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Dr Colin Michie


'Mastitis'- Dr Colin Michie looks at one of the most common breastfeeding problems.

Initial symptoms are breast tenderness, local inflammation and a reduction in milk output. If you think you may be developing mastitis you should visit your health visitor or doctor for advice and treatment if necessary.

Around 5 - 33% of breastfeeding mothers will experience mastitis at some point, although this most commonly occurs during the first three months. On rare occasions, mastitis can also develop on weaning. Some mothers may suffer recurrent mastitis, both with one infant and/or in successive pregnancies. Trained breast feeding advisors and midwives can help to avoid the risk of mastitis, by giving advice on feeding and expressing of breast milk.

Other factors in the development of mastitis can include frequency of feeds, wearing of a tight bra and also personal hygiene. Mastitis and breast abscesses are preventable in almost all situations. Exclusive demand breastfeeding can help to reduce the risk. Correct positioning of your baby and ensuring he or she is latched on properly can prevent mastitis. It is important to feed first from one side until the breast is empty and then switch to the other side to finish the feed. The second breast may still feel full when your baby finishes feeding, in which case remember to feed from this side initially next time.

Your doctor, midwife or breast feeding counsellor will also be happy to help you overcome initial feeding problems and give advice where needed. If mastitis occurs it is important to continue feeding from both breasts. If this does not work, your doctor may need to prescribe appropriate antibiotics and painkillers if necessary.

For information and advice on breastfeeding try visiting