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Mastitis or breast infection is an issue among breastfeeding women. This type of infection is generally caused by bacteria. It is common for bacteria to be present on the nipple and in the mouth of the infant. Once the nipple is damaged and cracked, the bacteria might move into the milk ducts and start an infection.

Risk factors

Some factors that can contribute to the development of mastitis include:

  • Poor drainage of milk from the breasts – this can occur if there is a prolonged period between feedings or missing feedings. An infant who chooses to feed on one breast or does not drink enough milk can also lead to poor drainage. In addition, milk might not drain properly if a duct is blocked or if a bra tightly fits.
  • Breast injury – the nipples can end up damaged by incorrect latching of the child on the breast during nursing which leads to a rift or open sore. An older infant might bite the nipple or kick the breast. Using a breast pump that produces a strong vacuum can also damage the breast.
    Once the nipple is damaged and cracked, the bacteria might move into the milk ducts and start an infection.

What are the signs of mastitis?

The indications of mastitis might include the following:

  • Fever and chills
  • Aching, flu-like feeling
  • Headache
  • Breast lump
  • Breast pain, firmness or redness
  • Difficulty getting the milk to flow


It is vital to ensure that the child is feeding properly, and breast-feeding is done often. In case the child is not effectively removing milk, a lactation specialist should be consulted. In addition, using a breast bump can keep the milk flowing.

The doctor might prescribe antibiotics to manage mastitis. The earlier treatment is started, the sooner the infection settles. Immediate care can prevent other issues such as the formation of a breast abscess.

Remember that the infection does not pass on to the baby. If the mother is under antibiotics, the baby might gain some of the medication via the breast milk which is not considered as an issue.

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