What is Mastitis and How You Can Prevent It

We are kicking off Breastfeeding Month and all sorts of festivities surrounding breastfeeding that will occur in August with some information on one area of concern that many have: mastitis. 

Benefits of Breast / Chestfeeding 

First, let’s chat about some of the benefits of breastfeeding / chestfeeding. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)  recommends exclusively breastfeeding for the first six months of life. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends breastfeeding until two years old or longer. The reasons are because breast milk provides ideal nutrition for babies.

1. Breast milk contains everything a baby needs for the first 6 months of life, in all the right proportions. Its composition even changes according to the baby’s changing needs, especially during the first month of life.

Colostrum is the ideal first milk and helps the newborn’s immature digestive tract develop. After the first few days, the breasts start producing larger amounts of milk as the baby’s stomach grows.

2. Breast Milk contains important antibodies, which reduce the risk of colds and flu, middle ear infection, respiratory infections, gut infection, diabetes, childhood leukemia, and obesity. 

3. Breastfeeding helps the uterus contract. During pregnancy the uterus grows immensely, filling almost your entire abdomen. After delivery, your uterus goes through a process called involution, which helps it return to its previous size. Oxytocin, a hormone that increases throughout pregnancy, helps drive this process. There is an increased release of oxytocin during breastfeeding, which encourages uterine contraction and involution, as well as results in having less blood loss post delivery. 

4. People who breastfeed have a lower chance of postpartum mood disorder, which can occur shortly after delivery. To better plan for your postpartum recovery, we have some tools for you, such as our postpartum planning guide.

What is mastitis?

This is an infection of the duct. The symptoms include fever (first sign that this is infection), hard lump, pain and redness to the overlying skin, and heat. Often mastitis can resolve on its own by continuing to breast feed, using a heat compress to the affected breast, and getting sufficient rest. If mastitis persists past 24hrs with no improvement, antibiotics are recommended. 

Breast feeding can be TOUGH, so try not to be hard on yourself if you are struggling! Reach out to your care team, which includes your doula, certified lactation counselor, or IBCLC if you are struggling or suffering with any or all of the above. 

Tips to prevent mastitis

To get your breast-feeding relationship with your infant off to its best start — and to avoid complications such as mastitis — consider meeting with a lactation consultant. A lactation consultant can give you tips and provide invaluable advice for proper breast-feeding techniques.

Minimize your chances of getting mastitis by following these tips:

  • Drain the milk from your breasts while breast-feeding as to not be full; you do not need to focus on emptying as our body is constantly producing.
  • Feed often – and not rushed.
  • Change the position you use to breast-feed from one feeding to the next.
  • Make sure your baby latches on properly during feedings.
  • Use a loose fitting bra or nursing bra.

If you suspect mastitis, the worst solution is to stop breastfeeding / milk expression altogether – or even stopping only on the affected side. Suddenly stopping will make the problem worse. 

Tips to help mastitis symptoms:

  • Soak a cloth in warm water and apply to breasts / chest for relief of discomfort; a warm shower will help as well.
  • Rest and drink lots of fluids.
  • If you are breast / chest feeding, continue to do so and massage towards the nipple when feeding. 
  • Start feeds with the sore breast first.
  • Feed every two hours; this will keep milk flowing and prevent from becoming too full.
  • Wear a supportive, well fitting garment or bra that is not too tight.

If the problem persists past five days or you suddenly develop a fever, contact your health care provider, as antibiotics may be necessary. 


Pocket Lactation For Lactation Management Third Edition; Karun Cadwell and Cindy Turner-Maffei





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