Can I continue breastfeeding if I have mastitis?

Can I continue breastfeeding if I have mastitis?

You should continue breastfeeding even you are having mastitis. Mastitis is usually caused by blockage of the milk ducts; bacterial infection is not common in the early stage. Continue breastfeeding to keep your milk flowing is an important part of treating mastitis. On the contrary, if you stop breastfeeding, the milk ducts will be blocked even more. Bacterial infection may then develop and even lead to formation of breast abscess. Therefore, if you have signs of mastitis like painful breast lump, red and swelling, fever and extreme tiredness, you should consult a doctor right away. Your doctor will manage your condition accordingly. In fact, your baby will not become ill from nursing at your infected breast if you take your medicines as prescribed. Your baby will even be protected by antibodies in the breastmilk.

Strategies to manage mastitis:

  • To relieve your breast pain by:
    • You can take painkiller 45 minutes before breastfeeding or expressing milk, Paracetamol is the common use of drug for breastfeeding mothers
    • Do not wear tight or underwire bras, they will impede your milk flow
    • After and in between feeds, apply cold compress on your breasts to relieve pain and swelling. You can also apply chilled or room temperature raw green cabbage leaves to your breasts, yet avoid contacting the areola. Dispose the leaves after 20 minutes or when the leaves soften. Before application, you can use a bottle to flatten the cabbage leaves
  • To keep your milk flowing by:
    • Using the above strategies to relieve breast pain will also aid your milk flow
    • Continue direct nursing including the affected side
    • Ensure your baby suckles properly
    • Try different nursing positions, such as football hold or lying on your side, remember the key is you and your baby should feel comfortable in that position
    • Reduce the frequency and volume of bottle-feeding so to increase your baby’s desire to suckle and the frequency of direct nursing
    • If your baby is bottle-fed all the time, or your baby does not want to nurse on the infected side, you should still express or pump the milk and keep your milk expression interval to less than 4 hours
    • Before nursing or expressing milk, you can use the following methods to stimulate the milk let-down reflex so to aid your milk flow:
      • Have skin-to-skin contact with your baby - let your baby lies on your bare chest. If your baby does not want to nurse on the affected side, feed her on the other side first, when the milk flows, change your baby to nurse on the affected side
      • Gently massage your breasts. Avoid strong massage or the swelling of your breast will worsen
      • Apply a warm compress to your breasts for 3 minutes or less, prolong application or overheating will increase the swelling

If you have any questions, please consult the Maternal and Child Health Centres or other healthcare professionals.