Mastitis in the breastfeeding mother

Mastitis is an inflammatory condition of the breast that many new mothers experience during their breastfeeding journey. The symptoms of mastitis include, but are not limited to, pain in the breast, swelling, redness, fever, extreme fatigue, and painful feeding. There are many reasons why women develop mastitis; varying from tight, ill-fitting bras, to changes in feeding patterns.

For anyone who has experienced mastitis, it can be awful, and really impact on your breastfeeding experience. Many women report mastitis as being their main reason for discontinuing breastfeeding. Many breastfeeding mothers don’t know that some physiotherapists are specifically trained to help treat mastitis and painful engorgement. We have many tools in our tool belt to help, but one of the main ways we treat mastitis and engorgement is with the use of therapeutic ultrasound. Now during your pregnancy, you would be familiar with real time ultrasound that shows you beautiful pictures of your baby (and your pelvic floor! See our latest blog on Real Time Ultrasound!). Therapeutic ultrasound, on the other hand, applies sound waves to the tissue that causes the tissues to vibrate and release heat. This comfortable heat has a therapeutic effect and has been found both in research and practice to be very effective in the treatment of mastitis.

Here at Inner Strength Bayside, our physiotherapists have been trained in the use of therapeutic ultrasound for the treatment of mastitis. One reason women choose to try therapeutic ultrasound is to avoid unnecessary antibiotics. Note the word “unnecessary”, as there will still be some women who do not respond to early intervention and may still require antibiotics, or who simply choose to have antibiotics instead of ultrasound. But ultrasound gives an effective alternative for the mother who chooses to try a less “invasive” approach to start with, and has been found in the research to have similar effects as antibiotics in some women.

In your appointment, we can also teach proper massage techniques to relieve blockages (as unfortunately there is A LOT of misinformation online!), and educate you on the risks and reasons for developing mastitis, which may involve early referral to a lactation consultant.

If you are a breastfeeding mother and think you may have mastitis, or if you know anyone who does, please don’t hesitate to call us the day you start to experience symptoms, as early intervention can make a huge difference, and importantly, protect your breastfeeding journey. We love supporting women who choose to continue breastfeeding, and getting you in for early treatment is vital.


Written by Alannah Turner, Physiotherapist