Self-care may include applying moist heat to the infected breast tissue for 15 to 20 minutes four times a day. You may also need to take pain relievers.
Antibiotic medicines are usually very effective in treating a breast infection. If you take antibiotics, you must continue to breastfeed or pump to relieve breast swelling from milk production.
The condition usually clears quickly with antibiotic therapy.
In severe infections, an abscess may develop. Abscesses need to be drained, either as an office procedure or with surgery. Women with abscesses may be told to temporarily stop breastfeeding.
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call your health care provider if:
Any portion of your breast tissue becomes reddened, tender, swollen, or hot
You are breastfeeding and develop a high fever
The lymph nodes in your armpit become tender or swollen
The following may help reduce the risk of breast infections:
Careful nipple care to prevent irritation and cracking
Feeding often and pumping milk to prevent the breast from getting swollen (engorged)
Proper breastfeeding technique with good latching by the baby
Weaning slowly, over several weeks, rather than quickly stopping breastfeeding
Grobmyer SR, Massoll N, Copeland EM III. Clinical management of mastitis and breast abscess and idiopathic granulomatous mastitis. In: Bland KI, Copeland EM III, eds. The Breast: Comprehensive Management of Benign and Malignant Disorders. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2009:chap 6.
Newton ER. Breast-feeding. In: Gabbe SG, Niebyl JF, Simpson JL, eds. Obstetrics: Normal and Problem Pregnancies. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Churchill Livingston; 2007:chap 22.
Spencer JP. Management of mastitis in breastfeeding women. Am Fam Physician. 2008;78:727-31.
Cynthia D. White, MD, Fellow American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Group Health Cooperative, Bellevue, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.