Preventing Mastitis

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

If you have mastitis, you may first notice pain, swelling, or warmth on an area of your breast. And the skin may be reddish, purplish, or brownish, depending on your usual skin color. You may also have a fever and have chills, aches, and flu-like symptoms.

Taking these steps can help prevent mastitis.

  • Breastfeed regularly. This helps keep milk moving. If you know you'll go more than 4 hours without feeding your baby, arrange to pump. But limit pumping if you can. Try to only pump when you need to. Pumping more than your baby needs may make mastitis worse.
  • 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 supportive bra that fits.
  • Take care of your nipples.
    • Air-dry your nipples after you breastfeed. This can prevent irritation and cracking.
    • Try letting some breast milk dry on your nipples if they are sore.
    • Get help from your doctor or midwife or a lactation consultant for sore or cracked nipples.
  • Avoid massaging your breasts. This can cause tissue injury and increase inflammation.
  • When you are ready to wean your baby, do it gradually. Gradual weaning helps prevent your breasts from getting too full.

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Current as of: November 27, 2023

Author: Healthwise Staff
Clinical Review Board
All Healthwise education is reviewed by a team that includes physicians, nurses, advanced practitioners, registered dieticians, and other healthcare professionals.

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