Challenges Related to Breastfeeding

Mastitis and Breastfeeding: Causes and Practical Solutions for Moms

Mastite et Allaitement


Breastfeeding women are more prone to mastitis, this inflammation of the breast tissue that makes breasts painful. Breastfeeding then becomes difficult and may require, in some cases, the use of a breast pump during the healing process. Mastitis and breastfeeding, a subject that is a major concern in the minds of mothers. Fortunately, there are simple ways to relieve mastitis symptoms and continue breastfeeding under good conditions.

What is Mastitis?

It is an inflammation of the breast gland characterized by pain, redness, swelling of the breasts, sometimes a sensation of warmth to the touch. It appears unexpectedly and can lead to infection if not effectively treated. Mastitis can affect all women, whether they breastfeed or not. The non-infectious form of mastitis, also called “mammitis”, generally occurs following engorgement (accumulation of milk in the breasts) that has obstructed one or more milk ducts. This condition mainly affects breastfeeding mothers.

What are the Causes of Mastitis During Breastfeeding?

Mastitis mainly occurs when milk does not flow correctly in the breast, which happens when the baby does not breastfeed regularly or when feedings are missed. Engorgement, especially in the early days after childbirth, can intensify this phenomenon. When the breasts are full, the risk of engorgement increases and flow becomes complicated. If the problem is not resolved, it can lead to milk stagnation, providing a favorable environment for infection. Similarly, small lesions on the nipples facilitate the intrusion of germs into the breast. Finally, stress, fatigue, as well as wearing tight clothing, contribute to increasing the risk of developing mastitis.

Mastitis and Breastfeeding: Symptoms

Onset of Mastitis, recognizing the early signs to intervene and minimize its impact. Prompt management at the first symptoms not only allows for accelerated healing but also the continuation of breastfeeding as desired by the mother. Faced with persistent or worsening symptoms, such as a fever above 38.5°C or a deterioration in general health, it is vital to consult your doctor without delay. In some cases, antibiotic treatment may be necessary to combat the infection and prevent complications.

Mastitis Symptoms
Reaction Description
Pain in the breast Pain can be constant or only felt during breastfeeding. It can start with mild sensitivity and then intensify.
Redness and warmth A specific area of the breast may become red and warm to the touch, indicating inflammation. Sometimes, the redness can spread significantly.
Swelling The affected breast may appear swollen or fuller than usual, a sign of engorgement or inflammation.
Nodule or hard area You may feel a mass or particularly hard area in your breast, often due to a blocked milk duct.
Flu-like symptoms A fever (38°C or higher), chills, and general discomfort are signs that an infection may be present. These symptoms can appear rapidly and often require medical attention.
Fatigue An increased feeling of fatigue, beyond what is usual with caring for a newborn, may also accompany mastitis.

How to Prevent Mastitis?

To effectively prevent mastitis, you can follow these few tips:

  • From the beginning of breastfeeding, ensure that the baby latches on well with a wide-open mouth and good suction. Indeed, a poor latch makes breastfeeding less effective and can also lead to breast engorgement.
  • Start breastfeeding as soon as your baby shows the first signs of hunger, such as putting hands to mouth or turning the head from side to side (rooting reflex). This helps maintain a good flow of milk. Regularly emptied breasts limit milk accumulation and the risk of developing mastitis.
  • Consult a lactation consultant to identify and correct breastfeeding techniques and positions.

How to Treat Mastitis without Antibiotics?

To relieve mastitis symptoms without resorting to medication, we share alternative methods and care. However, if your situation does not improve despite these approaches, do not hesitate to consult.

  1. Applying a warm and moist compress: Before breastfeeding or using a breast pump, apply a warm compress to the affected breast for a few minutes. This can relieve pain and promote milk flow.
  2. Apply a cold compress: Apply after feedings or milk expression; typically, cold helps reduce swelling and soothe irritated areas.
  3. Massage the affected area: Start from the outside of the breast towards the nipple to help dislodge blockages. Use your fingers to make gentle circular motions, avoiding too much pressure to avoid worsening inflammation.
  4. Continue breastfeeding: This allows for breast engorgement relief; however, if breastfeeding becomes too painful, try manually expressing milk or switch to a breast pump.
  5. Change breastfeeding positions:Alternate breastfeeding positions to drain different parts of the breast and reduce milk stasis; for added comfort, use a nursing pillow to reduce pressure on the breasts.
  6. Hydration and Nutrition: There’s no secret, you need to drink enough water to produce sufficient milk. Eat balanced to keep your immune system in good shape.
  7. Rest: Fatigue only exacerbates things, so take care of yourself as much as possible.
  8. Wearing a nursing bra: It should be well-fitted and comfortable to support your breasts without compressing them.
  9. Use special creams: In case of cracked or irritated nipples to prevent the risk of infection.
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Natural Remedies for Mastitis While Breastfeeding

Clay is a natural remedy often used to relieve mastitis symptoms. Thanks to its anti-inflammatory and soothing properties, green or white clay helps reduce swelling and pain associated with breast inflammation. Green clay is often preferred for its stronger action in case of inflammation, while white clay is gentler and more suitable for sensitive skin, ideally choose a quality and certified organic clay.

For use as a poultice, simply mix the clay powder with water until you obtain a thick paste, then apply it to the affected area and let it sit for about 20 to 30 minutes before rinsing with lukewarm water. Repeat this process several times a day.

Precaution: Make sure to consult your doctor before using this remedy, especially if you have skin issues or other medical conditions.

