Saturday, October 8, 2022

Healthy Habits: Mastitis


In 2021, Hollywood actress Kristen Bell revealed that while breastfeeding her daughter, she suffered from a type of breast inflammation called mastitis. To deal with the infection, she asked her husband Dax Shepard to clear her clogged milk ducts with his mouth. A well-known TikToker recently talked about having her husband do the same. What is mastitis, how do women get it, how can it be treated, and is having your husband clear your clogged milk ducts OK?


Dr. Alan Lindemann, an obstetrician from North Dakota nicknamed the “Rural Doc” has over 40 years of experience, has delivered over 6,000 babies, and has made it his mission to support women in taking charge of their health and pregnancies. 


1) How Does Someone Get Mastitis? — It is an ascending infection, meaning it either comes from cracked nipples or the small glands and milk ducts in the areola around the nipple.


2) How Can I Avoid Mastitis? — It can occur due to clogged milk ducts, but you are much more likely to get a breast infection from engorged breasts. The best way to avoid both and the possibility of a breast infection is to breastfeed regularly or to use a breast pump regularly.


3) What If I Have an Early Stage of Mastitis? — In the early stages of infection there is a red, hot, and sore area around the nipple about two inches in diameter. It’s OK to continue breastfeeding at this stage. The success of this approach is well documented.


4) How Do I Know If Mastitis Becomes Serious? — Mastitis can become severe enough that an abscess forms in the red, inflamed area. In addition, you might have a high fever, as high as 102 or 103. The abscess is normally incised and drained. Antibiotics are also prescribed, usually dicloxacillin, an old version of penicillin. This is taken by mouth, and is effective for staph aureus and strep, the usual infection agents in the abscess.


5) Do I Have to Go to The Hospital If I Have Mastitis? — Usually outpatient management of mastitis works effectively. However, sometimes the fever is high and the patient has a lot of pain or fails to respond to outpatient management. If oral treatment fails, you should get IV antibiotics, either as an outpatient or inpatient. Treatment can last for a few days to about a week.


6) Is Having Your Husband Clear Your Clogged Milk Ducts OK? — There is a relationship between clogged milk ducts and mastitis, which is why we recommend continuing to nurse and/or pump. Emptying the breast with the infection is very important. The milk must come out because that is the basic problem with a plugged duct or mastitis treatment. How it's done is probably irrelevant. Having your husband perform the pumping task is novel, but if it works, use it. Although innovative, I don't see anything wrong with this approach.


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About Dr. Lindemann:

An obstetrician and maternal mortality expert, “Rural Doc” Alan Lindemann, M.D., teaches women and their families how to create the outcomes they want for their own personal health and pregnancy. A former Clinical Associate Professor at the University of North Dakota, he served as a clinical faculty member and preceptor with medical students in rural rotations. In his nearly 40 years of practice, he has delivered around 6,000 babies and achieved a maternal mortality rate of zero! Learn more at

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