Holistic Healing for Mastitis
Mastitis is a common but painful infection of the breasts, characterized by pain, redness, swelling and warmth. It can cause fatigue, nausea, chills and fever in some women. Most often, mastitis occurs in women who are breastfeeding and typically occurs within the first few weeks of breastfeeding, but can occur at anytime.
The cause of mastitis is often a blocked milk duct or from bacteria entering the breast.
Conventional treatment for mastitis is antibiotics however many women are able to cure mastitis naturally. If you find your symptoms worsen or do not improve significantly within 24-36 hours, it is important to consult with your doctor to avoid further complications.
Prevention is the easiest form of healing when it comes to mastitis. Preventative measures include the following
Learn proper breastfeeding techniques– breastfeeding comes with a learning curve for all mothers. You may wish to consider seeing a lactation specialist if you feel like you’re having challenges with feeding. Above all, ensure you are emptying milk regularly and fully from breasts, whether through feeding or pumping
Try: changing positions when feeding and feeding with one breast until it is completely empty
Care for cracked nipples– cracked nipples can be a source of pain and infection which may lead to mastitis.
Try: letting nipples air-dry after feeding and apply a bit of breastmilk or aloe vera gel to soothe and protect
Eat a well-balanced diet– health begins from the inside out.
Try: nourishing your body with healthful fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, fiber, and protein. Avoid processed foods and overly sugary foods which may feed the infection.
Rest as much as possible –stress and exhaustion put pressure on your immune system and can lead to illness.
Try: relaxing when you’re able to, take naps when the baby is sleeping and be patient with yourself and your body.
Avoid tight fitting bras – tight bras may constrict the flow of milk in the breast, making you more susceptible to mastitis.
Try: a comfortable fitting bra and allow the breasts to breathe when possible.
Breast massage while nursing– It is helpful to continue to breastfeed when you are experiencing mastitis, despite the discomfort, feeding combined with breast massage can help to get milk flowing
Try: a breast massage with your favorite oil while feeding baby.
Create an oil with a combination of the following to help heal or prevent any issues: Olive Oil, Mullein, Red Clover, Calendula - This blend is meant to stimulate the flow of lymphatic fluid from the breast tissue while gently reducing pain, infection, and inflammation.
Drink lots of fluids– fluids help to flush the body, improving detoxification and helping to eliminate infections
Try: increasing water and herbal tea intake as much as possible.
Reduce stress-rest is essential in supporting the body’s immune response.
Try: to give yourself as much rest as possible when you have mastitis. Be patient and kind to your body. Try meditation or breathing exercises to help increase relaxation.
Increase immune supporting foods– foods high in antioxidants such as vitamin C and phytonutrients in plants are helpful in supporting the immune system and fighting infection.
Try: increasing intake of a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables.
Heat treatment– heat can help improve the flow of milk and help relieve symptoms of mastitis
Try: a hot water bottle or warm compress on the breasts before and during breastfeeding.
Create a Poultice– a poultice can be applied directly to breasts to reduce swelling, inflammation, and infection.
Try: a poultice of ground fenugreek seeds applied directly as a poultice to the breasts for at least one hour.
Use Breast Milk– breast milk can be applied directly to the nipples after feeding to prevent cracks and infection.
Try: using breast milk as a treatment on the nipples after feeding.
Cold Cabbage Leaves– have long been used as a natural treatment for mastitis, reducing swelling and cooling the breasts.
Try: applying clean, cold cabbage leaves directly to the site of infection/inflammation on the breasts.
Castor Oil - increases circulation to the area, allowing nutrient-rich blood in and the removal of wastes and toxic debris.
Try: a castor oil pack applied directly to the breast with a warm water bottle or heating pad for a minimum of 30 minutes, 3 times per day. Remember to thoroughly wash the breast prior to nursing your baby again.
Supplements for Mastitis
Lecithin– lecithin helps to break down fat in the body and has been shown to help when milk ducts are blocked.
Try: supplementing with lecithin 3 times daily or eating foods rich in lecithins such as eggs, Brussel sprouts, yogurt, and organic soy such as tempeh or miso.
Apple Cider Vinegar– antibacterial and anti-inflammatory, apple cider vinegar can help to reduce swelling, pain and infection.
Try: enjoy as a drink with water and some honey daily.
Probiotics– probiotics support the beneficial microflora of the body. Supplementing with probiotics can help strengthen the body’s immune response and may be effective in treating mastitis.
Try: a daily probiotic supplement.
Vitamin C– our favorite antioxidant vitamin, vitamin C supplementation can help to fight and protect against infection.
Try: 3000-4000 mg daily or to bowel tolerance. Start gradually with vitamin C as too much too soon can have a laxative effect. Begin with 1,000 (or even 500mg) daily for 3-4 days, then gradually increase.
Magnesium– an important mineral for breastfeeding mothers, magnesium promotes relaxation of the body and is essential for developing babies.
Try: a daily magnesium supplement. Taken before bed, 400mg of magnesium can help with relaxation and sleep.
Herbs for Mastitis
Fenugreek– ground fenugreek seeds can make an excellent poultice for the breasts. It has anti-inflammatory properties and encourages lactation.
Try: making a poultice for breasts out of ground fenugreek or add to savory meals to increase lactation.
Raspberry Leaf– is a well-known female specific herb. It has antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties.
Try: enjoying raspberry leaf as a tea or use the leaves as a poultice directly on the breasts.
Aloe Vera– is a very soothing and demulcent herb, aloe vera juice can be applied directly to the nipples to prevent and soothe cracking and dryness associated with breastfeeding.
Turmeric– a wonderful anti-inflammatory herb which is easy to add to food or drink as a tea or latte or take in tincture form.
Try: making golden milk with turmeric, honey, and coconut milk. Enjoy warm.