About all

Milk fever in women: Symptoms (Fever After Breastfeeding), Treatment & Prevention

Symptoms (Fever After Breastfeeding), Treatment & Prevention

Written by Danny Bonvissuto

In this Article

  • Causes
  • Symptoms
  • Diagnosis
  • Treatment
  • Prevention

On a good day, your breasts can feel tender. They’re always out on the front lines, taking the brunt of every afternoon jog and pouncing toddler. They don’t get infected often, but when they do, it can hurt like no bad bra or PMS pain ever has.

The catchall name for an infection of the breast tissue is mastitis. If you’re breastfeeding, it’s called lactation or puerperal mastitis. If you’re not, it’s called periductal mastitis. Mastitis can make you feel like you have the flu, but it can be cured a lot quicker.

Mastitis is a common condition in women who breastfeed. As many as 1 in 10 breastfeeding women in the U.S. get it. It’s caused by a backup of milk in the milk ducts. This happens when your baby isn’t sucking or attaching properly, or favors one breast over the other. Mastitis can also happen if you don’t feed or pump regularly.

Breastfeeding women aren’t the only ones who get mastitis. If you’re not breastfeeding, a cracked nipple or nipple piercing can cause the breast infection. Both allow bacteria to get into the milk ducts. This is especially common in women who smoke.

Just like any other infection, the tissue around the infected area becomes inflamed to keep it from spreading to other parts of the body. With mastitis, the infected milk duct causes the breast to swell. Your breast may look red and feel tender or warm.

Many women with mastitis feel like they have the flu, including achiness, chills, and a fever of 101 F or higher.

You may also have discharge from your nipple or feel a hard lump in your breast.

The symptoms of mastitis can come on very suddenly. You may feel like you’re getting the flu before you feel any discomfort in your breast. When you feel that pain or see the telltale redness, call your doctor as soon as possible.

Your doctor can diagnose mastitis based on a physical exam. The fever and chills give it away, as does a red, wedge-shaped area on the breast that points toward the nipple.

There are two things to rule out: a breast abscess, which happens when mastitis isn’t treated quickly, and inflammatory breast cancer, which is rare and shares the symptoms of redness and swelling.

Whether or not you’re breastfeeding, antibiotics should have you feeling better in a day or two. Take them as directed.

If you are breastfeeding, continue drinking lots of water, wearing loose bras, and resting as much as you can. Your doctor may suggest ibuprofen, or something like it, to take care of the fever and pain.

It’s important to keep breastfeeding and move that milk in and out of the ducts. Continue expressing milk if it is too painful to feed from the breast. 

Tight bras and clothing put pressure on your breasts. Keep things light and loose.

To keep milk from backing up, make sure your baby attaches correctly, and get all the milk out of each breast during every feeding. A lactation consultant can help if you need support.

Top Picks

Mastitis – NHS

Mastitis is when your breast becomes swollen, hot and painful. 

It is most common in breastfeeding women and does not usually need medical treatment.

Check if you have mastitis

Mastitis usually only affects 1 breast, and symptoms often come on quickly. They include:

  • a swollen area on your breast that may feel hot and painful to touch – the area may become red but this can be harder to see if you have black or brown skin
  • a wedge-shaped breast lump or a hard area on your breast
  • a burning pain in your breast that might be constant or only when you breastfeed
  • nipple discharge, which may be white or contain streaks of blood

You may also get flu-like symptoms, such as aches, a high temperature, chills and tiredness.

Things you can do to ease mastitis


  • if you are breastfeeding, continue to breastfeed your baby when they want and for as long as they want. You can also offer your baby a breastfeed if your breasts are uncomfortably full

  • when breastfeeding make sure your baby is positioned and attached properly. Your midwife, health visitor or a breastfeeding specialist can advise you.

