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I have another bout of mastitis. How can I prevent it from happening again and what treatments are available?

Mastitis is a breast infection of the milk ducts. It happens when bacteria enter the breast through an opening in the nipple (especially cracked, irritated nipples) or any break in the skin of the breast. Once the bacteria enter the breast, the damaged tissue becomes infected. With mastitis, you will need to contact your doctor to get a prescription for antibiotics. Mastitis will not clear up on its own, so please don’t delay getting treatment. Complete the entire treatment of antibiotics to avoid a recurrence.

As with engorgement and blocked ducts, there are some comfort measures you can use until the breast heals. Use warm heat on the infected area before breastfeeding to aid let-down and relieve pain. You could try a warm shower or soak breasts in a pan of warm water. Continue to breastfeed frequently on both breasts. Your milk is not infected and is perfectly fine for your baby. Apply cold packs after each breastfeeding to relieve pain and reduce swelling. Drink enough fluid to satisfy your thirst. Water and unsweetened fruit juices are best. Ask your doctor for pain relief medication if needed. And, most importantly, get plenty of rest (I know, easier said than done with a new baby!)

Here are some tips you can use to prevent further occurrences of mastitis:

  • Position the baby correctly on the breast and use 2-3 different breastfeeding positions each day.
  • Do not delay or miss feedings, but if you do, or if the baby breastfeeds poorly, pump to soften the breasts and relieve fullness.
  • Avoid bras that are too tight or that bind, and bras with underwires.
  • If you’re weaning, do it gradually. Pump to soften the breasts and relieve fullness.
  • As always, if you have any further questions regarding mastitis, please contact your doctor or lactation consultant. They are there to help you!