There is no simpler way to put it, mastitis is just plain nasty! The painful symptoms can make it difficult to feed your baby, which can be stressful, as well as physically and emotionally draining for mum especially during the early days when you are adjusting to your new life as a parent. To address mastitis the saying goes “rest the mother, not the breast” with this post I’d like to explore what ‘else’ mothers can do to tackle mastitis.
Mastitis (inflammation of the milk ducts) is usually the result of a blocked milk duct that hasn’t cleared and the banked up milk can then enter the surrounding breast tissue creating inflammation and painfully engorged breasts. An infection may or may not be present but they hurt all the same.
In fact, if you have breastfed your children and never experienced mastitis then you are one of the rare, lucky few as most mothers, at some point have experienced this god awful, tender boobie nightmare!
Also known as ‘milk fever’ mastitis is reportedly the direct outcome of two scenarios:
1. A troublesome breast feeding technique that results in sufficient drainage of the breast
2. The mother’s immune system is taxed resulting in the body being less capable of fighting off mild infections which result in an inflammatory response of the milk ducts.
The breast will feel sore like it is with a blocked duct but worse. It is usually red and swollen, hot and painful. The skin may be shiny and there may be red streaks. Some mothers do not have any early signs of a blocked duct most women feel tired and run down like they are getting the flu. Typically they’ll experience shivers and aches.
Self Care for Mastitis:
1. If your breast is hard and very tender let your baby completely drain the breast (stroking downwards on your ducts as they drink). Offer this breast first each feed until the ducts are completely drained.
2. Have a hot shower. Run hot water onto your breast tissue and massage your breast in a downward motion towards your nipple. This will help to express away some of the excess milk pressure.
3. Plan a day of rest, ideally two if you can get it. Put yourself to bed and catch up on some sleep.
4. Book a chiropractic adjustment; the nervous system and immune system are intricately connected. Adjustments are safe and they work to effectively enhance natural immunity.
5. Increase your water intake.
6. Eat plenty of garlic and dose yourself with vitamins such as Vitamin C, Zinc and a good all-rounder such as a multi-vitamin.
7. Eat lots of wholesome foods. Homemade soups, casseroles, steamed veggies, clean proteins, salads and fruits. Steer clear of refined foods.
8. Reduce your intake of full cream dairy products as they tend to contribute to lymphatic congestion.
9. Avoid caffeine as it can increase breast tenderness.
10. The following herbs utilized as teas, tinctures, tablets or capsules can assist with breast tenderness:
- Calendula ointment
- Feverfew (as a tea)
- Golden Seal (orally or as an ointment)
11. Homeopathics that may be beneficial for treatment of mastitis symptoms include:
- Belladonna 6c — for hot, red, swollen, throbbing breasts accompanied by a fever. This homeopathic is particularly useful on the first day when your milk comes in to ease engorged breasts.
- Bryonia 6c or 30c — for hot, hard, painful breasts that are sensitive to touch.
- Helonias 6c — for swollen breasts with extremely sensitive nipples.
- Silicea 6c or 30c — for cracked nipples.
11. Use tissue salts. Calc Phos and Calc Sulph may also be beneficial.
For more information on how to tackle symptoms of Mastitis please refer to my Breastfeeding eBook.
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Dr Jennifer Barham-Floreani
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1. Aust Breastfeeding Association. (2001). Breast Feeding Confidence. [Online/Brochure]. Available: www.breastfeeding.asn.au .
2. Cooper D. Your Baby, Your Way. Milsons Point: Random House; 1999.
3. Hatherly P. Harris K. Breastfeeding Homeopathy some Motherly Tips. Homeopathic Society. Informed Choice:Vol 2(2); 2004.