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Mastitis: Care Instructions

Your Care Instructions

Mastitis is an inflammation of the breast. It occurs most often in people who are breastfeeding. Mastitis can happen when the milk sacs in the breast are too full and cause swelling in your breast tissue.

One of the main causes of mastitis is when your breasts make more milk than your baby needs. If this is happening, talk to your healthcare provider about ways to manage your breastmilk production.

If you have mastitis, it is important to keep breastfeeding, as stopping suddenly can make it worse. Treating mastitis right away helps prevent an infection from happening. Depending on your symptoms, your healthcare provider might prescribe antibiotics.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • If your doctor prescribed antibiotics, take them as directed. Do not stop taking them just because you feel better. You need to take the full course of antibiotics.
  • If you are exclusively breastfeeding, it is important to continue to feed your baby regularly, following their cues to feed. If your baby does not wake up by 3 hours, then wake them to feed.
    • Feed less often on the affected breast to avoid producing too much milk.
    • If your baby does not feed from the affected breast, or it is too painful to feed, hand express to remove the milk. Avoid pumping if possible, as this could damage your breast and nipples. Try not to remove more milk than your baby needs.
  • If you are bottle-feeding your breastmilk, continue to pump and feed your baby regularly, following their cues to feed. Avoid pumping too much on the affected breast.
  • Use a cold compress (like an ice pack or a bag of frozen vegetables wrapped in a cloth) on your breasts to help decrease your breast fullness and ease your pain. Don’t use the cold compresses for longer than 20 minutes at a time to help prevent frostbite to your skin. Try to pump or feed right after using a cold compress.
  • Talk with your healthcare provider about medicines you can use, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) to relieve pain, swelling, and fever. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
  • Rest as much as possible.
  • Drink extra fluids.
  • Avoid deep massaging your breasts. This could damage your breast tissue and increase the inflammation. Light fingertip massage may be helpful.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your symptoms do not get better within 24 hours.
  • Any part of your breast becomes increasingly red, painful, swollen, or hot.
  • You have a new or higher fever.
  • You have new chills or body aches.

Where can you learn more?

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