An infection in the tissue of the breast is called mastitis. This condition is most common in women who are breast-feeding. You may have both general symptoms of illness and breast symptoms including:
Call your healthcare provider promptly if you have any symptoms of a breast infection. The sooner you start treatment, the sooner you will feel better. Prompt treatment may prevent complications, such as a breast abscess (a pocket of pus requiring drainage).
Breast infections are usually caused by bacteria. Bacteria are normally present on the nipple and in a baby's mouth. They can enter the breast through a cracked nipple or the milk ducts and cause a breast infection. The nipple injury may be caused by a baby incorrectly latching on to the breast.
Many factors can make a breast-feeding mother susceptible to a breast infection. One of the main factors is inadequate drainage of milk from the breasts. Poor draining can occur by letting too much time pass between feedings. Also, milk may not drain well if a duct is clogged, or a tight-fitting bra may decrease milk flow.
Injury to the breast can increase the risk of a breast infection. The injury may be caused by an older baby biting the nipple or kicking the breast. Use of a breast pump that generates excessive vacuum also can injure the breast.
Exhaustion may contribute to a breast infection. For example, returning to work, not getting enough sleep, and having house guests may tire a new mother.
You do not have to wean your baby if you have a breast infection. In fact, you should nurse more often. You may need to put moist heat on the affected breast before nursing to help start milk flow. For example, put a warm washcloth on the breast, take a warm shower, or submerge the breast in a warm bath. You can begin feedings on the side that is not infected and then move your baby to the infected breast once your let-down has been triggered.
If you are pumping milk for a sick or premature hospitalized baby when you develop mastitis, discard the milk collected from the infected side until you feel well.
You may need to use a fully automatic breast pump if:
Call YOUR healthcare provider during office hours if:
Call your BABY'S healthcare provider during office hours if: