Mastitis is an inflammation of the breast and may be caused by your breast being engorged, a blocked milk duct (non-infective mastitis) or a bacterial infection (infective mastitis). A damaged or cracked nipple can cause infection in your breast, as well as not washing your hands before feeds.
If you do have mastitis, your breast will feel hot and look red and be swollen, tender, and painful. In some cases, mastitis can result in flu-like symptoms - headache, fever, as well as nausea. Letting your baby suckle properly and emptying your breasts is the best way to avoid mastitis. Nipple damage can be avoided by correct positioning and allowing your baby to latch on properly.
You should not stop breastfeeding if you have mastitis, as this will only make the condition worse. If your breast is very painful, then let your baby feed from the unaffected breast first. This will cause ‘let down’ to occur and breastfeeding from the affected breast will be easier.
It is very important that the affected breast be emptied at each feed. If your baby has not emptied your breast, then express the remainder of your milk by hand or pump to do so. Once the mastitis has cleared up, you can continue breastfeeding as usual making sure that your baby is positioned correctly and latched on correctly to ensure the proper emptying of your breasts.