How To Treat And Prevent Mastitis

How to treat and prevent mastitis: breast infections from untreated plugged ducts during breastfeeding.
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When I was pregnant, I read up on nearly everything about breastfeeding.

However, I was shocked to discover that breastfeeding be can be painful. I don’t mean like ouch, the baby is biting me. No… I mean like MASTITIS.

*NOTE: This post was originally published in November 2015 and updated on August 2018.*

First, I’ll share my story then tell you what mastitis is.

A few minutes after birth, Coral latched onto my breast right away. She just knew what to do and at that instant, this became our favorite bonding time. She would gaze into my eyes while nursing. I could stare at her face for eternity and think to myself a tiny human being depends on me to feed, nourish and keep her alive. We had an instant connection.

She nursed all day/night with no breaks in-between. It was a huge adjustment for me attempting to get used to sleep deprivation, taking care of another human being, and having a tiny baby attached to my body 24/7.

At 3 weeks postpartum, I started to feel lightheaded, super fatigued and feverish. One of my breasts started to hurt more than usual. Maybe sleep deprivation finally caught up to me, so I thought. I need more sleep. That night, my entire body began shaking. I had chills, but my side of the bed was drenched in sweat. Next morning, the breast started to swell up was really red and hot to touch. It felt like I got hit with a baseball bat and stabbed with a sharp knife at the same time. I was in absolute shock, trying to recollect if I had researched anything about this.

What on earth was happening to me?

Every time Coral latched on, I clenched my teeth and wept. I cried a lot and I dreaded having to nurse her. That bonding time wasn’t my favorite anymore. I hated that my breasts became the only way she would go to sleep. I wanted to stop breastfeeding.

I went to my OB/GYN and discovered that I had mastitis.

What is Mastitis?

Mastitis is the clinical term for a breast infection. Dr. Ruth Lawrence, in the 1989 edition of her book Breastfeeding: A Guide for the Medical Profession, describes mastitis as an “infectious process in the breast producing localized tenderness, redness, and heat, together with systemic reactions of fever, malaise, and sometimes nausea and vomiting.” Breast infections are often preceded by plugged ducts that have gone unnoticed or untreated, or cracks in the nipple through which an infectious organism gains entrance to the breast tissue. – La Leche League International

Note: La Leche League International is an excellent source for comprehensive information regarding breastfeeding. The link above provides the causes of mastitis, treatments and what to do about recurrent mastitis.

I was producing abundant milk. When Coral fell asleep before draining the breasts, my milk ducts got clogged. There is a brief time frame (VERY brief!) between clogged milk ducts and mastitis.

If the milk ducts do not get unclogged in time, then it will turn into mastitis.

MEAN OL’ MASTITIS. The doctor gave me antibiotics to clear the infection up. I also soaked in hot baths with Epsom salt and took Now Foods Sunflower Lecithin supplements (to help prevent sticky milk and recurrent plugged milk ducts).

Fill the bathtub with water as hot as you can handle. Sit in the bathtub and lean over so your breast is fully submerged in the HOT water. Start massaging from behind the clog toward the nipple. Do this gently then increase pressure if you can handle it. Sometimes the clog is just stuck in there… If it does, I would grab a wide tooth comb and use it instead of my fingers. Draw the wide tooth comb across a bar of soap until it is very soapy. Place the wide tooth comb right behind the clog and massage gently toward the nipple. If you have a handheld massage showerhead, try to use it on the clog if you’d like!

Drink a lot of water and eat healthily! Nurse your baby FREQUENTLY to empty the breasts thoroughly. Every time you nurse, do the affected breast first.

Try everything you can before resorting to antibiotics. If it is more than 24 hours, then please go see your doctor!

Mastitis took me roughly a week to recover.

I never knew that I was supposed to drain both breasts at every feeding time. I never knew that I needed to pay attention to the symptoms of plugged milk ducts and work on unclogging them before they turn into mastitis. If I had not taken care of my mastitis, it becomes an abscess and that requires an emergency room visit.

Need more info on plugged milk ducts and/or mastitis? Go check KellyMom.com!

For recurrent mastitis and plugged milk ducts, click here.




When I mentioned mastitis to other mothers, they stared at me like I had two heads because they have never heard of it. Up to 1 in every 10 women who are breastfeeding get mastitis. 1 in every 10 women! Yet, most mothers have never heard about mastitis because either mothers who got mastitis are not sharing their stories or they believed it was something different.

