How to Prevent and Treat Mastitis During Breastfeeding

If you’re a breastfeeding mama, then you’re probably all too familiar with the term mastitis. Whether you’ve researched it during your pregnancy, or only learned about it after you started breastfeeding, it’s definitely not something any mother wants to experience.

During my first pregnancy, I remember reading about mastitis and thinking to myself, “I hope that doesn’t happen to me.” Well, guess what? It did, and it was certainly an experience that I’ll never forget  – I almost ended up in the hospital! 

But, I also learned a lot about how to treat and prevent it from happening again. It’s something that I hope all breastfeeding women can learn from, whether you’re currently dealing with it or not.

What is Mastitis?

If you’re not familiar with mastitis, it’s basically a bacterial infection of the breast tissue that can occur when a duct becomes blocked. The blockage usually happens when the baby doesn’t empty the breast well, or if there’s any sort of trauma to the breast (cracked nipples, for example).

Mastitis can happen to any breastfeeding mother, but it’s most common in the first few weeks after birth. It can be a very frustrating experience, but there are things you can do to prevent it and treat it if it does happen to you.

What Are The First Signs of Mastitis?

The first signs of mastitis are usually a fever, chills, and flu-like symptoms. You may also experience pain in your breast that feels like an engorgement or plugged duct. The affected breast may feel hard, tender, and warm to the touch.

If you think you might have mastitis or are experiencing some of the early signs, read on the discover what the symptoms are and how they can be managed. If left untreated, mastitis can lead to more serious infection – and no mama has time for that!

How Do I Prevent Mastitis?

There are several things you can do to prevent mastitis when breastfeeding – and I promise you, they work!

Practice good breast hygiene

This means washing your breasts with soap and water every day, and making sure to dry them well afterwards. You should also avoid using any harsh soaps or detergents on your breasts.

Avoid wearing tight-fitting bras

Wearing a supportive bra is important, but make sure it’s not too tight. Tight bras can lead to plugged ducts, which can then lead to mastitis. This was very true for me, I got Mastitis after a workout in a tight sports bra while still nursing. Be mindful and wear comfy soft fabrics, especially while engorged.

Make sure your baby is latched on correctly

This is probably the most important thing you can do to prevent mastitis. If your baby isn’t latched on correctly, they won’t be able to empty your breast well, which can lead to a blocked duct.

Empty your breasts frequently

Whether you’re breastfeeding or pumping, it’s important to empty your breasts as often as possible. Do not forget the breast that is the low producer, which is the breast that produces less milk. Oftentimes, your baby will tend to leave milk in this breast and may refuse to drink from it more often. But, it should never be neglected! Always look for different ways to empty your breasts, such as using a breast pump, changing your nursing position, or using different strokes while hand expressing milk.

How Do I Treat Mastitis?

Treating mastitis can be a bit of a process, but it’s important to stick with it. I remember feeling like I was never going to get better, but I promise there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Some of the best ways and most natural ways I found worked for me when treating mastitis were:

Sunflower Lecithin

This was a life saver! I found that taking 2000-3000mg a day really helped to decrease the inflammation and pain. It’s also great for helping to get rid of clogged ducts because it’s a natural fat emulsifier that makes your milk thinner so that it can travel more easily through your milk ducts. It can also help to reduce the amount of fat in your milk. You can find sunflower lecithin at any health food store or online. Keep in mind that it should be taken as needed while breastfeeding and not as a long term supplement. 

Cabbage Leaves

This is an old wives tale that actually works! Cabbage leaves help to draw out inflammation and pain. I would put them in my bra right on top of where it hurt the most. You can also use a warm compress on top of the cabbage leaves to help draw out even more inflammation.


Another great way to help reduce inflammation is to put thin slices of potato right on the sore area. Potatoes have anti-inflammatory properties that can really help to take down the swelling. To get started, place the potatoes around the breast and cover with a clean cloth. Leave them on for a least one hour, and then replace with fresh slices as needed.

Herbal Breast Compress

Make an herbal breast compress to help soothe and heal your breast. This compress can also be used as a preventative measure if you start to feel a clogged duct coming on. Herbs that work well in a breast compress are anti-inflammatory and reduce swelling (chamomile, calendula, lavender), increase lymph circulation and drainage (cleavers, burdock root, yarrow), and draw out infection (slippery elm, marshmallow root).


This may be the last thing you want to do when your breast is on fire, but it’s actually one of the best things you can do. The more you nurse, the more your baby will help extract the blockages and the less engorged you will become. This was one of the most challenging moments of motherhood for me. I promise it will get better.

Get Plenty of Rest

This is probably the most important thing you can do when treating mastitis. Your body needs rest to heal, so take a break from as many home chores or work as possible, and just focus on getting better.

Stay Hydrated

Make sure you’re drinking plenty of fluids, especially water. Staying hydrated will help your body fight off the infection and speed up the healing process. This is because fluids help thin out the milk so it can flow more easily through the ducts. Coconut water is also great for extra hydration.

Hand Expressions in a Hot Bath or Shower

If you’re not able to nurse, hand expressing in a hot bath or shower is a great way to get rid of the excess milk and help reduce engorgement. The heat will  also help to thin out the milk and make it easier (and less painful) to express. You can also bend over (on your knees in the bath) and express in that position, as it can help gravity to do its job.

Pain Management

There’s no sugar coating it; mastitis is one of the most painful things a mom can experience. To help with the pain and inflammation, you can try using a warm compress on your breast, taking a warm bath, or using a heating pad. This really helped ease the pain during my time with mastitis. It also allowed me to massage the affected area more easily, which helped break up the blockage.

Breastfeeding with Mastitis

Breastfeeding with mastitis is no fun, but thankfully there are things you can do to prevent and treat it. If you think you might have mastitis, follow the advice above or reach out to other mamas who’ve experienced it before. And remember, you’re not alone – many of us go through this!

Of course, if you need more support while going through mastitis, I encourage you to join hundreds of mamas who love The Well Bebe Method, my customized support program for moms that will help you start this new journey with routines that you can follow every day to simplify your life.

As a mama of two, I designed this program with one thing in mind: to help you take care of yourself so you can take care of your baby with ease. When you’re ready, I’ll be here to guide and support you through every step of the way – whether you’re facing a struggle like mastitis or celebrating a new milestone with baby.

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