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Mastitis & Blocked Milk Ducts

Our experienced physiotherapists at Sydney Pelvic Clinic employ a wide range of treatments to help alleviate the symptoms of mastitis and blocked ducts.

What is mastitis?

Mastitis is an acute inflammation or infection of breast tissue within the milk ducts, known as the mammary glands, and is associated with a blockage in the ducts. Mastitis is experienced by one in five lactating women, and usually occurs in the first few weeks of breastfeeding.

What are the symptoms of mastitis?

The most common symptoms of mastitis are:

  • Breast tenderness
  • Pain on feeding
  • Swelling
  • Firm mass / lumpy
  • Redness and shiny skin
  • Flu-like symptoms including fever & chills

What are blocked ducts?

As the name implies, this condition refers to a blockage—with no fever—of one or more of the ducts that carry milk to the nipple for breastfeeding. Early treatment is key with this condition because it prevents engorgement and infective mastitis.

What are the symptoms of blocked ducts?

The most common symptom of blocked ducts is a red, tender, and enlarged lump on the breast. A painful lump usually indicates a blocked milk duct. Early intervention via ultrasound can help clear the blockage reducing the likelihood of needing antibiotics.

How is mastitis or blocked ducts treated?

At Sydney Pelvic Clinic, our physiotherapists are trained in managing these conditions. We provide therapeutic ultrasound and massage over the surrounding area of the breast of the patient and education on home-based management strategies with great outcomes. In most cases of blocked ducts, symptoms are completely resolved in fewer than four short sessions.

In addition to the therapeutic ultrasound, our physiotherapists also provide advice for effective prevention and management of the condition, including alternative feeding positions. 

If the redness and/or flu-like symptoms persist, we may refer you to your GP for a prescription of antibiotics. This is helpful if your symptoms are accompanied by a fever or flu symptoms.

We may also refer you to a lactation consultant who can help you with attachment, milk supply, and assess why you are getting a blockage.

Are there any home treatments?

Absolutely! You should continue to breastfeed baby and ensure that you completely drain the breast. You can help the process by gently self-massaging towards the nipple during feeding. If the breast is not fully drained at the end of the feed, you can express the remaining milk via hand expression or using a breast pump. Ensure baby has latched on correctly and see a lactation consultant if you are unsure, or if you have recurring blocked ducts.

Sometimes a simple change to the breastfeeding position can assist the blockage, by pointing your chin towards the blockage or lying on your side.

You can ease symptoms with heat by using a warm flannel, or having a hot bath or shower before feeding to encourage let down. A cold pack after feeding can help reduce pain and inflammation of the breast.

Painkillers including ibuprofen and paracetamol and probiotics to counter the effect of antibiotics can also help. Avoid a tight fitting bra or clothing that puts pressure on the breast tissue, and get plenty of rest to help your body heal and recover.