Probiotics and human lactational mastitis: A scoping review

Women Birth. 2020 Nov;33(6):e483-e491. doi: 10.1016/j.wombi.2020.01.001. Epub 2020 Mar 4.


Problem: Lactational mastitis is a common condition amongst breastfeeding women. It is associated with decreased breastfeeding rates and often treated with antibiotics.

Background: The anti-inflammatory effects of probiotics have been identified as a potential treatment or prevention strategy for lactational mastitis leading to increased commercial and public interest. Despite the marketing of probiotics to women, evidence is still emerging as to its efficacy.

Aim/methods: This scoping review followed the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses extension for Scoping Reviews (PRISMA-ScR) to identify and examine the evidence around probiotic consumption and lactational mastitis. The review addressed the question; what is the evidence regarding probiotic consumption and human lactational mastitis? Studies were critically appraised using the Joanna Briggs Institute checklist for randomised control trials (RCTs).

Findings: Five RCTs met the inclusion criteria; three concerned probiotic consumption for the treatment of mastitis, two for the prevention of mastitis. All reported a lower incidence of mastitis in the probiotic groups.

Discussion: Although potentially promising results were reported across all studies there were significant methodological limitations concerning; appropriately described baseline characteristics, study hypotheses, lack of power calculations, definitional issues, and potential conflicts of interest.

Conclusion: Probiotics may have utility for the treatment or prevention of lactational mastitis. However only a few studies with significant limitations have been published to date. Well designed and conducted studies are needed before evidence-based recommendations can be made for use of probiotics in the treatment or prevention of lactational mastitis.

Keywords: Breast feeding; Breast milk; Lactobacillus; Maternity care; Microbiota.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / administration & dosage
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Breast Feeding
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Lactation
  • Mastitis / prevention & control
  • Mastitis / therapy*
  • Probiotics / administration & dosage
  • Probiotics / therapeutic use*
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents