If you’ve ever had mastitis, you know how painful and frustrating it can be. Most doctors will prescribe strong antibiotics that will pass through the milk supply to the baby. When my baby girl was struggling to learn how to breastfeed due to tongue-tie and lip-tie, I had several plugged milk ducts. One of them suddenly went from uncomfortable to painful. I had the classic symptoms of mastitis:
- A hard, swollen lump
- Achy joints (common, but not always)
I try hard to avoid antibiotics unless they are absolutely necessary, so I quickly researched some natural remedies and got to work on treating myself.
My mastitis treatment:
- Echinacea: I always start with echinacea when I suspect any kind of infection. Although echinacea has been used to stimulate the immune system, I use it because of its antibiotic properties. In the early 1900′s, it was often used to treat blood infections. I am comfortable with taking echinacea during pregnancy and breastfeeding, if necessary. I took two capsules every four hours.
- Raw garlic, raw honey and cayenne: This combination is a powerhouse for fighting infections of all kinds! Garlic is strongly antibacterial (again, I am comfortable with its safety during pregnancy and breastfeeding, unless the blood-thinning side effect could be dangerous- such as near birth or C-section). Raw honey has also been proven to be useful in treating bacterial infections. Cayenne pepper multiplies the effect of whatever antibacterial herb you add it to, so I always add a pinch. To take, crush and finely chop a clove of garlic and leave it on the cutting board for 15 minutes. Add 1 to 2 teaspoons of honey and a pinch of cayenne. Mix it up until all of the garlic is coated with honey, scoop it up with a spoon and swallow (don’t chew!!). Be ready with a drink of water to help it go down. This method prevents the stomach ache that I normally get from raw garlic. I took this at the same time as the echinacea, every 4 hours.
- Herbal compress: Although there are many herbs that would be effective, it was extremely important to me that I only use herbs that would be safe for my baby, should any of them soak in through the skin and get into my milk supply.
Calendula was to reduce the swelling.
Marshmallow root was to help draw out the infection.
Rosemary was to help fight the infection.
Dandelion root was to reduce pain and inflammation.
I made a strong brew of the herbs, strained it and soaked a washcloth in the warm liquid. After squeezing out the extra liquid, I applied the washcloth 10 minutes before nursing. Sometimes, I would put a piece of plastic wrap over it and then hold a rice-filled heating pad on top to keep it warm longer.
- During nursing, I gently massaged, trying to move the milk out. Sometimes I held a warm washcloth over the affected milk duct and pressed gently.
- After nursing, I would get in a warm shower and try to massage out any milk that was left. I found that using a little oil helped a lot.
- When I got as much milk as possible out (pumping, when necessary), I would switch to a cold compress. The cold herbal tea that was left over worked well, but I also used bags of crushed ice wrapped in a washcloth.
- I tried many nursing positions and found that either leaning over the baby or having her nose or chin pointed towards the affected area worked best.
- We were already nursing frequently (every 2 to 2 1/2 hours), so I just made sure we never went more than 2 1/2 hours.
For the first 6 or so hours, nothing seemed to help. After that, though, I started to get better. It took about 24 hours before the pain, swelling and redness were gone, but by 36 hours I was fine. I took a few doses of echinacea, garlic, honey and cayenne for the next few days, just to be sure. Had I not gotten better within 24 hours, or if I had suddenly gotten worse, I would have called my midwife, then possibly my doctor.
*I hope that you find my experience to be helpful, but I am not a medical professional. Consider consulting a midwife, naturopath or herbalist in a situation like this.
Have you used natural remedies to treat mastitis?
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