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Last week I found myself in quite an awful situation and as result, I spent hours searching the web for all natural remedies to cure mastitis.
Yup. I was in an awful situation and in an incredible amount of pain!
MY EXPERIENCE WITH MASTITIS
I have been breastfeeding my daughter for the past 19-months and it has been an adventure, to say the least. An adventure I don’t see ending very soon. You can look for a post on extended breastfeeding coming in the near future. lol
Anyway, besides having some serious breastfeeding struggles initially, about 3 months into it my daughter and I had the whole breastfeeding dance mastered. I have heard horror stories from other mothers and I considered myself lucky that my issues were small in comparison.
Well, I guess I am not that lucky after all because last week I had my first case of Mastitis. And let me tell you…it was miserable!
I woke up feeling a little off but nothing too serious. Then, in the late morning when I was nursing my daughter I realized I had a clogged milk duct in my right breast. I figured it was a clogged milk duct because I had something similar before, a hard tender lump in my breast. Usually, I could just bend over the sink, do a little massage and the milk would come shooting out basically on its own.
This time when I tried to massage the lump out it was extremely painful and no milk came out. I decided to try a hot compress and it see if that would help gets things flowing. It didn’t. Fast forward a few hours and I was in excruciating pain.
The lump had grown and over 50% of my breast was hard, tender and bright red. My daughter refused to eat from that breast and no massaging or squeezing got any milk out. Now I was desperate for some relief and trying anything I could. I tried a cold compress, hot shower and changed my bra but nothing was working to relieve the pressure.
Then, in the late afternoon, I started having flu-like symptoms. I was feeling lightheaded, fatigued, my skin and joints hurt, and I had a horrible headache. It was at that point that I started searching the internet for answers because I knew whatever I was experiencing was not just a clogged milk duct.
Turns out, I had every symptom of mastitis. The clogged milk duct must have turned into an infection. I didn’t think it could escalate so quickly but apparently, it can and it’s pretty common.
I really didn’t want to have to take an antibiotic so I did a bit of research on all natural remedies to cure mastitis. Because I was feeling so sick, I wasn’t able to implement very many of the remedies I found while researching.
What I ended up doing was resting, drinking lots of water, messaging my breast before, during and after nursing, nursing my daughter as frequently as she would let me, and alternating between hot and cold compresses.
I think the one thing that helped the most was resting. And not just resting but letting my brother watch my daughter while I took a long, deep nap.
By the next morning, the flu-like symptoms had begun to subside and the lump in my breast was significantly smaller. I still needed to clear my clogged milk duct so I put cold cabbage in my bra throughout the day. By the next day, the lump was pretty much gone and the flu-like symptoms were nonexistent.
I know it could’ve been so much worse, so I am really thankful my case was relatively mild. But I realize that not everyone will have the same experience and the natural remedies I used might not be as effective for all moms.
I decided to put together a list of 25 all natural remedies to cure mastitis. That way you can work your way through the list until you find something that works. Everyone responds differently to natural remedies, so I figured I would list a whole bunch and hopefully, you can find some that provide you with some relief.
Before you skip down to the list, please read this general information about mastitis:
WHAT IS MASTITIS?
Mastitis is an infection in the tissue of one or both of the mammary glands inside the breasts. Mastitis can develop from a clogged milk duct or if you have a crack or cut on your breast and bacteria gets inside.
Mastitis usually only occurs in one breast and can happen at any point in your breastfeeding journey. What separates mastitis from a clogged milk duct is the flu-like symptoms that accompany the painful breast lump.
SYMPTOMS OF MASTITIS
- One or more hard and sore lumps inside breast
- Engorged breast
- One area of the breast is red and swollen
- The affected area of breast feels hot
- Flu-like symptoms such as chills, fatigue, aches and pains, elevated body temperature or fever
TREATING MASTITIS NATURALLY
After treating my own mastitis quickly and naturally as well as reading many other women’s stories of treating their own mastitis naturally, I firmly believe antibiotics are not the only cure for mastitis. In fact, I think antibiotics are prescribed much too quickly for mastitis and they should always be a last resort. There are so many all-natural cures for mastitis that are proven to be effective and those options should be exhausted first.