Surprisingly, green cabbage leaves are a remarkably effective solution for relieving breast congestion. According to the results of a study conducted in Singapore on a panel of breastfeeding women. They outperformed, by far, gel nursing pads. Before heading to your local supermarket to get your green cabbage, please allow us a few minutes to present you the 2 methods of use for treating breast engorgement:

Cabbage Leaves Poultice:

  • Prepare the leaves by gently removing the central vein to make them more pliable.
  • Using a rolling pin, gently flatten the leaves to release their enzymes.
  • Heat the leaves slightly to soften them, if necessary, by briefly microwaving them or soaking them in hot water.
  • Place the leaves on the affected breast.
  • Keep the poultice in place using a bandage or a comfortable bra.
  • Let it sit for several hours, or even overnight, for maximum relief.

Cabbage Leaves for Direct Application:

  • Prepare the leaves as seen previously.
  • Chill the leaves in the refrigerator for a few hours to provide an additional soothing effect.
  • Once cooled, place the leaves directly on the engorged breasts.
  • To maintain the feeling of coolness, change the leaves approximately every 2 hours or as soon as they start to wilt.
  • Repeat this process as often as necessary to alleviate your symptoms.
Cabbage Leaves Remedy for Mastitis

Mastitis and Breastfeeding: Is it Compatible?

Faced with the pain and discomfort of mastitis, many mothers wonder if continuing to breastfeed is the right decision. The answer is yes, as much as possible. It’s even encouraged. Why? During breastfeeding, oxytocin is released, a hormone that stimulates milk flow and provides a sense of well-being. This promotes drainage of the affected breast, thus unblocking obstructed milk ducts, which, consequently, will reduce inflammation.

Breast Milk and Mastitis

The good news is that even in the case of mastitis, breast milk remains healthy and nourishing. The slight changes in its characteristics actually give it more benefits! However, note that these variations may temporarily affect the baby’s breastfeeding behavior, but usually diminish with the mother’s recovery.

The increase in antibodies plays a vital role in fighting breast infections and in strengthening the child’s immunity. This evolution of the milk’s composition is a natural response of the maternal body, aiming to protect the mother-baby duo. Furthermore, they provide the infant with additional protection against diseases.

The possible alteration of the taste or appearance of breast milk in the situation of mastitis does not indicate a decrease in its quality. On the contrary, continuing breastfeeding is recommended not only to help eliminate the infection but also to maintain lactation, in accordance with healthcare professionals’ advice.

If you need to take medication, make sure to check with your doctor their compatibility with breastfeeding, although most of them are.

Overcoming Stress and Anxiety: Mastitis and Breastfeeding

Beyond the physical symptoms, mastitis can also affect the emotional well-being of mothers. Emotions such as anxiety, frustration, and even guilt can arise in some women who struggle to continue breastfeeding their child while battling this condition. It is important to take these feelings seriously and not minimize them. Mastitis should not be an obstacle to continuing the care, love, and dedication that a mother wants to offer her baby. Remember that it is normal to feel these emotions and that you are not alone in this situation.

Here are some keys to approach breastfeeding with serenity: Take a few moments during the day to recharge, practice your hobbies, or simply enjoy a moment of relaxation just for yourself. Consider doing some deep breathing exercises, such as heart coherence, to release muscle tension and reduce stress. As you may have understood, anything that can contribute to your well-being is worth considering. Free yourself by expressing your feelings; keeping everything to yourself is rarely beneficial. Seek support from your partner, close friends, or even mothers who have experienced this situation by participating in online discussions on dedicated topics (Mastitis and Breastfeeding).

Don’t hesitate to ask for help when needed, whether it’s for household chores, taking care of your baby, or simply to give yourself a moment of rest. Finally, don’t judge yourself too harshly, be kind to yourself because you’re doing your best given the circumstances.

FAQ: Mastitis and Breastfeeding

FAQ Mastitis and Breastfeeding

Mastitis is often characterized by more severe symptoms such as fever, redness, heat, and localized pain in one breast. If you experience these symptoms, it is important to consult a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis.

Exclusive breastfeeding can indeed reduce the risk of developing mastitis. However, it is essential to ensure a good latch to avoid engorgement, which can be a risk factor for mastitis.

Yes, relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, and muscle relaxation can help reduce stress and promote better blood circulation in the breasts, which can contribute to relieving mastitis symptoms.

It is recommended to maintain a balanced and hydrated diet. Some foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can promote healing. It is advisable to discuss with a healthcare professional before taking supplements.

Breast engorgement is an accumulation of milk in the breasts, while mastitis is an infectious inflammation of the breast tissues. Although engorgement can cause some pain and a feeling of fullness in the breasts, mastitis is associated with more severe symptoms such as fever and redness.

You can restart as soon as you feel ready. Make sure to empty your breasts regularly during feedings to avoid engorgement and aid in healing. If you have concerns, consult a healthcare professional.


In essence, mastitis is a common breastfeeding problem, marked by painful inflammation of the breast. Although it can be challenging, symptoms can be alleviated through good practices, without necessarily resorting to medication. Adopting preventive measures from the beginning helps reduce the risks. With this knowledge, mothers can continue to enjoy the benefits of breastfeeding for themselves and their babies, even in the case of mastitis. It is important to remember that if symptoms persist, seek medical advice promptly.

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About Cécile Kolbecher

Après une expérience de 10 ans dans le secteur sanitaire et social, Cécile a entamé une reconversion professionnelle puis s'est formée à la rédaction web et au SEO. Désormais, elle met à profit son goût pour l'écriture et ses compétences dans la création de contenu sur le thème de la maternité et de l'allaitement.

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