Healing Mastitis Naturally

I have naturally healed mastitis four times, without the use of antibiotics.

What is mastitis? A clogged duct or blockage can become non-infective mastitis, or the blockage can become a bacterial infection. Mastitis often shows itself as blotchy redness and heat on the skin of the breast, and/or pain with nursing or pain in the nipple or areola and a hard part on the breast. Sometimes one or more ducts will produce pus, which is thicker than breast milk. Mastitis may present with a fever in the breast or a whole-body fever.

The first trick is to catch it quickly by knowing your breasts. Make a point of massaging your breasts once a day while nursing and look for any redness of the skin. Don’t ignore nipple or breast tenderness or pain.

Though antibiotics may be needed for particularly bad or long-lived infections or high fever, they can come with side effects like yeast overgrowth/thrush, which is just another nursing challenge to contend with. Often, by the time the antibiotics kick in, you could have already solved the problem naturally. I came by the following plan as a combination of intuition, trial and error, Internet research, and my naturopath’s advice.

1. Green Cabbage Leaves. Green cabbage leaves have remarkable anti-inflammatory properties. They are my first line of defense. Out of the fridge they are cooling and soothing. Cover your breast with the leaves inside of a loose-fitting bra. Try to go bra-less when you are not using cabbage for better circulation. Replace every few hours and sleep in your cabbage! Eat some raw, too, to reduce inflammation from the inside.

2. Echinacea Tincture. Echinacea is a natural antibiotic with great results in treating mastitis. Take as directed by the bottle or your holistic healthcare practitioner.

3. Cold and Hot. Alternate between ice packs (to reduce swelling) for 15 minutes and hot (but not burning) wet compresses, like hand towels wrapped around your entire breast, for another 15 minutes. Use breast massage with the heat. Hot showers also work nicely.

4. Nurse Frequently, in All Positions. Though it may be painful to nurse, this is the fastest ticket to healing. Deep breathing helps, as does distraction, such as singing to your child. Change it up. Nurse in strange positions like the “dangle” (crouching over your child while she lays on a bed) and vary mouth positioning by mixing cradle holds with football holds and straight-upright holds. This will ensure all of the ducts are emptied.

5. Hand Express; Don’t Rely on the Pump. Mastitis is often a bi-product of engorgement. If you need drainage more quickly than nursing provides, learn the art of hand-expression using nipple compressions, like your child’s palate and tongue do to your breast. A breast pump does not mimic compressions and may create more engorgement without actually emptying the ducts. Alternatively, you can pump to start and then hand-express with breast massage. If you nurse mainly on the infected side to empty it, pumping the other side makes sense if your baby is no longer hungry. This will prevent engorgement and infection in the unaffected side.

6. Drink More Water. Drink more water than usual to flush the body of toxins and cool your system.

7. Get Help. Clear your calendar for two days and focus on your breasts, your baby, and your health. Use all of your powers to get a lot of help around the house.

8. Epsom Salt Soak. Before breastfeeding, soak your breasts in very warm water mixed with Epsom salt. Dangle them into a basin or take a full body bath if your breasts are smaller. This is the least-known remedy for mastitis. I came upon it by accident because I soak all other infections in Epsom salts. The magnesium in the salts opens the ducts, draws out infection, and promotes healing. This is safe for mama and baby.

Caution: If you use these techniques constantly for 36 hours with no improvement, develop a fever that lasts longer than 12 hours or rises above 101 degrees F, or develop the infection in both breasts, see a doctor immediately. Nothing above is intended as medical advice. I myself have actually asked for the antibiotics and gotten them just in case (especially over a weekend) and then used this plan and not had to take them, ever!

To prevent future mastitis infections, massage breasts regularly while nursing and when your little one wakes at night, rouse her or him enough for a good, long feeding to empty the breasts.

I have also heard that people use herbal poultices, but I have no experience with this myself. Feel free to share your recipes in the comments.

Be well!

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About The Author: Moorea

@mooreamalatt My NPN Posts

Moorea Malatt is the founder of Savvy Parenting Support (and MamaLady blog), an online resource for gentle and naturally-minded early parenting challenges. Moorea is an expert and Parent Educator in gentle (and early) potty learning, gentle sleep learning and gentle discipline. She authors online learning programs, books and blogs, leads sold-out workshops and provides private phone consults. Moorea has 20 years of experience with parents and young children as a preschool teacher, certified postpartum doula, infant nanny and mom. Moorea also wrote an album of songs called, “Whip It Out: Songs for Breastfeeding.” Moorea continues to study the behavioral sciences and anthropology. She is a bit of a flop as a dinner chef loves a good sugar-free “paleo” baking experiment! http://www.facebook.com/Savvyparentingsupport

11 Responses to Healing Mastitis Naturally

  1. Heather

    At the first signs of mastitis (flu-like feeling – I haven’t had noticeable lumps!) I take the hottest shower I can stand and massage my breasts with a wide tooth comb. It’s easy to do when you feel like crap!

    Also I take homeopathic phytolacca. It was recommended by my midwives and really works. I’ve had better luck with 6c, but 30c worked too.

    Also elderberry tincture is great for immune system boost.

  2. Marcelle  

    Traditional Chinese medicine can also be very effective at combating mastitis. A few acupuncture treatments paired with herbs can really clear things up.

  3. Moorea  

    another great addition to the mix! thanks. -Moorea

  4. Ruby  

    Great advice. My one caveat is that when I had a blocked milk duct, my daughter’s nursing was nowhere near enough suction to unclog it. Maybe hand expression would have worked, but it was really, really painful. Only by putting my industrial-strength pump on high and pumping until it unclogged did I get relief.

  5. Helen Marshall  

    I would not recommend using cabbage leaves for mastitis. Cabbage is well known to reduce milk supply and so if used on your breasts for long periods like 36 hours you will experience a drop in supply. Instead you can use sliced potatoes which also reduce inflammation without affecting supply. Otherwise this is really great information.

  6. Moorea Malatt  

    Helen,
    Thank you for this reminder. I wouldn’t use cabbage more than 24 hours at a time. It can decrease milk supply. However, for moms with adequate supply to begin with, assuming the baby is still nursing frequently throughout the mastitis challenge- any reduction in milk production on that side was likely helpful for me to avoid the engorgement that happens when a duct is plugged and the breast hasn’t drained properly yet. Potatos are a great idea, though not as easy a shape to fit into your nursing bra ;)

  7. Clare

    You are a genius! I have healed myself twice now following your advice. Epsom salts are the key for me.

  8. Mackenzie

    I noticed the pain around 5 am this morning, and I immediately had fever. 101.6. Do you think these things will still work for me, even though I started with fever?

  9. jennifer

    I’m a 48 yer old woman and I developed mastitis 5 weeks ago. I’ve never had it before and I have no children, so I was quite surprised to get a breast infection that’s rare in non lactating women. I had three golf ball sized lumps in my left breast, that quickly turned hard. My GP sent me to emergency for an ultrasound bec she thought that I had developed an abscess. An ultrasound revealed only breast tissue and I was told that the hardness was caused by inflammation due to infection. I was given a prescription for Keflex but I was determined not to take it, due to having taking too many antibiotics in the past and developing chronic fatigue syndrome as a result. My fever subsided but my energy was minimal for weeks. I still feel weak. The golf balls have shrunk down to one (as opposed to 3) but I still have hard knots in my breast. I am massaging them daily with poke root oil. I took phycolacca 30 ch, 6 ch and 200 ch. I did epsom salt baths. I drank spurlina with raw garlic. I did a vit c IV. I’m wondering if anyone has any tips to get rid of the remaining hard lumps.

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