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Quick Facts

Postpartum Breast Infection



The Manual's Editorial Staff

Last full review/revision Sep 2020
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Post means "after," and partum means "pregnancy," so postpartum refers to the time period after you have a baby. It's usually considered the first 6 weeks.

If you breastfeed, you may get a breast infection, also called "mastitis." Breast infections usually happen within 6 weeks of giving birth.

  • You have a swollen, red area on your breast

  • The infected area is painful, warm, and tender

  • You may need to take antibiotics

  • It won't hurt your baby to keep breastfeeding even when you have an infection

What causes postpartum breast infections?

Breast infections happen when bacteria get into your milk ducts and infect your breasts. This is more likely to happen if the skin of your nipples is cracked. Cracked skin can happen if your baby isn't held in the right position to feed.

What are the symptoms of a breast infection?

Part of your breast is:

  • Painful

  • Red

  • Warm

  • Tender to touch

The infection may form a collection of pus called an abscess. An abscess causes a very painful lump.

Rarely, pus drains from your nipple.

How do doctors treat breast infections?

Doctors will:

  • Prescribe antibiotics

  • Tell you to drink plenty of fluids

You can keep breastfeeding your baby during treatment.

If you have an abscess, your doctor may numb the area and make a small cut to drain the pus.

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