That being said, you have to listen to your body! If you have tried a bunch of natural remedies and are feeling worse instead of better, then go see your doctor immediately. From everything I read, the general recommendation was to try home remedies first but if in 24-48 hours you don’t feel like you are getting any better, see a doctor.
25 ALL NATURAL REMEDIES TO CURE MASTITIS
1. Rest, rest, and more rest
If you do any research regarding mastitis, you’ll notice that the number one recommendation for treating mastitis is resting A LOT. Mastitis is your body’s way of telling you to slow down and give your body a break.
I really think taking a long nap was the reason my mastitis didn’t progress or get any worse. Never underestimate the power of sleep. Especially as a mother!
2. Drink lots of water
Having mastitis is pretty much like having the flu and just like you need to stay hydrated during the flu, you need to stay hydrated during your bout of mastitis. Staying hydrated is also really important because it will help keep up your milk production so you can continue nursing your baby, which you have to do in order to unclog your milk ducts.
3. Breastfeed, pump, or express frequently
This is so important! You have to keep the milk flowing out of your breast one way or another. Not getting the milk out will only make the clogged duct and infection worse.
It is completely safe and highly recommended to continue breastfeeding through mastitis, so that should be your number one option. Nurse as frequently as possible.
However, if your baby does not want to nurse then you should pump or hand express to empty your breasts as much as you can. I do want to warn you that hand expression is extremely painful to do during mastitis! It can be really hard to force yourself to do it, but sometimes you have no choice and you just have to cry through it, unfortunately.
4. Use a heated compress before you nurse
If you’re baby or toddler is having a hard time getting milk out, try putting a hot compress on your breast for 10-15 minutes before you nurse them. This should help get the milk flowing and make it easier for your baby to nurse.
5. Start nursing with the affected breast first
Always start nursing with the breast that has the infection first. That way your baby will not fill up on the other breast and fail to empty the infected breast all the way.
6. Point your baby’s chin toward the clogged duct
I tried this tip while breastfeeding my daughter and I really believe it helped a lot. I made sure her chin was pressing down on the swollen, clogged duct while she was nursing. It’s like your baby is working double duty, messaging and suckling, to help get the milk moving. Another warning though, breastfeeding this way with an older, stronger baby hurts like hell and I had to fight back tears the entire time.
7. After a feed, gently express any leftover milk
If you start breastfeeding on the infected side but your baby still fails to completely empty the breast, you need to hand express the leftover milk. Milk cannot be left stagnant, you have to keep it flowing.
8. Try different feeding positions
Another thing you can try if your baby is having a hard time emptying your breast is different feeding positions. Positioning your baby in a different way might help by applying pressure to a spot that gets more milk flowing or help your baby get a better latch.
9. Wear loose-fitting bra and clothes
You want to make sure that the infected breast is not being compressed in any way and that the breastmilk can release itself if need be. Do not wear really tight bras or bras with underwire. You should also stay away from any tight fitting tops.
You know when you go too long between feedings and your breasts take it upon themselves to release some pressure and you leak milk? Well, this is what you want to happen during mastitis. Do not hinder that release by wearing tight clothing.
10. Massage clogged duct before, during, and after nursing
In order to keep the blood and milk flowing in your breast, you need to costly be messaging the clogged duct. The way you do this is to gently massage your breast in circular motions, always going from the outside of your breast and working your way towards the middle.
You should not only message your breast between feedings but during them as well. The combination of your baby’s suckling and your messaging will help get the milk flowing easier. Hopefully!
11. Use hot or cold compresses
Some people say only use hot compresses, some say only cold, and others say to use both. The general consensus is to use the temperature that feels best to you. If the cold relieves the pain or pressure then use cold and vice vera with heat.
You can also use a combination of both. Use a hot compress before you breastfeed to get everything flowing and then use a cold compress after breastfeeding to relieve any swelling or inflammation.
12. Take a hot bath with Epsom salt or a hot shower
Taking a hot bath with Epsom salt will not only help relieve some pain in your breast but also relive some of those flu-like symptoms such as fatigue, aches, and pains. Not to mention a relaxing bath is a great way to get yourself some of that much need rest!
If you don’t want to take a bath, just hop in a hot shower. Let the hot water run on your breast while you massage it. I wasn’t able to release any milk using this method, but it did help relieve some pain.
