A recent 18 hour car ride with all five children (yes, we might be crazy) left me with a case of mastitis. The baby was pretty happy in the car and when the kids are happy, we drive.
The first night, I attributed the tired feeling to altitude sickness and the tightness to not nursing all day, so I went to sleep early. The next morning, I knew something was wrong. That afternoon, I had a large lump forming in my breast, a classic sign of a clogged milk duct. Later I spiked a 104 fever (a sign of my immune system fighting infection). I completely understand (and sympathize) with how awful these types of infections are!
I was 1,300 miles from home and my doctor & midwife, and without most of the remedies I would have on hand at home. I wanted to avoid antibiotics if possible, though really bad cases of mastitis can definitely warrant antibiotics (which are a better option than developing an abscess).
I did what I usually do: research like crazy and try any natural remedies that I can while nursing. Four days later and the lump is gone and I don’t have any remaining symptoms. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and I could probably have avoided it if I had simply nursed the baby more often.
Since I did get mastitis and had the chance to try a lot of different remedies, these are the ones that worked for me:
Natural Remedies for Mastitis
- Rest and Constant Nursing: I’ve heard lactation consultants say that mastitis can be a sign that you are pushing it too hard and need to rest or that you’ve gone too long without nursing. The first step I took when I realized I had mastitis was to go to bed and nurse the baby constantly to keep things flowing through the clogged duct.
- Heat and Cold: I found that heat and cold were both useful for helping with the pain. I would apply heat for 15-30 minutes before nursing to help loosen the blockage in the duct and make nursing easier. Then, I’d apply ice after nursing for 15-3o minutes to bring the swelling down. I also took hot baths with epsom salts.
- Massage: Sounds strange, but every source I’ve seen touts the benefits of massaging the clogged duct to help release the blockage. I massaged the duct in small circles while baby was nursing.
- Lots of Water: Drinking water is extremely important when fighting mastitis. I kept a quart of water near me at all times and sipped constantly to keep my milk supply up and help my body fight the infection.
- Raw Garlic: Garlic isn’t the best for baby’s tummy, but it does wonders for infections. I could get organic garlic at the store here, so I took a few cloves a day. I’ve always done this when I get a bad infection or illness and I always get better in a day or so. The easiest way I’ve found to consume this is to finely mince the garlic and then scoop small amounts up with a spoon, put in my mouth and quickly chase with some water.
- Cabbage Leaves: I remembered this suggestion from the lactation consultant in the hospital after I’d had one of our kids. I don’t know if it helped with the infection but it felt great on the infected duct and it certainly didn’t hurt. To use this remedy: put a cold cabbage leaf directly on the breast over the site of the infected duct. Change every hour as needed. (NOTE: Some women notice a decrease in milk supply from using cabbage leaves, so be careful with this remedy)
- Vitamin C: I always bring Vitamin C when we travel so thankfully I had this on hand. I took 4 capsules every four hours until the infection was gone.
- Probiotics: I had probiotics with me as well, so after the infection started to fade, I took large doses of probiotics to help keep my immune system strong. I took 3 capsules of this probiotic twice a day and will continue to for a week before going back to normal dose.
- Fermented Cod Liver Oil: Another supplement that I always have with me. I took 1 teaspoon of the cinnamon fermented cod liver oil gel twice a day during the infection.
The first day I realized I had mastitis, I felt awful. I spiked a high fever and had chills and muscle aches like the flu. Within 24 hours of this protocol, the fever had broken and I felt MUCH better.
After 48 hours, all that remained was a small painful lump, and by three days out I was back to normal.
Mastitis can be a serious infection and can lead to more serious problems. Not every case will be helped with natural remedies. I’m not a doctor and don’t play one on the internet. If you have symptoms that get worse or don’t go away, see a medical professional.
Ever had mastitis? How did you get rid of it? Share below!