Mastitis is a painful breast infection that results from a blocked duct. It usually happens in breastfeeding women, especially during the first 3 months of nursing.
Women who have had mastitis before and those with weakened immune systems are also more prone to getting it. In rare cases, mastitis occurs in women who have not recently given birth or are breastfeeding, and it may even happen post-menopause.
Signs of mastitis
The first sign of mastitis is usually a painful area in one breast that feels warm to the touch and appears red.
An infection causes the breast to become hot, swollen, red and painful as it progresses. Aches, chills and fever may be additional symptoms of mastitis, and the condition is sometimes mistaken for the flu.
Untreated mastitis can affect lymph nodes beneath the arm on the side of the infected breast and an abscess can develop.
Antibiotics are the western solutions, which isn't great for breastfeeding moms and their babies. Fortunately, mastitis usually responds well to natural remedies. I recommend doing all or most of the following if you develop a breast infection or blocked duct…
Natural remedies for mastitis
Hydrate – It's very important to drink plenty of fluids to recover from mastitis. Ten to twelve glasses of water should be consumed a day to maintain milk supply and support proper body functioning and healing.
Continue Breastfeeding – No matter how tempted you may be to stop breastfeeding while you have a breast infection, don't. Mastitis does not affect baby's health, and it is one of the best natural remedies for mastitis. In order to heal, your breasts must be emptied either through nursing or pumping. Nursing in different positions may make breastfeeding more comfortable and help speed your recovery.
Heat and massage – Gently massaging the breasts can help prevent milk ducts from becoming plugged and worsening mastitis. Massage breasts toward the nipple under hot running water. This may not feel comfortable at the time, but it will help promote healing.
Frozen, raw cabbage leaves as a poultice – The coolness can reduce pain and inflammation, while the cabbage leaves are said to draw out the infection. Try resting with this remedy after massaging in a hot shower. The leaves should be replaced when they reach room temperature.
Acupuncture – Oriental medicine typically views mastitis as an accumulation of toxic heat. Acupuncture can help clear the heat and toxicity while treating any underlying imbalance that may be causing or contributing to the condition.
Herbs – Buy a ready-made herbal tincture to treat mastitis. I like Happy Ducts by Wish Garden, or see your herbalist for a customized formula perfect for you.
- Phytolacca – The most commonly used homeopathic remedy to treat mastitis, especially for cracked nipples and blocked milk ducts when there is heat, pain, and possible flu symptoms
- Belladonna – Use when there is heat, throbbing and redness; the pain is worse for any sudden jarring; there may be a red streak from the site of the inflammation.
- Bryonia – Use when there is dryness and the breasts feel heavy, painful and hard, and are worse for any type of movement. There is often constipation, dry lips and extreme thirst. There may be insufficient milk (dryness).
- Lac Caninum – Use when symptoms alternate sides. The mother may suffer from low self-esteem.
- Graphites – For cracked and sore nipples with small blisters
- Pulsatilla – Useful for sore nipples especially when mom is weepy and needs lots of affection. Generally the mother feels no thirst.
How to prevent mastitis
Empty breasts – Making sure breasts are emptied of milk as completely as possible during feeds is one way to prevent mastitis. Use a pump if your baby is not feeding well for even a short period of time.
Avoiding nipple cracking and irritation by insuring that baby latches on to the breast and is positioned properly for feeding. If you are unsure, consult with a certified lactation consultant immediately.
Keep it loose – Tight fitting clothing, including underwire bras, can contribute to or exacerbate a clogged duct.
Be well! Get plenty of rest, stay hydrated; healthy eating can prevent breast infections as well as promote quick recovery. The healthier you are, the less susceptible you will be to any illness, including mastitis. If you suspect the beginnings of a blocked duct, begin treatment right away to prevent a full-blown infection.
What natural remedies for mastitis and blocked ducts have worked for you? Tell us about your experience in the comments below.