Mastitis is a condition that causes the breast tissues among women to become inflamed and painful. It is common among breastfeeding women particularly within the initial 3 months after birth.

If mastitis is due to breastfeeding, it is called lactation mastitis. As for non-breastfeeding women, it is called periductal mastitis.

Indications of mastitis

Mastitis typically affects a single breast and the symptoms rapidly develop which includes the following:

  • Reddened, swollen area in the breast that feels warm and sore to touch
  • Lump or hard area on the breast
  • Discharge or drainage from the nipple that is white or contains streaks of blood
  • Burning sensation in the breast that can be continuous or only occur while breastfeeding

There are also flu-like symptoms such as fever, chills, body aches and fatigue.


Reddened, swollen area in the breast that feels warm and sore to touch

When to seek medical care

A doctor should be consulted right away if mastitis is suspected. It is best to try out some self-care measures before setting an appointment though. If there is painful buildup of pus, a doctor must be consulted since it might require surgical drainage.

What are the possible causes?

Among breastfeeding women, mastitis is triggered by the accumulation of milk inside the breast. This can occur if an infant is not properly attached to the breast while feeding, has issues with sucking or infrequently feeds or misses out on feedings.

In some instances, the milk buildup can also become infected by bacteria which is called infective mastitis.

Among non-breastfeeding women, the condition often develops if the breast is infected due to injury to the nipple such as a crack or piercing.

Management of mastitis

The condition can be treated and most are able to recover fully rapidly. Some of the self-care measures include the following:

  • Getting enough rest and keeping the body properly hydrated
  • Provide over-the-counter pain medications such as ibuprofen or paracetamol to reduce the fever or pain
  • Avoid wearing tight or constricted clothing
  • If breastfeeding, continue to feed the child and ensure that he/she properly attached to the breast

A woman can continue to breastfeed even if she has mastitis since it will not harm the child and can even help improve the symptoms. It is also recommended to feed more frequently and express any leftover milk after a feeding as well as express milk in between feeding.

As for non-breastfeeding and breastfeeding women with a possible infection, antibiotics are usually given to control the infection.