Breast infection prevention

A breast infection, also known as breast abscess and mastitis, is an infection in the tissue of the breast.

Causes
Breast infections are usually caused by a common bacteria (Staphylococcus aureus) found on normal skin. The bacteria enter through a break or crack in the skin, usually on the nipple.

The infection takes place in the fatty tissue of the breast and causes swelling. This swelling pushes on the milk ducts. The result is pain and lumps in the infected breast.

Breast infections usually occur in women who are breastfeeding. Breast infections that are not related to breastfeeding might be a rare form of breast cancer.

Symptoms

  • Breast enlargement on one side only
  • Breast lump
  • Breast pain
  • Fever and flu-like symptoms including nausea and vomiting
  • Itching
  • Nipple discharge (may contain pus)
  • Nipple sensation changes
  • Swelling, tenderness, redness, and warmth in breast tissue
  • Tender or enlarged lymph nodes in armpit on the same side

Prevention

  • Careful nipple care to prevent irritation and cracking
  • Feeding often and pumping milk to prevent engorgement of the breast
  • Proper breastfeeding technique with good latching by the baby
  • Weaning slowly, over several weeks, rather than abruptly stopping breastfeeding

Treatment
Self-care may include applying moist heat to the infected breast tissue for 15 to 20 minutes four times a day. Antibiotic medications are usually very effective in treating a breast infection. You are encouraged to continue to breastfeed or to pump to relieve breast engorgement from milk production while receiving treatment.

(Source: University of Maryland Medical Center)