Engorgement, mastitis + thrush: What they are and how to treat them

We all have unique breastfeeding journeys and unexpected problems can pop up along the way.

breastfeeding complications

We all have unique breastfeeding journeys and unexpected problems can pop up along the way. Some problems, like engorgement, may occur in the first few days after giving birth, while others, like mastitis, can happen much later on.

Any time that you experience pain while nursing or pumping, whether it be your first time breastfeeding or your 300th time, it's important to be seen by a lactation professional as soon as possible. They can help you get a prompt diagnosis and start a treatment plan.


Here are common breastfeeding-related problems that can come on as a surprise include engorgement, plugged milk ducts, mastitis and thrush.

What is engorgement?

Engorgement is when your breasts are overly full of milk.

Swollen breasts due to engorgement can cause pain and interfere with your baby's ability to latch. Engorgement is common during the first few days after giving birth when one's milk "comes in," but can also occur later on if a feeding or pumping session is skipped, as well as during the process of weaning.

How to treat engorgement

One of the best treatments for engorgement within the first week after giving birth is to empty your breasts by nursing or pumping frequently. Applying heat with warm compresses and massaging your breasts prior to breastfeeding can also be helpful.

Other tricks to help with engorgement include applying cold packs to your breasts for 15 to 20 minutes after each feeding, wearing a comfortable bra, and spending as much time as you can flat on your back (a good excuse to be able to get extra rest!).

Untreated engorgement can lead to additional problems, including plugged milk ducts and mastitis. So, if you try these techniques and are still struggling, reach out to your provider or a lactation professional for help.

What is a plugged milk duct?

A plugged (or clogged) milk duct occurs when drainage from a milk duct is blocked. Plugged milk ducts can develop if your breasts are not totally emptied after a nursing or pumping session. Localized pain, tenderness and swelling, or a lumpy feeling in the area of the blockage occur. Pain associated with a blocked duct typically worsens while breastfeeding and resolves afterward. Your baby may also be fussier than normal while feeding if you have a plugged duct due to slow milk flow from the affected breast.

How to treat plugged milk ducts

Treatments for plugged ducts include frequent feeding on the affected side, pumping after feeding to promote total emptying of the breast, and trying out different nursing positions that may help clear the blockage.

Other treatments are similar to the remedies for engorgement: wear a comfortable bra, apply heat and massage your breast prior to feeding, and cold packs and rest after feeding to help to decrease pain and inflammation.

What is mastitis?

Mastitis is an inflammation of breast tissue that causes pain, swelling, warmth and redness. Fever, chills, and flu-like symptoms are also common.

The two main causes of mastitis are plugged milk ducts and nipple cracks or abrasions that can cause bacteria to enter the breast. Other risk factors for mastitis include poor breastfeeding technique or latch, wearing a bra that is too tight and having previously had mastitis in the past (though some mothers develop mastitis in the absence of any of these risk factors).

All possible cases of mastitis should be evaluated by a lactation or medical professional as soon as possible.

How to treat mastitis

You will likely be encouraged to continue to breastfeed from the affected side, making sure that one's breasts are fully emptied out after each feeding. Using warm compresses and breast massage prior to feeding can also help.

Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen, are commonly used for mastitis-associated pain and discomfort. Other tips for moms with mastitis include focusing on getting rest between feeding and pumping sessions, increasing fluid intake, starting each breastfeeding session on the affected side, and applying cold packs to the affected area between feedings.

If a mother with mastitis gets very ill or has a significant worsening of symptoms over a 12 to 24-hour period, antibiotics may be needed to clear a bacterial infection.

What is thrush?

Thrush is a fungal (yeast) infection of the nipple area that can cause significant pain and discomfort. Symptoms of thrush include a sudden onset of intense nipple pain while nursing (does not improve with changing latch or technique), an itching or burning sensation of the nipples, or a pink or red, flaky rash around the nipples.

Symptoms of thrush in a baby include white patches visible in the mouth or on the tongue, feeding refusal or pain while eating, and a diaper rash that does not respond to the application of common diaper rash creams or ointments. Some babies with thrush have no symptoms at all.

Risk factors for thrush include nipple cracks and abrasions, leaving damp nursing pads on for too long, antibiotic use during pregnancy or labor, having a recent vaginal yeast infection, and diabetes.

