Mastitis is a bacterial infection of the breast. The breast appears red, painful, hot and swollen. You may also experience fever, chills and other flu-like symptoms. If you suspect that you may have mastitis please contact a lactation consultant to advise you on treatment as well as provide insight as to why it happened and how mastitis can be prevented in the future.


  • Ineffective removal of milk from the breast due to:

  • Poor latch

  • Engorgement

  • Infrequent feedings

  • Rapid weaning

  • Skipping feeds by giving the baby a bottle rather than the breast

  • A blocked duct

  • Nipple damage can introduce bacteria to the breast

  • Poor nutrition or anemia

  • Maternal stress or fatigue


  • Continue breastfeeding, unless it is just too painful to do so. If you cannot latch the baby to the breast, at least express your milk by pumping or hand expressing in the meantime. Restart breastfeeding as soon as you are up to it, the sooner the better. Continuing breastfeeding helps mastitis to resolve more quickly. There is no danger for the baby.

  • Make sure the baby is latching to the breast properly and frequently since the most common cause of mastitis is the ineffective removal of milk

  • Massage the breast while the baby feeds

  • If you are considering weaning your baby from the breast this is NOT the time to do it. The milk needs to be cleared to prevent the development of a breast abcess. Abcesses often need to be surgically drained.

  • Get lots of rest and fluids

  • Use a warm compress prior to breastfeeding and cold compress afterwards.

  • Tylenol or Ibuprofen, to help with fevers and pain, are safe medications to take while breastfeeding.

You might not need an antibiotic in the following situations:

  • You do not have a history of frequent episodes of mastitis.

  • You don’t feel that sick.

  • You have not gotten progressively sicker over the last few hours.

  • Your fever is not rising.

  • The breast pain and tenderness is not increasing.

  • You can easily correct whatever factors may have set you up for engorgement in the first place.

You may need antibiotics in the following situation:

  • If your symptoms are not improving in 12-24hrs.

  • If you are feeling distressed or extremely unwell.

  • If your fever is rising.

  • If you have a history of frequent mastitis.

  • If your symptoms do not improve or if your symptoms worsen and you are already on antibiotics, you may need a different antibiotic.

Mastitis is commonly caused by staphylococcus aureus bacteria. The two safest and most effective antibiotics for treating mastitis are cephalosporins (Keflex) and cloxacillins (Cloxacillin).

When to call your Lactation Consultant:

  • If you have chosen to wean your baby and mastitis occurs as a result of weaning. Please ask for advice prior to weaning. There are comfortable and risk free ways of doing it.

  • Mastitis often occurs because of ineffective removal of milk from the breast or because of nipple damage. It is often a good idea to have your lactation consultant assess a feed to ensure that your baby is breastfeeding well and transferring milk effectively from the breast so that the mastitis does not reoccur.

  • If you are unable to latch your baby to the breast.

  • If you have any questions or concerns about breastfeeding.

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