Mastitis Does Not Always Include a Fever

Mastitis is a bacterial infection of the breast tissue that affects a lot of breastfeeding mothers. I honestly can’t remember how many times I experienced mastitis as a mother of six—more than my share, and I learned it’s something you want to take pretty seriously.

Each time I had mastitis, the infection was accompanied by a fever. However, I’ve seen a few cases while working with my clients where their mastitis infection did not include a fever. It’s always a good idea to be seen by a specialist if you aren’t sure it’s mastitis, or your symptoms don’t improve within 24 hours.

Recently I visited a new mom that was experiencing some mastitis symptoms, and was given some bad advice by her doctor’s office over the phone. They told her that as long as she didn’t have a fever, her symptoms were not mastitis. Unfortunately, in her case this was completely incorrect.

A week later, she was frustrated at not seeing any improvement in her symptoms, and I was called in. When I arrived, I was shocked by what I saw. Her mastitis, untreated, had turned into an abscess. It was apparent there was a serious infection, and she needed to be seen by a doctor immediately. She was admitted to the hospital later that day, and put on IV antibiotics for a week—something that easily could have been avoided with earlier treatment.

Here are some recommendations to avoid an abscess:

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Nurse, nurse, nurse.

If your baby is not draining the breast well enough, make sure and pump and massage that area to help drain the duct that is clogged.

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Massage the area.

Lightly massage your breast towards the nipple while you nurse, especially in the area you are experiencing tenderness.

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Rest.

Your body cannot heal without rest. This is the key to recovering from any infection or physical trauma.

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Warm things up.

Apply dry or moist heat to the site—but only if you’re sure you don’t already have an abscess.

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Cool things down.

Ice can reduce pain and inflammation.

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Get medical help.

If the above suggestions don’t clear up the pain and flu-like symptoms within 24 hours, please see a lactation consultant and/or your doctor immediately.

If you’re unlucky enough to experience reoccurring mastitis, here’s some great information on how to decrease the chances of another infection.

It’s clear that bad advice was given to this poor mom over the phone. For some reason, her symptoms did not include a fever, but the infection was very much present. If you’re not feeling well, and your breast has a red, tender spot that is not getting better, it is crucial that you seek medical help. In this case, my client was lucky that she received medical attention when she did. It could have been life threatening, had she continued to wait it out. Always listen to your body. If something doesn’t seem right, be seen by a lactation consultant and/or physician.

Baby Bonds is a Boise-based company that serves mothers with lactation support, postpartum doula care, and teaches infant massage. If you’re interested in learning more, you can find our contact information here.