How to treat thrush

Treatment for nipple thrush includes treating both mother and baby at the same time. Oral nystatin is the most common treatment for babies with thrush, while moms are usually treated with topical antifungal creams. Severe cases of thrush may require treatment with an oral antifungal, such as Diflucan (fluconazole).

Alternative treatments for mothers with breast thrush include probiotics and grapefruit seed extract. However, these should be taken under the guidance of a medical professional.

Moms with thrush should continue breastfeeding and pumping during treatment to prevent a decrease in milk supply. Mothers and babies should be treated for at least one week after all symptoms resolve to avoid reinfection.

Other ways to prevent reinfection include frequent hand washing, changing nursing pads as soon as they become damp, rinsing your nipples after every breastfeeding and letting them dry before applying antifungal cream, and making sure that all pump parts, bottle nipples, and pacifiers are boiled after every use to kill any remaining yeast.


You've got this, mama!

Although the breastfeeding complications discussed above can cause some discomfort, they are relatively common, treatable and should not interfere with your ability to breastfeed your baby long term. If concerning symptoms pop up, it's essential not to ignore them and to seek help and guidance as soon as possible. Most importantly, please remember that you can (and should) continue to breastfeed while being treated for any of these conditions.

The HATCH Mama collection is everything your pregnant body needs right now

Their oil is the only thing that stopped my belly from itching as it grew bigger.

Conz Preti

Let me start by saying I'm not a fan of moisturizing. I hate being wet and sticky and after applying product to my body, I have to stand around awkwardly until I'm fully air-dried—a practice that is not compatible with having three kids under the age of 3. However, as someone who has carried three children in her body, I also know how much your belly needs hydration as the baby grows.

This was especially true with my second pregnancy. My belly popped way sooner (a thing that happens with subsequent pregnancies) and on top of that, I was carrying twins, which meant I became super pregnant super fast. My belly was itching constantly from the skin stretching (I checked with my doctor to make sure I didn't have Cholestasis) and there was no scratching in the world that could ease my discomfort. My doula recommended the HATCH Mama belly oil and changed my life. The oil is nourishing—but more important to me, quick-drying—so I could apply it all over my planet-sized twin belly and get dressed immediately after without having my clothes ruined nor stuck to my body. Because of how much I loved the oil, I tested other products, and let me tell you, they're all equally amazing.

Curious about the HATCH Mama collection? All of their products are non-toxic and mama-safe, designed to help pregnant people overcome the challenges unique to pregnancy. As their website claims, "from stretch marks to thinning hair, to sleepless nights, we're helping you tackle every prenatal and postnatal beauty issue head-on so you can continue to feel like the best version of you." I'm here for all of this. For the entire Hatch Beauty collection click here.


Here are my favorite products from HATCH Mama:


Belly oil

HATCH COLLECTION  Belly Oil

Intensely hydrating + fantastic at reducing the appearance of stretch marks and scars, this will be your favorite through pregnancy + beyond.

$58

Belly mask

HATCH COLLECTION  Belly Mask Set

Not only does it help to minimize the appearance of stretch masks + scars during pregnancy + postpartum, but there is a little non-toxic wink (and that's to you, mama.)

$42

Nipple + lip ointment 

HATCH COLLECTION  Nipple + Lip

Calming + soothing, this magic sauce is lanolin-free & made of tropical butters and super fruits. I'm not lying when I say you will not want to stop using this, even way after birth.

$28

Belly tattoos

HATCH COLLECTION  Belly Tattoos

A very rock and roll way to honor your bump. And non-toxic + plant-based at that!

$18

This article was originally published in March 2021. It has been updated.

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Motherly created the flexible online birth class moms need

The Motherly Birth Class is completely online, which means you can take the class at your own pace.

Taking a birth class is a pregnancy milestone. Whether you've been excited to take a birth class for a long time or have just recently decided that you wanted to take one, sitting down for that first lesson feels big—spoiler alert, this is really happening! But finding time for a birth class isn't as easy as it would seem.

We know new parents are busy (hello, understatement of the year). Between diaper changes, pediatrician appointments, healing from birth and the general adjustment to #newparentlife, the days can fill up quickly. But a lot of people are caught off guard by how busy pregnancy can be, too! That first trimester is so often full of symptoms—like nausea and fatigue—that can make previously easy or simple tasks exhausting. The second trimester begins and (usually) we start to feel better. But then our days get filled with planning out baby registries and deciding on questions like, "Where will this tiny new human sleep?" And before you know it, it's the third trimester—and, well, then you're in the home stretch. Plus there are so many appointments!

