Mastitis is a condition that occurs in breastfeeding women when a milk duct becomes blocked

What is really going on inside

If not cleared, the blockage can cause inflammation of the surrounding breast tissue. Mastitis can be non-infective or infective.

What you might be feeling

The breast may demonstrate one or any of the following:

  • Red
  • Hot
  • Swollen
  • Painful

Systemic symptoms are usually only seen in infective mastitis and required medical input:

  • Fever (usually over 38.5°C
  • Lethargy
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Anxiety
  • Flu like symptoms e.g. aching joints

Risk factors for mastitis

  • Poor attachment to the breast
  • Previous history of mastitis
  • Nipple damage
  • Breasts that are too full
  • Blocked milk ducts
  • Missing feeds and/or abrupt weaning
  • Overly tight or underwire bra
  • Poor hygiene prior to breastfeeding or use of nipple creams
  • Rough handling of breasts
  • Stress/lack of sleep
  • Anemia/poor diet

Acute management advice

  • Attempt to breastfeed/express from the affected breast first. Your milk is still safe for your baby.
  • Gently massage from your nipple up towards your arm pit with a flat open palm when feeding or expressing.
  • Place a warm pack prior to feeding and an icepack post feeding on the painful area.
  • Breastfeed your baby on demand (usually 8-12x/hour every 24hrs for a newborn). If your baby is not hungry, express a small amount of milk to make your breast more comfortable.
  • Drink plenty of fluids throughout the day.
  • Rest as much as possible and ask for help with chores.
  • Wear comfortable, loose fitting clothing and an appropriately sized maternity bra.
  • Take paracetamol or ibuprofen. They are safe to take while breastfeeding.

How a physio can help

Physiotherapy intervention is most beneficial when commenced early. If you start to develop the above symptoms, book an appointment with a Women’s Health physiotherapist. Your treatment may include:

  • Ultrasound – to assist in breaking down the milk duct blockage
  • Massage – to support lymphatic drainage
  • Taping – to help reduce pain and promote lymphatic drainage
  • Education – to encourage self management and prevent future episodes

If You Have Systemic Symptoms Or The Above Measures Do Not Help, Please Contact Your General Practitioner For Ongoing Input. If You Would Like Breastfeeding Support, Contact Your Maternal Health Nurse, A Lactation Consultant Or The Australian Breastfeeding Association On 1800 686 268.

This Information Provided Is For General Information And Does Not Substitute For The Advice And Information Your Physiotherapist Will Provide About Your Particular Condition. While Every Effort Has Been Made To Ensure The Information Provided Is Correct And Accurate, SportsCare Accepts No Responsibility For Inappropriate Use, Self Diagnosis And Rehabilitation Of Any Health Related Condition.

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