A friend and reader recently sent in,
I’ve heard you say that you’ve had mastitis a couple of times now. Will you post about how you treated it and how you avoided antibiotics? This is my second time to have it, and it’s AWFUL! I really want to avoid antibiotics this round, but I don’t know what to do!
Oh girl, I have had mastitis! And I feel your pain. I honestly don’t know that I have ever experienced a worse sickness. Stomach bug included. In my opinion, it’s flu times a million! I know that everyone’s experience with it is a little bit different, so let me first tell you mine.
With my first child, I did not get mastitis until she was 13 months and I was weaning her! (What the what!? I thought you were only supposed to get mastitis when your milk was first coming in. Yep, I thought so too.) I basically had dropped a feed and hadn’t pumped at all. (Lesson learned.) Around 8 PM I was freezing cold and just couldn’t warm up. I realized something was wrong when I had on a heavy sweater and a huge blanket and everyone around me was saying they weren’t cold at all. I ended up in my bed with sweats on and about 10 blankets on top of me and still shivering. It suddenly occurred to me that one of my breasts seemed really full. (Remember, my child was 13 months! I wasn’t even thinking mastitis.) I realized I had a clog and quickly put two and two together. Not before vomiting though…
I began pumping and massaging like crazy! I took a hot shower and just kept on massaging until I didn’t feel a milk lump anymore. I may have even woken up my child to eat. Once I felt the clog was gone and I had done all I could, I went to sleep and figured I would try my best to sleep it off. I woke up at 2 AM and felt totally normal. I knew that meant that I had gotten the clog out. I nursed like crazy the next day and took a break from weaning for awhile.
Almost Episode 2:
When my second baby was 3 weeks old, I got a clogged duct. That whole first month is such a blur that I don’t even remember much about it except that I started feeling nauseous and cold all over again. And once you’ve had mastitis, you don’t forget that pain. Thankfully with some massaging and lots of nursing, the clog came out before things really got bad. So technically I never got mastitis here. I know that if I had gone any longer though, I would not have been so lucky.
This one was the worst of all. When Adeline was 5 weeks old, the aches, chills, fever, and nausea came up again and quick. I found the clog and tried desperately to work it out, but it was too late. I had been trying to get Adeline on a schedule (I’m totally not harsh about it, but the snacking was driving me crazy), and she had been responding really well to it. But sorta like the weaning with her sister, I was not as careful about it as I should have been. I definitely should have been pumping. This round I was super sick for a day and a half. My husband actually had to stay home and watch the girls because I was incapable. A day and a half may not sound like long (and really in the realm of mastitis, it isn’t.. some people have it for a week), but any amount of time in such excruciating pain and nausea is awful!
As far as treatment, I have come a loooong way in natural remedies since my first mastitis episode. Though I came out antibiotic-free, I would have been much more aggressive with natural remedies now that I know more. So this last round, I actually implemented a lot of natural remedies, and that’s what I am going to share with you.
There are several factors that can trigger mastitis, and therefore there is a lot that can be done to prevent it!
- Wear loose fitting clothing. Do not wear a nursing bra that is too tight.
- Feed on demand. OR if you do a loose schedule, be slow to embrace it, and even after a routine is established, be flexible! I am constantly amazed at how in tune my body is with my child’s needs. Even random needs.
- Pump as needed.
- Maintain a healthy diet. And drink lots of water.
- Allow yourself to relax and rest. (Easier said than done, right? No wonder most cases of mastitis occur during those first few weeks… exhaustion and the fact that your body hasn’t regulated the milk production.)
- Make sure your baby has a good latch. See a lactation consultant if you need to. (They’re amazing! If you find a good one, keep her number in your phone for the rest of your child-bearing life!)
- If you have recurrent mastitis, look into taking lecithin. After my mastitis scare and then actual sickness, just two weeks apart, I realized that I needed to be taking lecithin to help keep my milk slick and flowing smoothly in the ducts. Eggs are a great source of lecithin. However, having chickens, we eat a large amount of eggs, and clearly that amount of eggs was not cutting it for me. I knew I needed a supplement. Soy lecithin is the easiest form to find. However, I think soy is awful for you, so I was adamant about avoiding taking soy lecithin. That’s when I found (referral link) sunflower lecithin on Amazon. (I’m required to let you know that’s a referral link. I would not send you there if I didn’t believe in it.) I take 3 pills per day. Now almost every time I get a clogged duct, I immediately realize I forgot to take those pills. Clearly my body needs that lecithin.
Now on to treatment. So you have mastitis and want to avoid antibiotics. What can you do? Do EVERYTHING you can to get that clog out! Getting the clog out will help your body to heal faster and push the infection out of your system! Here are some ideas of ways to work that clog out…
- Massage your breast where the clogged duct is. Massage towards the nipple (Source). Massage both when you are nursing and not.
- Take a hot shower, as hot as you can stand.
- Put a hot compress on the site of the clog. A friend let me borrow one (affiliate link) like this one, and it was a life saver! It stayed super hot for hours!! Use the compress (and or the shower) immediately before nursing to help let down milk.
- Let your baby nurse as much as she will. If she refuses, pump like crazy.
- When you nurse, try to have your baby’s chin pointed in the direction of the clog. This may put you in odd positions, but whatever it takes.
Once the clog is out, you are not in the clear. In fact, there’s a good chance you will still feel sick. The infection is still present. Your body still needs to heal! Here are some remedies that helped me…
- Ingest raw garlic. (I cut up the cloves and take them like pills.) Garlic is an antimicrobial that helps your body to fight off infection. It is a natural antibiotic. I took 2-3 cloves three times a day. I basically treated the garlic like it was a prescribed medicine. I continued to take this amount of garlic for a week after my symptoms passed.
- Take your Vitamin C. I took 3-4 packets of Emergen-C per day while symptoms persisted.
- Rub lavender and melaleuca essential oils on the breast, being careful to avoid the nipple. The lavender relieves pain, while the melaleuca fights infection.
- I also took a capsule of oil of oregano. If you have had milk supply issues in the past, I would use it sparingly. I took one capsule, and I have not had supply issues in my time breastfeeding either of my girls. Oregano is known for killing bacteria (source).
- Drink lots of water to flush your system.
- Rest as much as possible! I cannot stress this enough. You really need to recruit someone to come help take car of your kiddos and you.
- Take 1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar (Bragg’s brand, or a brand with “the mother” in it) mixed with 1 cup water. You can also mix honey or juice with it if that helps the taste. Just ingest the apple cider vinegar in some form. Apple cider vinegar is said to fight infections and kill bacteria. Normally I do this once a day, but I would take this a couple of times a day when sick.
- In addition to the above, take a good probiotic. Make sure you are doing everything you can to help your body fight off infection and heal.
Disclaimer: Please, please do not hear me saying not to get antibiotics. I am not a medical professional. Each case of mastitis is different, and you may legitimately need them to make the infection go away. Talk to your doctor about the proper course of action for you. For what it’s worth, Kelly Mom recommends antibiotics if you have not seen improvement within 12-24 hours.
When I was sick, I found many awesome blog posts and articles that helped me. Here are a few…
Have you battled mastitis? What treatments worked for you?