When it comes to breastfeeding problems; the worst case scenario is a breast abscess. Click here to see a representation of a breast abscess. [Image below: Theodoric de Lucea (1205-1248) performing surgical draining of an abscess.]
An abscess can occur when you have a breast infection and the infection does not go away. Your body will attempt to isolate the infection by forming hard tissue around the infected area. But, because your breast is filled with nutritious breast milk, the bacteria continues to multiply despite the hardened tissue surrounding the infected area. This leads to an extremely painful breasts combined with the flu-symptoms associated with mastitis.
Probably, the only way to resolve an abscess is with surgery. For a small abscess, located in an easy-to-access location, your doctor may perform day-surgery in his office and prescribe oral antibiotics (pills). For a very severe abscess or an abscess that is very deep within the breast tissue, the doctor may submit you into the hospital for surgery and use general anesthetic combined with antibiotics administered through an IV.
After surgery, you still need to care for the wound site. Typically, sterile gauze or packing material is placed inside the cavity. As the wound begins to heal, less and less gauze is used for packing. Healing occurs from the inside out until only the surface tissue and skin needs to heal. This buffalo.edu web site has a detailed description on the surgical proceedure (graphic).
You should consult your doctor or a lactation specialist to see if you should continue breastfeeding or not. Generally speaking, you should be able to breastfeed after surgery and, barring any other complications, continued breastfeeding is recommended since: