Written by Sarah Mansell Published on 9th February 2022

One of the many thousands of things you’ll learn after giving birth is that taking care of your nipples is almost as important as taking care of your baby. After all, the two go hand-in-hand. Or boob-in-boob. 

Up to 1 in 10 moms develop it while breastfeeding, and the general consensus is that it’s pretty damn painful, so mastitis is not something to be taken lightly. It’s a painful breast condition that most commonly occurs in breastfeeding moms, although it can also occur without breastfeeding, presenting itself in the early or late postnatal period. Mastitis can either affect the whole breast, or a section, to become red and swollen, and hot and tender to touch. Other symptoms include feeling like you have the flu. Oh, joy. 

Now you’ve read that you’re probably thinking, er how do I treat this thing then? Well, there’s no need to stop breastfeeding mama, unless you want to of course. There are some relatively easy ways you can treat mastitis. 

Top tips for treating mastitis

The good news is that treatment for breastfeeding moms with mastitis can be as simple as regularly emptying the breasts (although any breastfeeding mom will know, that’s not always so straightforward), and self-care comfort measures. Sounds easy enough right? 

Breastfeeding regularly is key here. However, if your breasts are painful, you can also express more frequently to help clear the milk ducts. Using a wireless breast pump like Elvie Pump can make this process easier to manage. Saves you sitting next to a plug for hours on end. If you’re ever having problems breastfeeding or expressing, always speak with your midwife or health visitor, because mastitis will only get worse, the fuller your breasts get. 


Self-care for breastfeeding moms

It sounds so simple (and maybe impossible with a newborn baby), but rest and relaxation are so important. So are simple wellbeing hacks like staying hydrated. You can use paracetamol or ibuprofen for relief from pain or fever and also wear loose clothing and avoid bras until you’re better. Yes, official advice to go bra-free. 

The most important thing to remember is to continue to breastfeed even if you have an infection. This will help improve your symptoms and won’t harm your baby. 

  • Get some good old fashioned R&R

  • Drink plenty of fluids

  • Wear loose clothing

  • Take pain relief

  • The milk bar is open for business

Natural remedies for mastitis 

You can also try some natural home remedies to treat mastitis. Gently massaging your breasts and using a warm compress to help soften the blockage will encourage milk to flow. A warm shower or bath might also help to soften the breasts. You’ve probably heard a lot of myths surrounding breastfeeding by now, but the cabbage leaves on your nipples one is no myth. They can really help with the pain and inflammation. In terms of diet, raw garlic can act as a natural immune booster, as can Vitamin C. So try and get plenty of both in your diet. 

  • Gentle massage

  • Use a warm compress

  • Take a warm shower or bath

  • Put cabbages on your nipples (honestly)

  • Load up on oranges, kiwis, and any other foods high in Vitamin C

  • Chomp on some raw garlic

When to see your doctor

According to the NHS, “if you don’t feel better within 24 hours despite continuing to breastfeed” then you should see your doctor. You should also consult a professional if you continue to feel feverish or if your temperature rises above 38.4°C. You may be prescribed antibiotics and if your symptoms don’t clear up 48 hours after that, you should return to your GP. 

The medical information in this article is provided as an information resource only and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes. Please consult your doctor for guidance about a specific medical condition.