What is mastitis?

Practical tips to help you spot and soothe this inflammation of the breast

In Newborn

    3-minutes read

    At a glance

    Mastitis is a painful inflammation of the breast that's caused by blocked milk ducts

    Look for red, swollen breasts that are hot and painful to touch


    Visit a healthcare professional as soon as you suspect mastitis

    Continue to breastfeed on demand to help unblock milk ducts

    Mastitis is a very common inflammation of the breast, which can lead to infection. Symptoms can come on quite quickly and strongly. If you suspect you have mastitis, you should see your GP immediately. Once treatment starts, most women make a full recovery quickly.

    Signs of mastitis

    • Red swollen areas of your breast that feel painful and hot to touch
    • A lump or area of hardness in your breast
    • A burning sensation that can be constant or only when you breastfeed
    • White discharge from the nipples that may be streaked with blood
    • Mums may also experience flu-like symptoms such as chills, fever, or aches

    “Cabbage leaves in the bra! I don’t know who first thought of it but it helps.”


    What to do if you see signs of mastitis

    It’s important to see your healthcare professional as soon as you notice any signs of mastitis. Mastitis can usually be easily treated and most women recover fully very quickly if the treatment is started with noticing the first signs. Healthcare professionals will be able to suggest ways to relieve the pain and prescribe an antibiotic which is safe to take while breastfeeding. They’ll also check your baby is in a good position when feeding because this can be a cause.

    How to soothe mastitis

    Until your appointment, there are a few things you can do to avoid and help soothe mastitis.

    • Keep breastfeeding on demand. Keeping your milk flowing helps to unblock the milk duct and ease the pain
    • Ensure that your baby is properly attached to your breast. Wait until your baby opens their mouth really wide. This will help them take a large mouthful of your breast. Once feeding, you should be able to see more of the dark part of your breast (areola) above your baby’s top lip, rather than below the bottom lip which is a sign your baby has a good latch
    • Massage any hard lumps in your breast towards the nipple while you’re feeding to help unblock any milk ducts
    • Applying a warm flannel to the breast or massaging your breast while in a warm shower may also help
    • Try different feeding positions to empty different parts of your breasts
    • Avoid tight-fitting clothes and bras that can restrict the flow of your milk
    • Get lots of rest and drink plenty of water

    How to express and store breast milk

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    Important advice to mothers

    The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life. SMA® Nutrition fully supports this and continued breastfeeding, along with the introduction of complementary foods as advised by your healthcare professional.