The symptoms of breast infection are similar to those of engorgement. The breast is tender, distended with milk, and may feel hot to touch, and fever may be present. Treatment consists of prompt medical attention, antibiotic therapy, bed rest, and continued breast-feeding. Discontinued feeding causes increased stasis and further pain. Frequently the source of the infection is an untreated infection in the infant. Recurrent breast infections may require culturing of the milk or the baby's mouth to determine which antibiotic to prescribe. Infrequently the cause of the breast infection may be exposure to bacteria carried by other family members.
When breast infections are not successfully treated, they may develop into a serious and painful condition called an abscess, in which there is localized pus and swelling of tissue. An abscess should be viewed as a serious problem requiring immediate attention by a physician. Usual treatment includes antibiotics along with massage, pumping, and sometimes-surgical drainage. It may be necessary to discontinue nursing on the affected side but usually it can continue on the unaffected breast.