10 Tips to Treating & Preventing Mastitis Naturally

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I didn’t understand or practice resting for a season of postpartum until my fifth baby, and it changed everything.

I totally over did it after my first four babies. 

My expectations of myself were formed and influenced by two things alone: my own perfectionistic, performance based acceptance of myself and community minded selfishness and what I thought the culture around me expected of me. What I believed the culture expected of me was purely based upon what I observed from other mothers and what media exemplified.

Fast forward eight years. There I was, pregnant with our fifth child, our oldest was seven years old and I was exhausted. I had struggled with mastitis over and over again with all my other babies. The first time I got that red patch of aching, itching, clotted pain, my oldest was just barely six weeks old and we had traveled across the country to see family.

Nursing wasn’t easy with the first baby by any means, but I was determined. No one ever warned me about this breast infection called mastitis. And no one had REALLY taught me about engorgement, how painful it could be, or what to do to relieve pain without pumping.

So many times I was tempted to give up nursing. Those fevers, shakes, not being able to care for others let alone myself, all because I was doing too much and not getting enough rest. Then I developed an allergic reaction to the antibiotics. Looking back, that was my motivation to try alternative medicine and find the root of my pains and problems.

It wasn’t just the mastitis. It was the feeling of failure I had to battle in my mind every time I had to put Little House on the Prairie on so I could rest and fight that crazy infection. It was the laundry that piled up, the dishes in the sink and covering the counters. It was the fear of failing my kids because all I could stand to put on the table some nights was cereal.

It was the fear of what others would think when they came over to drop off a meal at our house, even if it was just a week after giving birth. I would overdo it, quickly cleaning up the kitchen before they got there. I would try to be hospitable, selfishly craving adult conversation and desperately wanting community.

Something needed to change. I couldn’t go on like this. There was no way I could delight in my children, with all the demands of raising little ones, when mama wasn’t feeling well.

There are Consequences of Not Resting

It’s true. There is a direct impact on the family when mama isn’t feeling well emotionally, physically, mentally, or spiritually. Nutrition, rest, and time to truly adjust to the reality of being a mother, caring for a baby, healing, and processing all that she just experienced in pregnancy and childbirth is crucial. It can be all overwhelming. The lack of sleep, the physical need for healing, engorgement, learning how and teaching a brand new baby how to breastfeed, the body’s need for good nutrition, then there are all the hormones!

When a mother’s expectations of herself and others around her are adjusted and she is allowed the freedom to just be and rest in peace, the atmosphere of the home is directly impacted in a positive way.

Being Equipped with Tools that Help in the Healing Process

I have learned over the years that it is better to be prepared with the essential tools needed to treat engorgement, combat mastitis, after birth cramps, constipation, or hemorrhoids before you experience the symptoms. There is nothing worse than having a case of mastitis coming on and needing to venture out to the local whole foods or natural medicine store to get what you need to treat it! It’s much better to be prepared.

In this post I will share the tricks I have learned from midwives and from doing research on natural ways to treat mastitis.

How to Treat Mastitis Naturally

What is Mastitis?

Mastitis Symptoms: Engorgement is not relieved by nursing along with symptoms such as red painful blotches or streaks on your breast. Some women experience a high temperature {100.6 or higher} and flu like symptoms such as weak bones, dizziness, chills. If it continues you can feel like you have little rocks in your milk ducts, which is caused by the clogging.

1. Rest

The minute you feel a sore patch/spot forming in a breast, stop what you are doing and rest. Literally lie down and stay down for 24 hours. I have noticed that the best treatment for mastitis is rest. I usually begin to get it because I am doing too much!

2. Massage

Before and during breastfeeding, try massaging the breast from the top of your chest wall or arm pit toward the nipple. It will be painful to touch, but it is important to try and loosen those rocky clogged milk ducts. If you need to put a heating pad on low first or shower and then massage before nursing to loosen the milk ducts.

3. Continue Nursing on Demand

It is crucial that you don’t stop nursing because of how painful it is. I know it hurts, trust me. I have had symptoms come on over 50 times in the eight years I have spent nursing my babies. With my forth, I could feel symptoms coming on almost every week of his first year. I had chronic issues with mastitis, but never gave up. It just required me taking better care of myself and learning how to catch it early so it didn’t go into the full blown symptoms of fever and such, which can last up to a week.

New Moms: My advice to new mamas is always to feed on demand for at least for the first six weeks. I know how hard this can be, especially if you have a job or other children who have places to go, people to see, but it is essential for you to be flexible the first month and a half at least for your milk to regulate. Also, not rushing the baby or only giving them a partial feeding. You can suffer from clogged milk ducts if they don’t nurse long enough. If you or your baby is struggling with breastfeeding seek advice from a lactation nurse! A good latch is critical just as much as rest and proper nutrition.

4. Hydrotherapy


Hydrotherapy is an age old medicinal exercise/treatment to draw out infection. We have used hydrotherapy for about eight years now to treat fevers, draw out infections, help to heal sore aching muscles, and to treat mastitis.

Simple method: Take a hand towel or small bath towel and soak it in as hot of water as you can stand. Keep it covering your breasts {or infected area} until it begins to cool. While you have the hot towel treatment/compress on you, have another towel chilling in a bowl of ice water. You know what comes next?! Ring out the ice cold towel and switch towels. It sounds like torture doesn’t it? But I promise you that this method works miracles and is actually soothing. The first few times you try it, it may be shocking to you. But now, when my children have a fever, we administer hydrotherapy on their feet and chests for fevers, chest congestion, and onset of flu symptoms and they actually ask for it! Some of them just administer it to themselves if they have sore feet because it really does soothe.

