Oh, mastitis, how I don’t love thee.
If you don’t know what mastitis is, just image that you came down with a very sudden and really bad cold. And then a train hit you. Really.
You get achy all over, a splitting headache, a fever, plus you have a hot and sore plugged milk duct that is swollen and hard.
This is an unfortunate reality for many breastfeeding moms, especially during the newborn stage when your milk supply is still regulating itself. When you are busy being a mom, mastitis is one of the last things you want to deal with. This bacterial infection is not something you want to leave untreated. Moreover, I don’t know anyone who would even consider leaving it be because you seriously feel horrible.
The conventional treatment includes a round of antibiotics, which though they can be life-saving in some situations, decimate the microbiome, which can lead to other illnesses and chronic conditions down the road. Personally, I always opt to avoid antibiotics whenever possible to help preserve the microbiota that make up my immune system. When it comes to mastitis, I bring out my arsenal of remedies as soon as it hits. This way I can kick the infection as quickly as possible and get back to being mama.
My Mastitis Protocol
During the first couple of weeks postpartum, I ended up with mastitis twice. Thankfully, using protocol below helped me recover in less than 24-hours without a trip to the doctor’s office. Remember that the key is to start a healing protocol as soon as you notice the first symptom.
- Hot shower and massage – Heat and massage can help break up the clog, so take a hot shower or bath while you massage the area to bring faster relief. The massage will likely be painful, but the heat of the shower can help with that as well. Make sure to massage toward the nipple since that is the direction you want the milk to go!
- Nurse, nurse, and then nurse some more – Nothing cleans out a clogged milk duct like a breastfeeding baby. If you pump, add that in as well. Try to nurse with your child’s chin toward the direction of the clog to help kneed it out. Dangle feeding can also be beneficial since gravity helps move the milk toward the nipple.
- High doses of whole food vitamin C – This is something I do for most infections, as our bodies use up more vitamin C when our immune systems are activated. I usually take 2-4x the typical dose every 3 to 4 hours until I feel relief. You’ll know if you have taken too much because you will end up with loose stools. Always look for food-based vitamins, and stay away from anything that says ascorbic acid on the label. This is the synthetic form of vitamin C. I have used these capsules and this camu camu powder with good results. The camu camu fruit contains the highest concentrations of vitamin C of any food known to man.
- Mullein and lobelia fomentations – Mullein and lobelia are an amazing combination of herbs to use for mastitis. If you don’t have lobelia, mullein can be used with good results alone. To make a fomentation, first make a tea with 3 parts mullein and 1 part lobelia. Next soak a cotton or flannel cloth in the tea once it has cooled enough to still be hot but not scalding. Wring out the cloth so that it is not dripping, and place the cloth over the infected area. You can keep this on as long as you would like, even overnight if possible. You may want to wrap it to keep the heat and moisture in (and not all over your clothes). This oil can be used in place of the tea in a pinch. If you make the tea, don’t forget to drink some of the tea to speed up the healing process as well!
If you still are not feeling well…
In cases where it has been more than 24-hours and you are still miserable, you may want to consider consulting with your healthcare professional. If you do end up taking an antibiotic, be sure to incorporate more healthy bacteria into your life and take other steps to boost your immune system and rebuild your microbiome. Your baby needs you feeling your best today but tomorrow and the next day as well.
Mastitis can be a real (and literal) pain, but you are absolutely stronger than this bacterial infection!
Have you ever had mastitis? What steps did you take to heal?