Friday, January 31, 2014

Treating Mastitis Naturally

Mastitis. It's a word dreaded by every breastfeeding mother. Some are lucky to never know mastitis on such intimate terms. Yet others, such as myself, become way more familiar with mastitis than we could ever hope and imagine to be possible.

In between my baby's first and second week of life, I developed mastitis. It was brutal and excruciatingly difficult. Here I was still adjusting to being a mother, learning to breastfeed, and figuring out the nuances of a newborn. Then, for fun, let's throw in the gift of mastitis. Had it not been for my extremely supportive husband and a wonderful doctor who understood my desire to avoid antibiotics at all costs, I might not be where I am today. Nora is 11 months old and going strong with nursing!

I'm certain my mastitis was brought on by a combination of my oversupply and Nora's tongue and lip ties, which unfortunately went undiagnosed until she was 11 weeks.  I cannot stress enough the importance of draining the breast in the early weeks! Because I had an oversupply and Nora had transfer issues, she always got enough milk but didn't take enough out (if that makes any sense).

When I realized what was going on, I started gathering as much information as I could about natural treatments. Because Nora was still so young, the absolute last thing I wanted was to take antibiotics. Her gut flora was still developing and passing antibiotics to her through my milk could wreak havoc on her system for a long time. Aside from that, antibiotic use can perpetuate thrush in mother and baby, and I certainly didn't need any more setbacks!

I kept in contact with my OB's office so they could advise me if I needed to wave the white flag and use conventional medicine. My fever did get pretty high a few times (up to 103.4) but a fever is the body's way of fighting infection and doesn't always need to be shut down. The most difficult part was the extreme pain in my breasts and feeling so exhausted. However, I'm slightly stubborn (huge understatement) so I knew I could get through it. Obviously everyone needs to do what they feel comfortable with, but if you feel strongly about avoiding antibiotics, here is what worked for me.

First of all, do nothing, and I mean literally nothing, except nurse your baby, eat, and stay hydrated! Consider yourself on bedrest. You will need help during this time as someone will need to bring everything to you. Don't get out of bed for anything except going to the bathroom. Rest, rest, rest! Every time you put baby to the breast, use slow massaging motions to help move the milk and the clog out. It will probably be pretty uncomfortable, but it will help work it out. Get yourself a pair of Earth Mama Angel Baby Booby Tubes. These things are indispensable! Pop them in the microwave for a few seconds for instant, heated relief. These can help with letdown and allowing the milk to flow better, which will ease the clog. Some women also find relief from alternating hot and cold compresses. Keep one tube in the freezer and one ready to go in the microwave.

The following can be taken internally to help your immune system fight off the mastitis:

  • Raw apple cider vinegar - A tablespoon or two in about a quart of water. You can add a little raw honey if the taste is too strong for you. Add a splash of raw ACV every time you (or rather someone else!) refill your water glass.
  • Echinacea - Add 30-40 drops to your water, three times a day. 
  • Vitamin C - Taking a megadose of Vitamin C will help boost your system in conjunction with the other vitamins and supplements listed. 
  • Raw garlic - Cut 2-5 cloves of garlic into pieces and swallow like a pill. I wasn't able to use this method since I'm awful at swallowing pills, but garlic has some wonderful healing properties. If you can't stomach swallowing the garlic, try eating some food with lots of fresh garlic. 
You can find some additional information and the protocols I followed here and here. Let me reiterate that I AM NOT a medical professional and this is simply a method I used to help beat mastitis. This isn't a substitute for keeping in touch with your healthcare provider and using your best judgment. Letting mastitis continue for too long without getting better can result in serious infection that can lead to abscess. 

This post contains affiliate links. That means I recommend super great products that I use anyway, and may get a small commission for referring you. If you choose to purchase from my link, I greatly appreciate it!

Snuggling with my nursling

1 comment:

  1. Andrea I love these ideas. I had a few disposable diapers from the hospital so I microwaved some water and poured it into those. They were the perfect sized warm compresses for my enormous jugs, lol!