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Feeling unwell with a blocked duct or damaged nipples? 


You may have mastitis.

sick mother

Mastitis is usually the result of a blocked milk duct that hasn't cleared. Some of the milk that has banked up behind the blocked duct is forced into nearby breast tissue, causing the tissue to become inflamed.

The inflammation is called mastitis. There may or may not be an infection. Sore, damaged nipples and over full, engorged breasts can lead to mastitis. 

Signs and symptoms of mastitis

  • You may feel as if you are getting the flu, with a temperature, the shivers and general body aches.  

  • Part of your breast may look red and swollen. The skin may be shiny with red streaks.   

  • Your breast may feel hot and painful.   

Sometimes mastitis can come on quickly. You may not have any early signs of a blocked duct and it seems to come 'out of the blue'. 

If you think you have mastitis, see your doctor as soon as possible. Mastitis which is left untreated may become a breast abscess.


Preventing mastitis

Things to do: 

  • Breastfeed your baby frequently, as often as they want to feed.  

  • Help your baby to latch deeply and drain your breast well. 

  • Start each feed on alternate breasts. This makes sure at least one breast gets drained well at every feed. 

  • If your breast becomes uncomfortably full, you can wake your baby and offer a feed.   

  • If your baby is not interested in feeding, you can express a small amount for comfort only. 

  • You may be more likely to get mastitis if you are “run down". Resting, drinking to your thirst and eating nutritious foods may help. 

  • If you are weaning, try to do it gradually, reducing breastfeeds over several weeks. 

Things to avoid: 

  • Avoid unnecessary pumping if your baby is feeding well. 

  • Avoid rushing, missing or stretching out feeds. 

  • Avoid putting pressure on your breasts e.g. with clothing or with your fingers while feeding.  

In the following video, Dr Lisa Amir, GP and certified lactation consultant, talks in detail about mastitis, what it is, how to prevent it and what to do if you have it. 

© Australian Breastfeeding Association April 2022

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