Be sure to have a conversation with your doctor, your baby’s pediatrician, and even a lactation consultant so you have a full idea of your best treatment options and plans. Remember, one of the best things you can do for your baby is keep yourself healthy, especially if you’re breastfeeding.