Please note: This information was current at the time of publication. But medical information is always changing, and some information given here may be out of date. For regularly updated information on a variety of health topics, please visit, the AAFP patient education website.

Information from Your Family Doctor

Mastitis: What You Should Know


Am Fam Physician. 2008 Sep 15;78(6):732.

  See related article on mastitis.

What is mastitis?

Mastitis (mas-TY-tuss) is a swelling of the breast that is usually caused by an infection. This often happens during breastfeeding. Women with mastitis may have pain with a tender, red, wedge-shaped area on the breast. They may also have fever and chills, or they may feel tired and sick.

What can I do to prevent it?

Using the best breastfeeding method lowers your risk. Your baby should latch onto the nipple with his or her mouth open wide. Change your baby's position during feedings to help empty all the areas of the breast. If you need to stop a feeding, break the suction using your finger. Don't wear tight-fitting bras or breast pads that cause your nipples to stay moist after breastfeeding. Air your nipples when possible. Tell your doctor or lactation consultant if you have nipple pain during nursing.

How is it treated?

It is important to keep breastfeeding when you have mastitis. Your breast milk will not be bad for your baby, even if you have mastitis, although some infants may not like the taste. If you stop breastfeeding, germs can spread in the milk that is left in your breast, and your infection can get worse. Pain medicines such as acetaminophen (one brand name: Tylenol) or ibuprofen (one brand name: Advil) are usually safe for you to take. Warm showers can also help with the pain. If you cannot nurse your baby, you should pump your breasts to remove the milk. Your doctor may prescribe antibiotics to help get rid of the infection. Getting enough rest helps you feel better faster. You should drink extra fluids. Talk to your doctor if your symptoms get worse.

Where can I get more information?

Your doctor

American Academy of Family Physicians

Web site:

La Leche League International

Web site:

International Lactation Consultant Association

Web site:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Breastfeeding Helpline

Telephone: 1-800-994-9662 (Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. EST)

This handout is provided to you by your family doctor and the American Academy of Family Physicians. Other health-related information is available from the AAFP online at

This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.


Copyright © 2008 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.
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