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Physiotherapy for Mastitis

Updated: May 8, 2023

Breastfeeding support at Balance Health Phillip Island

Our physiotherapists are passionate about the benefits of breastfeeding. We understand that it is not always easy and we are here to help if you are having difficulties with positioning and attachment (latch), mastitis, engorgement, nipple pain and posture.

Mastitis - What is it?

Mastitis is a condition that can affect women that are breastfeeding. Often believed to be a breast infection that requires antibiotics, this is not necessarily the case. Mastitis literally means ‘inflammation of the breast’ and it may or may not involve infection. Either way, inflammation hurts, and will present with some, or all, of the following symptoms – breast redness, pain, heat, swelling, and/or flu-like symptoms like fever, chills, and fatigue.

Mastitis is most common in the first 6 weeks post-partum, in the right breast, and the upper outer aspect of the breast, however it can occur anywhere in either or both breasts at any time while breastfeeding.

What causes mastitis?

Factors that predispose to mastitis include damaged nipples, infrequent or scheduled feeds, missing feeds, poor attachment between baby and the breast, illness in the mother or baby, oversupply of milk, rapid weaning or reduction in night feeds, pressure on the breast (e.g. tight bra, sleeping on tummy), milk bleb (blocked nipple pore) and stress and fatigue in the mother.

Onset of symptoms may be minor, moderate or severe. Rapid onset of severe symptoms, or bothersome symptoms not responding to conservative measures should always lead to seeking medical advice and will likely result in the prescription of antibiotics.

How can we help?

So what are conservative measures? At the first sign of symptoms, which often presents as a lumpy/tender area that may be red, is to continue feeding as normal. It is not advised to prioritise feeding off the affected breast as this can encourage oversupply. Massaging the breast can be very useful but it is essential to handle breasts very very gently – please no hard rubbing on the sore spot, this can traumatise the breast and make things worse. Gently massage the whole breast in sweeping motions towards your armpit and collarbone using fingertips lightly. Use strategies that cool and calm the breast such cold compresses and ice packs, and over the counter anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen is recommended. Resting as much as possible also helps a lot, but we know how hard this can be, especially if you have other young children or you are working!

If symptoms persist, then physiotherapy may help! Physiotherapists Casey Cleeland and Kristine Miles have completed further training and are qualified in this field to use techniques such as therapeutic ultrasound and lymphatic drainage massage, as well as carefully considering what has been the cause of the current condition and help prevent recurrence. Kristine Miles is also a qualified lactation consultant available to assess mother and baby, to consider quality of positioning and attachment, which when of poor quality, is a common reason for the development of mastitis. Supplements such as sunflower lecithin and the probiotic Qiara are also available at the clinic to help treat mastitis.


Any breastfeeding mother experiencing mastitis is considered by our clinic as urgent. We will do everything we can to see a patient with mastitis on the SAME DAY, so please let our friendly receptionist know your situation so we can help you!

You can call us on 5952 2244.

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