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What is Mastitis?

Mastitis is inflammation of the breast tissue that can occur at any life stage however it is most common in post-partum breastfeeding women (2-3 weeks post-partum). When the breast tissue is inflamed it can cause soreness and even infection. Some infections within the breast tissue can cause further complications and develop into an abscess which requires urgent medical attention. The following page aims to provide information on causes, symptoms and management options for mastitis.

What causes Mastitis?

  • Changes to breastfeeding patterns: long breaks, dropping a feed or stopping too quickly
  • Poor breast attachment during breastfeeding
  • Breasts are too full
  • Blocked milk ducts
  • Long breaks between breastfeeds or stopping too quickly
  • Poor fitting bra
  • Cracking skin around the nipple

Signs & Symptoms:

  • Early symptoms can mimic flu symptoms, in which you may get shivers or chills
  • Extreme breast tenderness
  • Redness or heat
  • Pain


  • Breast feed regularly
  • Relieve engorgement quickly, or pump between feeds
  • Wear well fitting bras
  • Ensure good breast-feeding posture & vary position of baby when feeding
  • Regularly check breast for pain, redness or lumps
  • Proper hygiene practices before/after breastfeeding
  • Change wet breast pads frequently if using


If the mastitis is infective, a course of Antibiotics must be commenced as soon as possible. In addition to pharmacological intervention there are a number of strategies that will continue to aid recovery.

  • Promote milk flow: continue feeding, utilise hot compresses
  • Pain-relief: cabbage leaves, cold packs after feeding, panadol and nurofen if appropriate
  • Start the feed on the affected breast
  • Remove milk with the hand / pumping
  • Completely emptying the breast
  • Feeding position: regular changes to completely drain the breast, babies chin on the blockage, twin-style
  • Rest
  • Fluid maintenance
  • Massage

How can Physiotherapy help?

Physiotherapy is an effective way to manage and treat mastitis if commenced early. Our Women’s Health Physiotherapist can:

  • Identify blocked ducts
  • Provide extensive education and advice
  • Use specific techniques such as massage or therapeutic ultrasound machines to open the blocked ducts to promote circulation.
  • Taping to relieve pain and promote drainage
  • Provide an individualised treatment plan.
  • Refer to health clinic nurse, lactation consultant or to GP if infection suspected.