Mastitis usually happens in nursing mothers when
bacteria enter the breast through a cracked or sore nipple. This can cause an
infection. Mastitis usually starts as a painful area in one breast. It may be
red or warm to the touch, or both. Fever, chills, and body aches usually
Good breast-feeding techniques can help prevent sore and cracked
nipples that may lead to mastitis.
Breast-feed regularly. Do not delay or skip
feedings. Breast-feed at least every 1 to 3 hours or whenever your baby is
hungry (feeding on demand). This helps keep the milk ducts empty. In the first
few days after birth, you may have to wake your baby every 2 to 3 hours to
If you know you have to wait more than 4 hours to breast-feed your baby, arrange a time and place to pump or express your
breast milk. See
a picture of
pumping or expressing breast milk.
Align your baby straight for
breast-feeding. This means putting your baby's chest to your chest. The baby
should latch on to the
areola, past the nipple. Latching on incorrectly, such
as only getting the nipple into the baby's mouth, may cause problems. Your
nipples may crack or become sore. Also your baby may not empty the breast well.
Massage the areola if your nipples are flat, and gently push the nipple outward
with your thumb and forefinger. View a slideshow on latching to learn how to get your baby to latch on.
Alternate which breast you offer
first at each feeding.
Other tips to help prevent mastitis include the following:
Air-dry your nipples after each breast-feeding
session, to prevent irritation and cracking.
Consider using a
lanolin-based cream, such as Lansinoh, to keep your nipples healthy. This cream
may also be used to ease pain in sore or cracked nipples. Lansinoh does not
require a prescription and may be purchased over-the-counter.
healthy foods and drink plenty of fluids, whenever you are thirsty. Having
something to drink while you are breast-feeding helps you get enough
Get plenty of rest. Ask for help with daily tasks from
friends and family members whenever possible.
Make sure that your
bra fits well and isn't tight and restrictive. This is especially important if
When you are ready to
wean your baby, stop breast-feeding gradually. Gradual
weaning is best for both of you. It helps prevent your breasts from becoming
too full of milk and gives your baby time to adjust to new eating patterns. For
more information, see the topic Weaning.
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.