All this to say that we get how busy you are—and how hard that might make it to fit in a birth class.

And that's why we created The Motherly Birth Class. The Motherly Birth Class is completely online, which means you can take the class at your own pace.


Think you'll want to watch each lesson a few times over? Great!

Due date's next week and you need the option to take a birth class very quickly? No problem!

Like everything at Motherly, we designed this class with you in mind.

Taught by Certified Nurse-Midwife Diana Spalding (who also wrote "The Motherly Guide to Becoming Mama"), this class is broken into 12 lessons—and you get to control how and when you watch them. We'll teach you about what your (amazing) body is up to in labor, how to decide when it's time to head to the hospital or birth center (or when to call your home birth midwife), what your options are for coping with pain and so much more.

When you sign up for The Motherly Birth Class, you'll get access to a downloadable workbook and meditations. Plus, you'll be invited to join our supportive private online community (where you can chat with the class instructor!)

Oh, one more thing: Your insurance or flexible spending account might even able to able to cover the cost of this class.

Pregnancy is wonderful—but it's a lot. You deserve a birth class that works for you and empowers you to have your best birth. Because vaginal or Cesarean, unmedicated or medication, birth is incredible. And you are the star of it all.

You've got this.

Sign up for The Motherly Birth Class today!

The Motherly Birth Class

pregnant-woman-looking-at-her-belly

Take our completely digital birth class from the comfort of your living room. We'll help you have your best birth—because you deserve it.

$79

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14 toys that will keep your kids entertained inside *and* outside

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

Keeping kids entertained is a battle for all seasons. When it's warm and sunny, the options seem endless. Get them outside and get them moving. When it's cold or rainy, it gets a little tricker.

So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of the best toys for toddlers and kids that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, many are Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these indoor outdoor toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.


Secret Agent play set

Plan-Toys-Secret-agent-play-set

This set has everything your little secret agent needs to solve whatever case they might encounter: an ID badge, finger scanner, walkie-talkie handset, L-shaped scale and coloring comic (a printable file is also available for online download) along with a handy belt to carry it all along. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.

$40

Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

$40

Stepping Stones

Stepping-stones

Kiddos can jump, stretch, climb and balance with these non-slip stepping stones. The 20-piece set can be arranged in countless configurations to create obstacle courses, games or whatever they can dream up.

$99.99

Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll stroller

Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.

$120

Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

$30

Sensory play set

kidoozie-sand-and-splash-activity-table

Filled with sand or water, this compact-sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

$19.95

Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

$121

Foam pogo stick

Flybar-my-first-foam-pogo-stick

Designed for ages 3 and up, My First Flybar offers kiddos who are too young for a pogo stick a frustration-free way to get their jump on. The wide foam base and stretchy bungee cord "stick" is sturdy enough to withstand indoor and outdoor use and makes a super fun addition to driveway obstacle courses and backyard races. Full disclosure—it squeaks when they bounce, but don't let that be a deterrent. One clever reviewer noted that with a pair of needle-nose pliers, you can surgically remove that sucker without damaging the base.

$16.99

Dumptruck 

green-toys-dump-truck

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyard or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? It's made from recycled plastic milk cartons.

$22

Hopper ball

Hopper ball

Burn off all that extra energy hippity hopping across the lawn or the living room! This hopper ball is one of the top rated versions on Amazon as it's thicker and more durable than most. It also comes with a hand pump to make inflation quick and easy.

$14.99

Pull-along ducks

janod-pull-along-wooden-ducks

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.

$16.99

Rocking chair seesaw

Slidewhizzer-rocking-chair-seesaw

This built-to-last rocking seesaw is a fun way to get the wiggles out in the grass or in the playroom. The sturdy design can support up to 77 pounds, so even older kiddos can get in on the action.

$79.99

Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

$79.99

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

$30

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15 vegetarian school lunch ideas kids will gobble up

Need some plant-free lunch ideas to take to school? We got you, mama.

Tom Werner / Getty

Have your kids stopped eating meat? Is your family just trying to cut back? One trend I'm intrigued by is eating vegetarian on the weekdays, then going omnivore Saturday through Sunday. For health, happiness and environmental reasons, more and more families are simply opting out of anything that's not grown from the ground—and that includes two of my daughters.