  • a cloth soaked in warm water and applied to the breast (or a shower or bath) may improve milk flow

  • breast pain may be soothed using a cold compress (for example a cloth soaked in cold water)

  • rest and drink lots of fluids

  • take paracetamol or ibuprofen to reduce any pain or high temperature

  • try gently stroking from the top of the breast towards your nipple – avoid squeezing or rubbing too hard as this could make the pain worse


  • do not wear tight-fitting clothing or bras until you feel better

  • do not take aspirin

  • do not express more milk than your baby needs

  • do not stop breastfeeding suddenly –  find out how to stop breastfeeding

  • do not apply oils, soaks or creams to your breast

Non-urgent advice: See a GP if:

  • your symptoms do not get better 12 to 24 hours after treating it at home
  • your symptoms do not get better 48 hours after taking antibiotics
  • you get mastitis and you are not breastfeeding

Treatment for mastitis from a GP

A GP will usually prescribe antibiotics if you have mastitis and your symptoms are not getting better.

If you’re breastfeeding a very small amount of the antibiotic may go into your breast milk. There is no risk to your baby, but it might make them irritable and restless.

What to do if mastitis comes back

If you are breastfeeding and keep getting mastitis, it might be due to problems with positioning and attaching.

If you have any breastfeeding problems, it’s important to ask for help from a midwife, health visitor or a breastfeeding specialist as soon as possible.


You can also call the National Breastfeeding Helpline on 0300 100 0212 (9.30am to 9.30pm, daily)

Causes of mastitis

Mastitis is common in breastfeeding women as it can be caused by a build-up of milk.

Women who are not breastfeeding can also get mastitis, as can men. This can be caused by:

  • smoking – toxins found in tobacco can damage breast tissue
  • damage to the nipple, such as a piercing or skin condition such as eczema
  • having a breast implant
  • having a weakened immune system due to a health condition such as diabetes
  • shaving or plucking hairs from around your nipples

Page last reviewed: 17 March 2023
Next review due: 17 March 2026

Laktostasis – Into-Sana

Laktostasis is the accumulation or stagnation of milk in the milk ducts of the breast of a nursing mother, leading to swelling and inflammation of the breast tissue and the development of “milk fever”.

The female breast consists of 15-20 glandular lobes separated by connective and adipose tissue. Each lobe contains many small lobules responsible for the secretion of breast milk, and excretory milk ducts, which merge into one large duct for each lobe and open at the top of the nipple. With lactostasis, stagnation of milk can occur both in one or in several milk ducts.


  • Causes of lactostasis
  • Types of lactostasis
  • Symptoms of lactostasis
  • Diagnosis of lactostasis
  • Methods of treatment of lactostasis
  • Consequences of lactostasis

Causes of lactostasis

The main causes of lactostasis are excessive milk production or violation of its physiological outflow, which is the result of the fact that the mammary duct is blocked, or it is too narrow and tortuous.

There are a number of factors that contribute to the formation of lactostasis. Among them:

  • narrow diameter lactiferous ducts;
  • feeding a child in one position, a rare change in body position;
  • constriction of the ducts with tight underwear, constant wearing of a bra, sleeping on the stomach;
  • cracked nipples, flat or inverted nipples that impair the baby’s ability to take the areola tissue into the baby’s mouth and lead to ineffective suckling;
  • spasm of the milk ducts as a result of overwork or stress;
  • blockage of the milk ducts “milk plug”;
  • contusions, chest injuries;
  • refusal of breastfeeding in the presence of milk in the glands;
  • non-compliance with the diet during lactation, excessive consumption of fluids, fatty foods, leading to an increase in the viscosity of milk;
  • frequent pumping until the breast is completely empty, leading to hyperactivity;
  • incorrect attachment of the child to the breast during feeding;
  • hypothermia, being in a draft.

Types of lactostasis

Excessive accumulation of mother’s milk in the milk ducts can be unilateral or bilateral. With unilateral lactostasis, the outflow of milk from only one breast is disturbed, with bilateral lactostasis, from both.

According to the reasons provoking breast milk stagnation, lactostasis is usually divided into three groups:

  • lactostasis provoked by peculiarities of the anatomical structure;
  • lactostasis resulting from inability to breastfeed;
  • lactostasis, formed under the influence of external factors.

