How to Prevent Mastitis
By Julie Bendix, MPH RD LD CLC

What is Mastitis?

Mastitis is the inflammation of the breast tissue and can include an infection. Symptoms include breast pain, swelling, warmth and redness. You might also have fever and chills.

It is most common in the first 2-3 weeks of breastfeeding. It happens to about 1 in 5 women who breastfeed. So what can we do to prevent it?


Tips to Prevent Mastitis

If you have experienced mastitis in the past or are hoping to learn some ways to prevent it from happening to you, consider these 5 tips (seriously, mastitis sucks).

Tip 1: Drain your breast

Make sure your baby drains your breasts well during each feeding. Use hand massage to help empty all of your ducts. Ducts that still have milk in them will feel “lumpy”. You can massage the lumps out while your baby is nursing or after a nursing session with a breast pump. Blocked ducts are a significant predictor of mastitis.

Tip 2. Have a good latch

Be sure your baby has a good latch that is not painful. If you are having some pain, have a lactation consultant assess your baby’s latch as well as examine your baby for any tongue or lip ties. Nipple pain and poor latches are also a significant predictor of mastitis.

Tip 3. No shields or shells

Stop using a nipple shield or breast shell, if you are using one.

Tip 4. Keep bras loose

Do not wear tight fitting bras or bras with underwire. Consider a soft nursing bra or nursing tank top.

Tip 5. Eat iron rich foods

Eat more food with iron (like beef, lamb, turkey, seafood or veggies like spinach, peas or sweet potatoes). Breastfeeding mothers who are anemic are more likely to get mastitis. 


Cadwell, Karin. (2014). Pocket Guide for Lactation Management. 2nd ed. Pg. 72-73.

Fetherston, C. (1998). Risk factors for lactation mastitis. Journal of Human Lactation: Official Journal of International Lactation Consultant Association, 14(2), 101-109.

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