13. Eat raw garlic
If you want to work on the infection from the inside, you can always eat some raw garlic. Garlic is antimicrobial, antiviral, and antifungal. It’s basically an infection-fighting machine. Katie over at Wellness Mama recommends finely mincing garlic, spooning into your mouth as quick as possible, and then chasing it with water.
14. Put cold cabbage leaves on infected breast
Cabbage leaves contain sulfur compounds that help reduce inflammation and swelling. I used cabbage leaves the day after I got the infection when I was already feeling a bit better, so I am not sure if they helped or not. But if anything, the fact that they were cold was such a relief for my still very sore and swollen boob.
Be careful using the cabbage leaves too long or too often! Cabbage leaves are known to affect milk supply and can actually be used to dry you up when you decide to wean your baby. The recommendation I saw the most was to keep them on for 15-minute increments up to 3 times a day.
15. Harness the power of Vitamin C
One way to help fight any kind of infection is to support your immune system by loading your body with Vitamin C. Of course, whole food options are best, but you can always take a Vitamin C supplement or drink some Emergen-C!
16. Take probiotics
If you don’t have any probiotics on hand or don’t want to wait to get some, just eat lots of fermented foods and yogurt! Even just a little extra dose of good bacteria can’t hurt.
17. Take fermented cod liver oil
Apparently, fermented cod liver oil is amazing for your overall health and wellness and can also be used to help support your immune system during a bought of mastitis. This might not be a quick fix but it can help in the long run and definitely worth giving try.
18. Apply a washcloth dipped in hot herbal tea like chamomile, ginger, marshmallow root, slippery elm and burdock root.
If you have chamomile, ginger, marshmallow root, slippery elm or burdock root tea, try creating a wet hot compress using the tea and applying it to the infected breast. I didn’t find this suggested treatment until I started doing research for this post and I really wish I had. It’s so easy to do and seems like it would really give some relief.
19. Take an Echinacea Root tincture
Everyone knows that taking Echinacea or drinking some Echinacea tea is a go-to remedy when you have a cold because it helps support the immune system.
Well, when you need a super dose of Echinacea you can take something called an Echinacea Tincture. An Echinacea Tincture is basically a concentrated liquid form of Echinacea. Put a couple of drops into some warm water and drink up!
20. Use apple cider vinegar internally and externally
Apple cider vinegar is anti-inflammatory and antibacterial and can help to fight infection. You can use it to help cure mastitis both internally and externally.
If you want to use it internally, mix 1 tablespoon of raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar into one cup of warm water, add little honey, and drink it up to three times a day.
If you want to use it externally, mix a little apple cider vinegar and warm water, apply the solution directly to your infected breast and leave it on for 15 minutes. You can do this up to 3 times a day.
21. Drink some fenugreek tea
Fenugreek seeds are known to help stimulate the milk-producing glands, as well as help, treat inflammation and infection. Fenugreek tea is a gentle way to get some fenugreek into your system without having to take a more potent supplement.
22. Apply aloe vera gel to infected breast
Aloe vera has pain relieving properties and it can provide some relief if you apply aloe vera gel directly to the infected breast. You can leave it on your skin for as long as you want, but just remember to wash it off before feeding your baby.
23. Stuff your bra with potatoes
I searched the internet for answers as to why potatoes can help fight infection and I found nothing. However, I found numerous mothers who said putting wet, cold, potatoes in their bra provided pain relief and helped with swelling. I think when you are in pain anything is worth trying! Even wet, cold potatoes.
24. Message the infected breast using Tea Tree, Lavender, Oregano, Basil, or Frankincense essential oils
Essential oils are miracle workers and using them for treating mastitis is no exception. Mix a couple drops of one or more of the essential oils listed above into some coconut oil or olive oil and massage your breast from the outside in. Once again, don’t forget to completely wash off all oily residue before feeding your baby. ( If you need some essential oils, click here! )
You got this, mama!
Before you go straight to antibiotics, try some of these all natural remedies to cure mastitis and I promise you’ll be happy you waited.
But please remember, listen to your body! If you feel like your symptoms are getting worse after 24-hours it’s time to go see a doctor.
If you are suffering from mastitis as you read this, I am so very sorry and I feel your pain. But I promise this will pass! Get lots of rest, take care of yourself and accept help when its offered. You got this mama!