Symptoms of lactostasis

There are a number of signs by which a breastfeeding woman can identify probable lactostasis:

  • hard, dense lumps form in the entire or part of the mammary gland, which are easy to feel on palpation;
  • at the site of blockage of the milk duct, intraductal pressure increases and severe pain, fullness, heaviness is felt;
  • in areas of milk stagnation, swelling, swelling, redness of the skin of the chest and expansion of superficial veins are observed;
  • there is an increase in temperature.

Usually lactostasis is not accompanied by a change in body temperature or it becomes subfebrile (37-38 C). However, with insufficient emptying of the gland for a long time, stagnant breast milk acquires pyrogenic properties and causes a sharp increase in temperature (“milk fever”). When the temperature rises above 39° C, you should immediately consult a doctor, as this signals the onset of purulent-inflammatory processes in the mammary gland.

Diagnosis of lactostasis

If any of the above symptoms are detected, a woman should consult a mammologist. He will examine and palpate the mammary glands. As a rule, a physical examination is enough for a qualified specialist to make a correct diagnosis. However, sometimes it becomes necessary to additionally undergo an ultrasound examination in order, firstly, to confirm the presence of lactostasis and, secondly, to differentiate it from other, more serious pathologies of the mammary glands.

Methods for the treatment of lactostasis

For effective treatment of lactostasis, it is necessary to ensure a constant outflow of milk accumulating in the breast. This is facilitated by moderate warming and gentle breast massage. During the treatment period, it is recommended to avoid stress, rest a lot, do not wear tight squeezing underwear, sleep on your side, not on your stomach.

Feed your baby on demand, every 2 hours if possible. Night feedings are a must. First of all, you need to put the baby on the sore breast, because at the beginning of the meal the baby may make greater sucking efforts, which contributes to a more intensive outflow of milk. It is necessary to use different postures for application: in the cradle, from under the arm, on the thigh, lying on the arm, riding on the mother, with the breast overhanging. Before feeding or pumping, the breasts should be kept warm or warmed with a warm shower.

To increase the flow of milk, shortly before feeding, massage the swollen breast with soft circular movements in the direction from the base of the organ to the nipple. Ultrasonic massage is also effective. If necessary, pumping with a breast pump or hands is applied to a state of comfort.

It is strongly not recommended to apply warming or alcohol compresses to the sore breast, to exert considerable effort during massage, to sharply limit the drinking regimen. All methods of treatment should be prescribed by a qualified doctor, in no case should you self-medicate and use all kinds of folk remedies without hesitation.

Consequences of lactostasis

Mastitis, a bacterial inflammation of the mammary gland, is often a complication of lactostasis. With mastitis, soreness increases significantly, heat develops in the area of ​​\u200b\u200bthe affected chest and fever, red stripes appear on the skin. In milk, impurities of blood or pus may be observed. The development of mastitis provokes overheating or hypothermia of the mammary glands. If lactostasis remains untreated for a long time, an abscess (suppuration) of the mammary gland can also become a consequence of it.

Lactostasis in nursing: symptoms, treatment, signs

Obstetrician-gynecologist, reproductive specialist


Ekaterina Mikhailovna

Experience 13 years

Obstetrician-gynecologist, reproductologist, member of the Russian Association of Human Reproduction, International Society for the Study of Aging, ARSM, ESHRE, Russian Association of Regenerative Medicine

Make an appointment

Laktostasis – a delay in the separation of milk in women during lactation. The cause of this phenomenon in most cases is a blockage or spasm of the milky passages. Other factors can provoke milk retention in the ducts of the mammary glands: wearing tight underwear, injuries, abrupt cessation of breastfeeding.

Causes of pathology

The development of lactostasis occurs against the background of a decrease in the patency of the excretory duct of the mammary gland with excessive milk production. The milky passages are prone to spasms, which cause their obturation. Anatomical features of the structure of the mammary glands of patients have a significant impact on the likelihood of developing lactostasis:

  • flat teat;
  • sagging breasts;
  • narrowed milk ducts.

Often, pathology develops due to an abrupt cessation of lactation or difficulty feeding. Cracks may form on the nipples. Similarly, the likelihood of developing lactostasis in a nursing girl is affected by:

  • incorrect attachment of the infant to the breast;
  • insufficient sucking activity of the child;
  • tight underwear;
  • falling asleep on the stomach;
  • chest hypothermia;
  • stressful situations.

