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Mastitis: As scary as it sounds? Yes and No.

Just hearing the word mastitis is enough to make most nursing mamas cringe, but is it really that big of a deal or is it just a postpartum rite of passage?

In this post I'll be discussing the ins and outs of mastitis, various treatment options, and a few prevention strategies that I have learned in my studies of midwifery and from personal experience.

The information shared here is intended for educational purposes, and should not be considered medical advice.

What exactly is Mastitis?

Mastitis is defined as cellulitis of the interlobular connective tissue in the breast. (Sinclair, Constance. A Midwife's Handbook. Saunders, 2004.)

Simply put, it's an infection of the breast tissue. Mastitis is most often caused by staphylococcus aureus but can also be caused by other environmental or contact bacteria. Unresolved mastitis can lead to an abscess, so it's important to contact your care provider if you experience symptoms.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Mastitis?

Mastitis often begins with a swollen duct in the breast. You may notice a painful, red, firm area of the skin, sometimes accompanied by flu-like symptoms - fever, headache, chills, body aches, and fatigue.

How is Mastitis treated?

If symptoms, especially fever, have been present for more than 48 hours, you'll likely need an antibiotic. Analgesics can help reduce pain, and cold or warm packs can be used for comfort.

However, there are many non-allopathic treatments you can try:

-Bed rest for mom & baby

-Increase fluid intake

-High doses of Vitamin C & Garlic

-Echinacea and/or Goldenseal tinctures

-Homeopathics: 30C of Arnica, Bryonia, Phytolacca, or Belladonna ("Heart & Hands: a Midwife's Guide to Pregnancy and Birth.” by Elizabeth Davis, Ten Speed Press, 2012, p. 195.)

Is Mastitis preventable?

There are several factors that can raise your risk of mastitis:

-Plugged ducts

-Latch problems

-Tight fitting bras

-Sudden changes in feeding frequency


To reduce the risk of mastitis:

-Make sure that your baby has a good latch and that he is adequately moving milk

-Nurse or pump often, never skipping feedings or pumping sessions

-If you feel a plugged duct, massage it during feedings and change feeding positions regularly

-Increase fluids and maintain a healthy diet of whole foods

-Don't overdo it- postpartum moms and babies need lots of rest and skin-to-skin time

Have you experienced mastitis? What treatments worked for you?