Breastfeeding A to Z

Mastitis

A breast infection is also called mastitis.  You may have a breast infection or mastitis if you have one or more of the following symptoms: (1)(2)

  • a temperature,
  • a reddened area on the breast or red streaks radiating from the nipple,
  • flu-like symptoms
  • a bad headache

If you have any of these symptoms during the time you are breastfeeding, even after weaning, you need to be seen by your healthcare provider today.

Do not stop nursing. This will make the situation worse. You need to continue to breastfeed your baby frequently, the breast infection is not a problem for your baby, nor will it harm your baby.  Along with frequent breastfeeding, you will need bed rest, increased fluids and having someone around to help you for a day or two and typically a course of antibiotics (thus the need to see your healthcare provider).

All these actions will help you get back to normal faster. Failing to take care of yourself can make recovery longer and risk of an abscess increases. (3) An abscess is a collection of pus that requires surgery to drain.

Possible reasons for a breast infection or mastitis can be (4):

  • Missed feedings
  • Infrequent feedings
  • Trying to scheduling feedings
  • Damage to the nipple or break in the skin
  • Illness in mother or baby
  • Rapid weaning
  • Pressure on the breast from a tight bra or car seat belt or other circumstance
  • Mother’s stress and fatigue
  • Mother’s poor nutrition or anemia.
  • Repetitive arm movements like wallpapering or tiling a bathroom–these were real-life situations

References:

  1. Wambach, K, Riordan, J, Breastfeeding and Human Lactation, 5th edition, Burlington, MA, Jones & Bartlett Learning, 2016 pp 323-28.  Note: publishing date does say 2016.
  2. Mohrbacher, N, Stock, J, La Leche League International The Breastfeeding Answer Book, 3rd revised edition, Schaumburg, IL, La Leche League International, Jan 2003, pp 496-502.
  3. Mannel, R, Marten, PJ, Walker, M, Core Curriculum for Lactation Consultant Practice, 3rd edition, Burlington, MA, Jones & Bartlett Learning, 2013, p 751.
  4. Lawrence, RA, Lawrence, RM, Breastfeeding: A Guide for the Medical Professional, 7th edition, Maryland Heights, MO, Elsevier Mosby, 2011, pp 553-57.