Some women experience blockage of the milky passages due to excessive physical exertion after the birth of a child.

Symptoms of pathology

Symptoms of lactostasis in a nursing mother are diverse. The primary sign of pathology is the compaction of the area of ​​\u200b\u200bthe mammary gland. Patients complain of fullness and a feeling of heaviness in the chest. The impossibility of outflow of milk over a long period of time leads to an increase in local temperature and a change in the pigmentation of the skin. In the absence of medical assistance, the girl’s condition worsens. Body temperature with advanced lactostasis rises to 38-39degrees.

The pain syndrome is not always accompanied by the formation of a subcutaneous seal. Attempting to feed a baby can lead to a short-term relief of symptoms. The focus of stagnation remains mobile, the affected area can change location and increase.

Diagnostic measures

Diagnosis of lactostasis is not difficult. An obstetrician or gynecologist examines the patient and palpation determines the localization of the seal in the chest. The girl is encouraged to track changes in body temperature. If there are signs of an inflammatory process, the patient is prescribed tests. Their data allows doctors to develop a strategy for drug treatment that will not affect the quality of the milk received by the child.


The main task of all therapeutic manipulations is to create conditions for emptying the mammary glands. Moderate warming and light breast massage contribute to the normalization of the state of the milky passages. Girls should follow the regime and devote the necessary amount of time to rest. Relatives of patients should maintain a conflict-free home environment. Nursing mothers are advised not to sleep on their back or stomach, but on their side.

Expressing milk is an effective way to prevent lactostasis at the first sign of milk retention. The procedure may be painful, but it should be systematically repeated until the symptoms of the pathology disappear completely. A side effect of pumping is a burning sensation in the chest after the opening of the milky passage.

Prolonged lactostasis is a reason to see a doctor. A visit to the clinic is required for persistent pain, fever, hyperemia. Patients may experience breast inflammation. In this case, any warming procedures are contraindicated, as they will accelerate the progression of the infection.

Self-treatment of lactostasis is not recommended for mothers who are breastfeeding for the first time. Erroneous actions can lead to a complicated course of lactostasis and a complete loss of milk.


The most severe complication of lactostasis is mastitis – inflammation of the breast tissue. Patients face increasing pain syndrome. Later, fever and fever in the affected area join it. The skin of the mammary glands is covered with red stripes. Milk contains impurities of blood and purulent discharge.

The occurrence of mastitis is promoted by hypothermia (lactation in a cool room or in a draft) or overheating (hot shower, sauna) of the patient. Running lactostasis, complicated by mastitis, often causes the formation of a breast abscess.

Preventive measures

Prevention of lactostasis involves the observance of several recommendations by the nursing mother. The infant should be fed regularly (but no more than once every two hours), and milk residues should be carefully expressed using a manual or automatic breast pump.

Avoid wearing tight underwear. Limiting physical activity and stress during lactation significantly reduces the likelihood of lactostasis. An important role is given to the diet – it must include fresh vegetables and fruits.

When symptoms of lactostasis appear, you should not refuse to feed the baby. With a long delay in the outflow of milk, you should consult a doctor. Self-administration of any drugs is not recommended. It should be borne in mind that the affected mammary gland after recovery may produce less milk. Over time, the secretory function will be restored in full.


Why should you not stop breastfeeding with lactostasis?

Refusal of lactation can provoke the development of complications, the most severe of which remains mastitis. Inflammatory processes in the mammary glands cause the formation of abscesses. Their treatment is a long and painful process that will not allow the patient to continue breastfeeding the baby.

What drugs are allowed for girls in the treatment of lactostasis?

Treatment of uncomplicated lactostasis does not involve the use of drug therapy. Girls need to express milk with a breast pump. An important role in the expansion of the lactiferous passages is assigned to the manual effect on the mammary gland. Massaging the affected area helps to normalize the outflow of milk. Taking anti-inflammatory drugs is justified in the development of mastitis. Antibiotics help eliminate the possibility of developing an abscess, the treatment of which will require surgical intervention.