Previous breast abscess surgery

How will a previous abscess affect my milk supply?

Most breastfeeding mothers who have had a breast abscess with a previous baby will have a normal milk supply on the affected side. If it is not normal, the other breast may compensate and produce more milk. A decreased supply is more likely if the abscess was large, persistent, immediately behind the nipple, or if the abscess was treated by cutting into the breast to release the pus. The abscess or the cut can damage milk glands and ducts. Having a breast abscess as a baby girl can affect breast development and later milk production.  

A) Breast abscess

An abscess is an infection that is so severe that the centre has liquefied. The liquid contains bacteria, dead tissue, and white blood cells and is called pus.

B) The effect of a breast abscess on breastfeeding

Most breastfeeding mothers who have had a breast abscess with a previous baby will have a full milk supply on the affected side. If it is not full, the unaffected breast may compensate and make more milk. The baby should be closely monitored to ensure normal growth by the baby.

A low milk supply is more likely if the previous baby needed large amounts of milk supplements and the abscess was:

  • Very large and affected most of the breast.
  • Persistent.
  • Immediately behind the nipple.
  • Treated by making a cut in the breast to release the pus instead of a needle to draw it out.

If milk ducts were damaged by the abscess or by the cut, milk may not drain well in certain areas of the breast. One area of the breast may have a swollen or firm area for the first few weeks after delivery. If this area does not drain, milk production in the area generally stops and the area will soften. There is a small chance the hard area will become infected.

Mothers may also have other breastfeeding problems.

C) Newborns with a breast abscess

Newborn girls may develop mastitis or breast abscesses and the latter require surgical drainage.

Such abscesses and the related surgeries can affect breast development and reduce the amount of milk it can eventually produce. One small study (Panteli 2012) reported that half of the girls who had newborn breast abscesses had significant abnormalities in their breasts.

References

Panteli C, Arvaniti M, Zavitsanakis A. Long-term consequences of neonatal mastitis. Arch Dis Child. 2012 Jul;97(7):673-4