Preventing Mastitis

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Mastitis is a breast inflammation usually caused by infection. It can happen to any woman. But it's most common during the first 6 months of breastfeeding. You can keep nursing your baby. In fact, breastfeeding usually helps to clear up infection, and nursing won't harm your baby.

If you have mastitis, you may first notice a painful area on one breast. It may be red, warm to the touch, or both. You may also have a fever and have chills, aches, and flu-like symptoms. The symptoms of mastitis most often appear within 4 to 6 weeks after childbirth.

Nursing moms sometimes get mastitis when bacteria enter the breast through a cracked or sore nipple. Taking these steps can help prevent mastitis.

  • Breastfeed regularly.

    Routine breastfeeding prevents bacteria from building up. If you know you'll go more than 4 hours without feeding your baby, arrange to pump.

  • Drink plenty of fluids.

    If you drink something while you breastfeed, it can help you stay hydrated.

  • Position yourself well.

    When you and your baby are aligned, the baby can latch on to the areola, not just the nipple.

  • Use different positions.

    This can help drain all areas of your breast. Try breastfeeding positions such as the Australian hold, the cradle hold, the cross-cradle hold, the football hold, and the side-lying position.

  • Alternate which breast you offer first.
  • Wear a bra that isn't too tight or restrictive.
  • Take care of your nipples.
    • Air-dry your nipples after you breastfeed. This can prevent irritation and cracking.
    • Use an over-the-counter lanolin-based cream on your nipples, such as Lansinoh.
    • Get help from your doctor or a lactation consultant for sore or cracked nipples.
  • Wean your baby gradually.

    Gradual weaning helps prevent your breasts from getting too full.

Related Information


Current as of: August 2, 2022

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
Sarah Marshall MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Kirtly Jones MD - Obstetrics and Gynecology

The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.