Breasts are complicated! The parts that we see are the nipples, areola and skin. But there is so much more happening inside: milk-making cells, ducts and lobes do the work of milk production, storage and delivery to your baby.

Mastitis occurs when there is an infection of the cells of the breast – you will probably have a fever, chills and feel exhausted. Check out your breasts for a warm, red area that feels like it has a hard marble under it. Anyone can get mastitis (even men!) although it is most common in breastfeeding moms during the first few weeks of lactation. To avoid mastitis pump of feed your baby frequently, emptying the breast keeps your milk moving and bacteria from growing. Another strategy for avoiding mastitis is to wear a bra that fits correctly, a too-tight bra can keep your milk from emptying and give bacteria a chance to grow.

You should nurse and pump when you have mastitis – it is the best way to help resolve your infection. Try to keep the breast with the infection as empty as possible, keep milk moving and bacteria from growing. Mastitis is often caused by a clogged milk duct, it feels like a hard lump in your breast. When your nurse your baby, or use your breast pump, use gentle pressure on the lump to try and move the clog out of the duct and out of the breast.

Treatment

Since mastitis is generally caused by bacteria, antibiotics are almost always effective. You should begin to feel better within a day or two of starting antibiotic treatment. While you are recovering try to rest more, increase your fluid intake and keep a warm wash cloth over the red and inflamed area. Pump and nurse frequently to keep your milk moving and bacteria from growing. To help with your fever and aches, take acetaminophen or ibuprofen

Prevention

To prevent mastitis, pump or feed frequently. This is great advice for a strong milk supply and avoiding mastitis. Use hands on pumping and breast compression to move milk out of your breasts and bacteria from growing. Watch for signs of mastitis when your are weaning too. Any time your baby isn’t nursing as often, your milk isn’t moving and mastitis could develop.