Breast abscess develops as a complication following incorrectly treated or ignored mastitis.
Typical symptoms of a breast abscess include: high fever, very bad mood and very strong, continuous pain in the breasts. The swollen breast is very red, hard and hot. In the abscess area, a large lump (about the size of an apricot) can be felt. Breastfeeding causes enormous pain.
The cases of breast abscess not preceded by fever in a breastfeeding mum are also known. Thus, if you feel a hard lump in your breast, persisting for more than few days, contact your doctor and have a breast ultrasound. Further proceedings require consulting your doctor.
What you can do
The abscess cannot be treated with home methods. You need an antibiotic, usually selected on the basis of abscess culture results. Thus, a visit to your doctor is necessary (preferably, go to a hospital providing emergency services). Sometimes, abscess puncture (draining pus) suffices. However, when the abscess is very extensive, the breast needs to be incised to drain it. Sometimes, a drain is installed after the procedure.
Things worth knowing:
The wound from abscess drainage heals for 1–2 weeks. It depends on its size and whether the drain was installed.
The wound must be treated (including disinfection) according to the doctor's recommendations.
The milk will flow from the incision site long after the wound heals. This flow, sometimes very strong, can last even up to 6 weeks.
Is breastfeeding still possible?
Of course, this is an important part of the treatment. The abscess matter does not get into your milk. You can feed your baby without any worries, provided the suckling baby will not take the incised part of the breast into his mouth. However, when the incision is located in such a place that the baby would suck the wound, you must stop breastfeeding and extract milk with the breast pump until the wound heals. You should not inhibit lactation! The best thing for the healing wound is regular emptying of the breast - if possible, by the suckling baby. By inhibiting lactation, you may cause milk stasis and another abscess. Thus, if the whole situation related to the breast abscess exhausted you so much that you are considering to give up on breastfeeding, wait with this decision until the breast heals. And remember that majority of mums easily returns to breastfeeding after abscess drainage. You can do it, too!