(Breast Infection)

Etiology: Inflammation of the breast. Most common in women during lactation but it may occur at any age.

CAUSES: May be due to entry of disease-producing germs through the nipple. In most cases there is a crack or abrasion of the nipple. Infection begins in one lobule but may extend to other areas.

Incomplete emptying of the milk ducts by the baby or the wearing of a tight bra can cause a plugged duct. Soreness and a lump in one area of the breast is an indication of the plugged duct. Check the nipple very carefully for a tiny dot of dried milk. When this is removed by gentle cleansing along with frequent nursing on the affected breast, the duct will clear itself within 24 hours. Massaging the breasts with firm pressure, from the chest wall toward the nipple, also stimulates milk flow. Alter the position of the baby on the nipple so all the ducts are drained. Make sure to offer the affected breast first, when the baby’s sucking is strongest.

If a plugged duct is not taken care of, mastitis can be the result.

SYMPTOMS: Soreness and redness in the breast, fever, and flu-like symptoms are indicators of mastitis. In a nursing mother, all flu symptoms should be considered a breast infection until proven otherwise.

TREATMENT: Drink plenty of fluids, get plenty of rest and apply heat to the area with a hot water bottle or heating pad. If nursing, do not stop nursing the baby, otherwise the ducts will remain full and could worsen the problem by allowing the ducts to overfill. In addition, the doctor may prescribe antibiotics that can be taken while nursing.

In very rare cases, a breast infection results in a breast abscess in which the sore breast fills with pus. This abscess may need to be incised to allow drainage. During this time a breast pump should be used to express the milk. Breastfeeding should be continued on the noninfected breast until the abscess is healed.