Mastitis and breastfeeding

Mastitis means inflammation of the breast but not necessarily infection of the breast. The first signs tend to be redness and swelling of the breast. It is worth starting the self help measures as soon as you suspect any sign of inflammation.


  • Avoid long gaps between feeds – if you are reducing your feeds, cut down gradually if possible
  • Don’t let breasts become overfull- feed or express
  • Avoid tight clothing or bra
  • Avoid indenting the breast with fingers if support is required.


  • Red, swollen area, usually painful on breast,
  • Lumpy engorged breast which can be hot to touch
  • Pain in the breast
  • Flu like symptoms that can start very suddenly

You may not have all the symptoms listed.

Antibiotics are NOT always needed

Self help measures

  • It is important to continue breastfeeding from both breasts
  • Feed the baby more frequently or express between feeds if  your breasts are uncomfortably full
  • It may help to try and express after a feed to ensure the breast is soft
  • Ensure good positioning and attachment – ask you Midwife, Health Visitor or Peer Supporter if unsure
  • Feed from the  sore side first
  • Try feeding in different positions which may help your baby attach and feed more effectively
  • Before feeding it often helps to soften your breast by expressing a little milk  so baby finds it easier to feed well
  • Gently massage the affected area
  • Warm or cool compresses may help relieve discomfort
  • Rest
  • You may take Paracetamol and Ibuprofen for the pain (Ibuprofen should not be taken by women who have asthma, stomach ulcers or are allergic to aspirin)
  • Continue to drink fluids and eat a light diet

If signs and symptoms continue despite trying the above, it is important that you go and see your Midwife, Health Visitor or GP as antibiotics may be needed.

Breastfeeding Network (2009)