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Mastitis: Care Instructions

Your Care Instructions

Mastitis is an inflammation of the breast. It occurs most often in women who are breastfeeding, but it can affect any woman. Mastitis can be caused by poor milk flow from the breast. When milk builds up in a breast, it leaks into the nearby breast tissue. Infection can also develop when the nipples become cracked or irritated. The tissue can then become infected with bacteria.

Antibiotics can usually cure mastitis. For women who are nursing, continued breastfeeding (or pumping) can help. If mastitis is not treated, a pocket of pus may form in the breast and need to be drained.

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 breastfeeding, continue breastfeeding or pumping breast milk. It is important to empty your breasts regularly, every 2 to 3 hours while you are awake. These tips may help:
    • Before breastfeeding, place a warm, wet face cloth over your breast for about 15 minutes. Try this at least 3 times a day. This increases milk flow in the breast. Massaging the affected breast may also increase milk flow.
    • Breastfeed on both sides. Try to start with your healthy breast first. Then, after your milk is flowing, breastfeed from the affected breast until it feels soft. You should empty this breast completely. Then switch back to the healthy breast and breastfeed until your baby has finished.
    • Pump or hand-express a small amount of breast milk before breastfeeding if your breasts are too full with milk. This will make your breasts less full and may make it easier for your baby to latch on to your breast.
    • Pump or express milk from the affected breast if it hurts too much to breastfeed.
  • Take an over-the-counter pain medicine, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) to relieve pain and fever. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
  • Do not take two or more pain medicines at the same time unless the doctor told you to. Many pain medicines have acetaminophen, which is Tylenol. Too much acetaminophen (Tylenol) can be harmful.
  • Rest as much as possible.
  • Drink extra fluids.
  • If pus is draining from your infected breast, wash the nipple gently and let it air-dry before you put your bra back on. A disposable breast pad placed in the bra cup may absorb the pus.
  • Sometimes, a blocked nipple pore, called a milk blister (or bleb) happens. This causes milk to back up in the breast. It can cause mastitis, so it's important to treat this if it happens. A milk blister is often a white dot on your nipple that can be painful. If a milk blister is causing you pain, it may help to place a warm, wet face cloth over the blister before breastfeeding or pumping. If this doesn't clear the blockage, your doctor can open the blister using a sterile needle.

When should you call for help?

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

  • 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.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if:

  • You do not get better within 2 days.

Where can you learn more?

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.