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Breast abscess

When mastitis isn't treated promptly, a breast abscess can form.


A breast abscess is a build-up of pus in the breast caused by an infection. They are often very painful. An abscess can form if mastitis isn't treated early enough. 

If you are diagnosed with a breast abscess: 

  • Your doctor may drain the infected fluid from the abscess over several days using a syringe. This is known as needle aspiration. 
  • You may have the abscess surgically drained in a day clinic or hospital. This is known as incision and drainage. Sometimes a drain is inserted into the wound to let excess fluid drain out, or it may be left open to drain naturally.  
  • You will be prescribed antibiotics. 

Having a breast abscess doesn’t mean the end of breastfeeding. It’s very important to continue breastfeeding from the affected breast during treatment. However, if you have a drain in the wound which is close to your nipple, your baby may not be able to attach to that side for a while. In this case, you may need to express your breastmilk while the drain is in place.  

Some people believe that the wound won’t heal while milk is leaking from the drain. This is not true and, in fact, immune factors in your breastmilk can help to stop further infection. It may be a bit messy as the milk will tend to leak from the drain each time your let-down reflex occurs. Talk to your doctor about ways to manage this.  

Even though the abscess has been treated, it can take some time for your breast to return to normal. It will gradually heal while you continue to breastfeed.

The information on this website does not replace advice from your health care provider.

© Australian Breastfeeding Association February 2023