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HealthInfo Waitaha Canterbury

Mastitis (inflamed breasts)

Mate ū

Illustration showing a normal breast with lobules, milk ducts, fat and skin, and one with mastitis that has inflammation and swelling.Mastitis (inflamed breasts) happens when you are breastfeeding if parts of your breast become swollen.

This causes the ducts to become narrower, which slows the flow of milk. An area of your breast can then become inflamed, red and painful.

Sometimes this inflamed area can become infected with bugs (bacteria). This needs to be treated with antibiotics.




If you feel any hard, red, painful areas in your breast, see your general practice team or midwife as soon as you can. This could be a breast abscess.

Preventing mastitis

Follow the cues or signs from your pēpi (baby) that they are ready to breastfeed, and do not miss feeds or cut them short. This helps to balance the amount of milk your breasts produce with the amount of milk your baby needs.

Signs that they are ready to feed can be nuzzling, hand-sucking or mouthing (where they open their mouth and turn their head). Crying is usually the last cue for feeding. It may be difficult to get your pēpi to latch properly if they are crying.

Make sure your pēpi is latching at your breast correctly.

If you need help with breastfeeding or are producing too much milk, talk to your midwife, Well Child nurse or general practice team. You may be referred to a lactation consultant. You can also choose to pay to see a lactation consultant or breastfeeding doctor privately.

Symptoms of mastitis

Symptoms can include:

Self-care for mastitis

If you have mastitis, there are several things you can do.

Getting help with mastitis

If you are not feeling better within 24 hours, if you have a fever (higher than 38.5°C) or have a hard, red, painful lump in your breast, see your midwife or general practice team.

They may give you antibiotics if you have developed an infection.

If you have a breast abscess, this may need to be opened up (drained).

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Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed May 2024.


See also:

Getting help with breastfeeding

Page reference: 45601

Review key: HIBRF-24381