With school starting back up, you may be needing some more school lunch ideas for kids that don't include meat to keep those cute lunch boxes—and little bellies—full!

Here are our favorite ways to pack lunch boxes that are hearty, satisfying, full of protein yet vegetarian all the way through.

Simplified Focaccia Bread

When we lived in Italy, we learned that focaccia bread was originally made for fishermen who needed a fast lunch that would stick with them until dinner. Olive oil not only packs a flavorful punch but adds enough (good) fats to keep fishermen full. Turns out, it works for kids at school too and this easy recipe is the best way to make it!

Cheddar Cheese and Apple Muffins

Think of these savory baked goods as a twist on a biscuit--one that's packed with tart apples and creamy, salty cheddar cheese.

Whole-Wheat Mini Tomato Galettes

Start with pie crust (use our easy recipe or take a shortcut with something from the store) then layer on the freshly sliced tomatoes (or potatoes!), sprinkle with cheese and bake. These make-ahead lunches will be the hit of your bento boxes (Tip: measure the size of your container and adjust your galettes before baking!)

Spicy Black Bean Enchilada Cups

Of all the ways to eat enchiladas, I bet you've never thought of this one. Fold tortillas into muffin pans and fill with all the gorgeous flavors of enchiladas. If your kids aren't into spicy, simply skip the adobe sauce and use mild enchilada sauce instead. (P.S. If you like the idea of using your muffin pan for another lunch special, try lasagna cups too.)

Veggie Nuggets

Served at room temp, this vegetarian spin on every kid's favorite food is a tasty treat. Don't forget to pack dipping sauce! (Bonus: Make a big batch and store in the freezer to simply pull out when you're ready to pack lunches.)

Fruit & Nut Butter Wraps

Begin with a tortilla or wrap, then slather on a thick layer of your chosen nut butter and top with freshly sliced fruit: strawberries, peaches, blueberries… Almost any combination works deliciously.

Puff Pastry Pizza

Talk about a happy meal. This one combines pizza with the buttery, flaky texture of puff pastry. Add any toppings your kids love, from plain cheese to tomatoes, mushrooms, olives and more.

Crispy Tofu Nuggets

If you've got an air fryer and a vegetarian kid, these tofu nuggets are your new best dish. Their perfectly crisp texture will remind you of a popular dish served in packs of six at a restaurant that rhymes with Schmic-donalds.

Quinoa Stuffed Peppers

"But how do you get enough protein?" For every parent of a vegetarian has heard this about a zillion times too many, here's your one-word reply: quinoa! This golden grain is packed with the stuff, plus fiber to keep kids full. Fill a colorful pepper with quinoa, plus a handful of other tasty flavors, and you've got a protein-rich lunch to send to school on repeat.

Tiny Tomato Pies

My daughter asks me to make these pies for her birthday every year. And when her friends come over for dinner. And when it's her turn to choose a meal. There's something about a flaky crust topped with cheese and fresh tomato slices all grilled together that even elementary school kids can't resist. (Psst: Since it starts with store-bought biscuit dough, these tiny pies come together in a snap.)

Quiche Cups

One of the best things about quiche is how versatile it is: add cheese, grilled veggies, roasted broccoli, fresh herbs...or none of the above. Since you use a muffin pan to make a dozen at a time, you can even change up the combinations to suit your kids' tastes.

Simple Sushi Rolls

Don't let the name fool you. Making sushi is not only easier than you think, but a fun way for kids to try their hand in the kitchen with you.

Toasted Bagel Bites with Hummus

Slice up a store-bought bagel and give it a minute under the broiler and you'll have the crispy bites kids devour at lunch. My kids like a little hummus, marinara sauce or nut butter and jelly for dipping.

Very Pickle-y Egg Salad

The secret to this egg salad is simple: tons of dill pickles. The salty, sweet and crunchy texture makes the perfect bite with all those rich and creamy boiled eggs. (Tip: Save time with dill pickle relish.)

Taco Pop Tarts

What started as a cheeky way to use up taco filling has turned into one of my kids' most-requested lunches. Just fill pie crust with your favorite taco filling (using beans or a veggie substitute for ground beef) and bake. Again, word to the wise, do measure your lunch box compartment ahead of time so you don't make mammoth pop tarts like someone I know. Me, it's me. Of course it's me.

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