NOTE: There has been disagreements throughout cultures and among health care professionals for years as to weather cold compresses are better or warm.

Many cultures do not treat a woman with ANYTHING cold for 40-60 days postpartum. This is entirely up to you and your cultural and medical beliefs and practices. The suggestion for utilizing hydrotherapy is one my naturopath recommended years ago and it just worked for my body. Remember all our bodies react differently to different treatments. For example, I break out in hives if I use antibiotics! One goal of hydrotherapy is to reduce vascular and lymphatic congestion.


5. Homeopathy

PLEASE CONSULT YOUR NATUROPATH OR PHYSICIAN BEFORE USING HOMEOPATHY. It is always safest to be under medical care of a physician, but if you are familiar with homeopathy and have been using it for a while like we have, my midwives taught me about PHYTOLACCA DECANDRA 30C & BELLADONNA 30C as a combination treatment for mastitis.

Basic Treatment is directed on the Bioron Capsule container. Just follow the instructions. These are a cheap solution to have on hand before you give birth in case you struggle with mastitis and don’t like being on antibiotics.

You can purchase Boiron Homeopathics Here 

Vineyard & Winery

6. Coconut Oil

Coconut Oil is known to be antibacterial and antifungal. Plus it won’t taste bad to baby or make your baby break out in baby acne. 

Some forms of mastitis can be fungal related which is why the infection sometimes goes hand and hand with Thrush in babies.  Having coconut oil on hand shouldn’t be hard if you cook with it, but it’s a good idea to have a little mason jar next to your bed that first month or so after birth to help prevent sore dry nipples. WishGarden Nipple Balm is also really good as well, but coconut oil is cheaper and on hand out our home!

7. Cabbage

Blanched cabbage leaves aid healing sore breasts and bringing down inflammation, but so can raw green cabbage leaves can be used also and should be changed when desired or every 2 hours. You can even chill the leaves in the fridge and then apply them. Again, this treatment is based upon preference of hot or cold treatment. Both have been recommended by healthcare professionals over the years.

8. Sunflower Lecithin

This is a natural dietary supplement that is found at most health food stores. 

Find out how Lecithin can help treat mastitis and how to take it here.

TreatingMastitis

9. WishGarden Happy Ducts Tincture

I have not used this product before but have purchased it and am ready to use it if I need to. It is meant for short term use but helps in stimulating the lymphatic system. Considering my major mastitis issues worsened AFTER my 3rd baby was six weeks old and I had a tumor and lymph node removed, I am wondering if this will help?! I will let you know.

WishGarden Mastitis Compress Herbs
I just love all wishgarden products. I have used their products with my children for a good seven years at least and can’t speak highly enough of their product quality. This herbal compress mixture is beautiful and soothing.

10. Booby Tubes by Earth Mama Angel Baby

I love these warm or cold nursing packs. I often get these for mama’s to be or put them in a postpartum pack as a gift at the hospital or home after baby arrives.

What to Avoid:

  • Constrictive Bras or Underwires

  • Being too busy and not getting enough rest

  • Skipping feedings

  • Favoring One Breast over another. Babies can be known to pick a favorite from time to time. Be aware of how long and how often you are nursing on one side and lead your baby not to pick a favorite.

  • Over doing it

What do you use to treat mastitis?

What habits do you recommend to help avoid mastitis?

My prayer and hope is that as you are preparing for the birth of your baby, you think beyond your birth and feel prepared to truly rest and enjoy this season with your new little one. If you are looking for spiritual encouragement, you should check out Redeeming Childbirth, the book, and the growth & study guide.

This post is a part of my “Preparing for Postpartum” Series. You can find posts both here on the blog and at AngieTolpin.com. You can find me on Facebook here and Instagram here!

Your Sister in the Journey,

 

About Angie Tolpin

Angie is married to her best friend Isaac and is a homeschooling mom to seven children ranging in age from 5 months to 15 years old. She loves to encourage moms and wives and thrives best when accompanied by her husband as they speak together. She is the author of Redeeming Childbirth, The Growth & Study Guide, and the online Bible Study: The Quiet Fight Between Women.

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Comments

  1. I couldn’t agree more – rest is fundamental in naturally healing mastitis! I had it twice already and was always able to treat naturally without antibiotics even with a fever of 103.5 that lasted more than 24 hours. I would also suggest to nurse on all fours. My midwife game that tip and it was really helpful. Angie, do you know if there’s a connection between mastitis and tandem nursing? I’m nursing my baby and toddler and only had mastitis this time around. Praying for God’s best blessing upon you and your family as you receive your new bundle of joy!

    • Thank you for your prayers! They are appreciated! As far as random nursing goes, not sure. But one thing I didn’t mention is that mastitis is not always because of one thing. Sometimes it can be caused by baby having a cold, mama having candida, overdoing it and not nursing long enough, having a bad latch, not emptying the milk ducts, etc… For me I found it extremely helpful to detox off sugar before getting pregnant and doing a candida cleanse. For me, I never had other yeast symptoms, but the itching in my breasts indicated yeast.