I joined a few mother groups online and you will not believe how many times I see a new mother BEGGING for help with painful breasts.

After enduring my first mastitis experience, I was determined to continue breastfeeding for as long as possible. I refused to let one unfortunate experience to stop me. My goal was to make it to the six-month mark. Then, I would not feel regretful about giving up if I had to.

I got hit with mastitis not once, not twice, but four times in such a short period of time. Fortunately, I knew what to do when I got mastitis again and again. My recovery period was quicker each time. Once my milk supply began to calm down, breastfeeding went much smoother.

I never dreamed that I would surpass the six months mark, let alone making it to two years. I am still nursing my 2.5 years old toddler and it is still our favorite bonding time.


UPDATE as of August 2018: I made it to nearly 3 years with my daughter, Coral!

Now, a couple of years after I wrote this post, I am now nursing my 10 months old son even after enduring mastitis ONCE with him.

Mastitis showed her mean face after Ocean slept an 8-hour stretch one night and I woke up engorged and in pain.

That time was really rough because just a few days after getting the antibiotics for mastitis, I was in a bad car accident and broke my collarbone. Imagine trying to recover from mastitis and the car accident injuries at the same time! If the car accident hadn’t happened, I would’ve treated mastitis quickly and be back on my feet in no time.

Have you ever had mastitis? What worked for you?

Want to read how I survived postpartum depression and anxiety? Click here.

Want to know what items new deaf parents would need? Click here.

How to treat and prevent mastitis: breast infections from untreated plugged ducts during breastfeeding.
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17 Discussion to this post

  1. Oh, I definitely feel your pain Mama! Mastitis is SO painful, hot packs were definitely my friend!

  2. Mastitis sounds awful! I was lucky I never suffered with it but I know plenty of people who did…

  3. Eileen Mendoza Loya says:

    I can relate! I had mastitis too when I was breastfeeding my children. I used a breast pump to empty my breasts and stored my milk in those milk bags which I kept in the freezer. That helped a lot to prevent the milk ducts from clogging.

  4. Stephanie says:

    I chose not to breastfeed my boys more than a few weeks, so I never got mastitis. But I was at my sister’s house after her oldest was born and she got it bad. She was told hot water would help so took a hot shower and almost passed out in there. Luckily her husband was in the bathroom to help her. I took her to the doctor and she had to go on antibiotics because it was so bad. It’s definitely not something to mess around with!

  5. Ria Parikh says:

    Prior to reading this I had no idea what mastitis is. But it is so important to raise awareness about this because I am sure many women go through this. I commend you for sharing your personal learnings and giving a real perspective.

  6. A helpful post for moms who are expecting or who already have a little one. Seems like this is great advice!

  7. Graciella says:

    I’m sorry that you had to experience mastitis several times. I never had mastitis. as soon as I felt the glands and my son was a sleep or didn’t want to drink, I pumped the milk.

  8. Tiffany says:

    I’m sorry you had to experience mastitis and car accident. I hope things will get better for you. Thanks for sharing these tips ♥️ ♥️ By any chance you are interested on doing collaborations, you can check out the collaborations portal of Phlanx.com and connect with amazing brands!

    Xoxo,
    Tiffany

  9. Elaine says:

    These are great tips! I had never heard of mastitis until now. Thank you for sharing this valuable information. At the very least, if a new mommy friend tells me about mastitis, I will have an idea of what she’s going through.

  10. Marjie Mare says:

    I never had mastitis but I know how painful, it could be. Your post will educate a lot of new moms out there. Thanks for sharing.

  11. 1 in 10 is crazy high numbers, three of my friends had it and it’s so hard to see your friends in pain like that when. More awareness is definitely needed!

  12. Rachel says:

    I got mastitis at least once with each baby. It was pretty terrible.

  13. Not heard this before, but it is great that you are informing people . they do say prevention is better than cur x

  14. NAti says:

    Oh my, I had a mastitis with my second child and it was soooo painful! I was feeling bad because I got 39,5°C fever with it. I was lucky to never catch it again 🙂

  15. Becca Wilson says:

    I had no idea about mastisis at all. I had a hard time breast feeding anyways. My body just wouldnt produce the milk supply my babies needed.

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