Mastitis – Signs, Symptoms & Treatment

What Is Mastitis?

Mastitis is the inflammation of breast tissue that may involve infection. While it can occur in non-pregnant women and men, breastfeeding women are particularly susceptible to lactation mastitis.

Lactation mastitis’ most common cause is milk becoming trapped within the breast. Blocked milk duct(s), bacteria (from either mother’s skin surface or baby’s mouth) entering milk ducts through cracks in mother’s breast skin or nipples, or breasts not completely emptied during breastfeeding or pumping are other causes.

Left untreated or if severe, surgical drainage may be required.

Symptoms & Signs of Lactation Mastitis

Call your doctor if you experience:

  • Continual breast pain or burning sensation while breastfeeding
  • Tenderness and/or swelling
  • Warmth and/or redness
  • Thickened breast tissue or breast lump
  • Yellow nipple discharge
  • Feelings of lethargy, tiredness and being run down
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Chills and/or fever (101 degrees F or higher)

Lactation Mastitis Treatment

  • If your doctor determines infection is present, antibiotics may be prescribed. It’s important to take medication as directed. Alert your doctor if symptoms persist or recur after treatment completion.
  • Occasionally, doctors will also prescribe pain relievers to deal with the pain. Acetaminophen or ibuprofen may ease swelling and pain symptoms.
  • Continue breastfeeding as it aids treatment, even if taking medication.
  • Breastfeed on affected side first, as baby has stronger sucking capability and is hungrier. Allow baby to completely empty one breast before switching.
  • Apply warm, moist heat to breast before feeding. Massage breast from affected area and down toward nipple during feeding. Apply cool compresses or ice packs to breast after feeding.
  • Fully drain both breasts each feeding. Once baby is satiated, pump remaining milk.
  • Change breastfeeding position each session.
  • Wear supportive, non-constrictive bras. Avoid pressure on breasts as it restricts milk flow.
  • Rest as much as is possible.

Call your Capital Women’s Care team if you develop symptoms or signs of lactation mastitis.

For more information about mastitis, visit

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The providers of Capital Women's Care seek the highest quality medical and ethical standard in an environment that nurtures the spirit of caring for every woman.


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