Breast Abscess

By Krista Gray, IBCLC. Last updated February 13, 2013.

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What is a breast abscess?

A breast abscess is a pocket of pus that is enclosed and cannot drain on its own.

Rarely, breast infections can become a breast abscess. About 3% of mastitis cases develop into an abscess.1 A small abscess may be drained by needle aspiration, but a larger abscess will need to be cut with an incision and have a drain placed inside to allow for drainage. The incision is not sewn afterwards as this would not allow the abscess to drain.

Breastfeeding with an Abscess

Breastfeeding can (and should) continue during a breast abscess and following drainage surgery.2 If the incision is far enough away from the nipple and areola that the baby does not take this portion of the breast into his mouth, nursing can continue on this side.

Alternatively, the mother can breastfeed on the unaffected side and express on the side with the abscess. Expressing will not only keep the mother from developing engorgement and the possibility of another plugged duct or mastitis but also maintain her supply if she is unable to breastfeed for a number of days on that side. Once the abscess has been drained, it will begin to heal from the inside out, usually taking a week or more. Sometimes, depending on the size of the abscess, it is necessary to have it drained more than once. If there is pus or blood in the milk it is still safe and nutritious for your baby.

Show 2 footnotes

  1. Amir L.H. et al (2004) Incidence of breast abscess in lactating women: report from an Australian cohort. BJOG: International Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology 111(12) 1378-1381.
  2. ABM (2008) ABM clinical protocol #4: mastitis. Revision, May 2008. Breastfeeding Medicine 3(3) 177-180.