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 Probiotics 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!
Discussion (122 Comments)
I had mastitis when breastfeeding both my babies due to a massive oversupply of milk. I found that garlic really put the babies off the milk so in my case made it worse! I found ice to be the best thing and the best tip I got was to soak a couple of clean breast pads in water and freeze. That way you can just tuck them in your bra as needed! Also sage tea to slow milk supply.
I had recurring mastitis with both my boys. Unfortunately I ended up on antibiotics most of the time because I was pumping not nursing. My first son didn’t latch on till he was 3 months old and my second son was early and in the nicu for a month. When I was able to heal without antibiotics it was always the hot shower and deep deep tissue massage to the affected area while in the shower. I would get out of the shower and pump and almost always I would get relief. For those that have never had it, your lucky. I’ve had it 5 or 6 times with 3 of those times having the high fever, body aches, and chills. Yuck. The things we go through for our precious little ones.
I had mastitis a few months ago and did pretty much exactly the same things as you describe here. I find especially the garlic method VERY effective! Yay for natural remedies!
Never had Mastitis but did have the plugged duct. MW recommended all these things plus Emergen-C, Echinacea tincture, and grated raw potato poultice. I was over it in three days, thank God!
Soy lethicin and soaking my Epsom salts worked wonders for me!
I have used heat/cold in combination with massage and extra nursing sessions to fight mastitis. I have also found that if there is an extended period of time that baby won’t be nursing (like a long car ride) that if I hand express some milk from my breasts every few hours it take the pressure off an helps to prevent a blockage & mastitis.
I would not recommend cabbage leaves. It can dry up your milk supply. This happened to me personally. Please remove this information from your site, because it can be misleading and their is a lot of misinformation about it on the internet. Thanks.
Katie - Wellness Mama
I will add a note by that part, but I didn’t have any adverse reaction to it and I think it could be beneficial for many people…
It is possible that milk drying up while using the cabbage leaves was a coincidence. My thinking about be that not drinking enough water or not nursing enough (especially if the breast is extremely painful, thus discouraging nursing) would be more of a contributing factor to milk drying up than cabbage leaves placed on the skin.
*my thinking ABOUT THAT would be….
My lactation consultant recommended cabbage leaves to dry up breast milk and to help with weaning
Add dandelion leaf, it promotes lactation in all land mammals, if using cabbage leaf
I have committed to weening my 2.5 year old as of today. I have had mastitis in the past and want to avoid getting it again. I am currently doing cabbage, cold compress, rubbing sage essential oil, drinking sage tea and peppermint tea. Is there anything else I can do to make this process easier? I am engorged and in pain I also feel a clogged duct… We were down to 2-3 feedings a day going down to less was not happening. I know ideally working my way down to 1-0 would have been beneficial but again it was not doable for us. Any additional tips are greatly appreciated.
I’m so glad to have seen that cabbage leaves dry up milk, cuz my youngest baby is 19 yrs old !
I have mastitis, and am going the natural route, along with the antibiotic.
I’ve “got my cabbage leaves on”…heehee…
I drank my pineapple juice,
am using garlic,
drank peppermint tea, and will have the sea salt each morning, till I’m better..
I’m grateful for this post, and plan to keep in touch with this website !
Oh dear. Don’t drink pineapple juice and peppermint tea around the same time.
My stomach is sick.
glad you’re better! Have you switched Vitamin C and probiotic brands permanently? I started purchasing, through your affiliate links, the vitamin c powder from NOW about a year ago. And I also purchased the other probiotics – Bio-Kult you have talked about many times. Why the changes to the brands listed in this article?
Katie - Wellness Mama
The ones I listed are still great options, but I’ve found these new ones that seem slightly better but either option is good 🙂
if you was a doctor you’d know that ” … itis …” refers to infection thus if one has a breast infection and uses suckling or nursing as part of mothers’ cure isn’t the baby drinking infected milk?
Katie - Wellness Mama
Yes, but it is generally considered safe and every doctor and midwife I’ve ever talked to says that it is safe for baby to consume this milk and important for mom to recover. Here is an article from someone who is a doctor if you need an MD behind the name to believe something: https://www.askdrsears.com/topics/feeding-eating/breastfeeding/common-problems/mastitis
I had a very painful case of mastitis while nursing (because of not nursing frequently enough I believe) and it was relieved by extra suckling. The biggest trick to it though was to position the baby where the lump (clogged duct) was, with the baby’s chin facing the lump. For instance, lump on bottom of breast, baby held in vertical position. Although a little painful during, the nursing in this way stripped the clogged duct and provided almost instant relief. It was recommended by a trusted midwife, and the only thing that helped me.
These tips were all very helpful. Thank you for sharing 🙂 I’m feeling much better already.
That is a myth, thankfully!
I was told by my doctor that it doesn’t infect the milk.
Wellness Mama, I want to thank you. I found this article after 24 hrs of chils, night sweats and 103 degree fevers. I knew it was mastitis because I had while breastfeeding my 2 oldest daughters. So this third time I researched for hone remedies. I used just 5 of your 9 remedies and in 48 hours felt relief and in 72 hours I was free of the mastitis. I did the resting and nursing frequently, plus pumping if I felt my baby was too full to nurse at the moment. Also deep tissues massage, looots of water, 2000mg Vitamin C every day, Hot and Cold breast pearls (Lanisoh Thera-Pearl Breast Therapy, bought them at walmart for 14 dollars I believe). Thank you so much for your advice. This mama is a happy mama now 🙂
I’m so glad you feel better!
I’ve struggled with recurring plugged ducts and also with mastitis twice. I’ve been doing SO many of these natural remedies and then some (garlic, probiotics, vitamin C, oil of oregano, lecithin, ibuprofen, turmeric, heat, massage, coconut oil mixed with lavender essential oil topically, garlic oil topically, cabbage leaf in bra, potato slices in bra, cold packs, rest, water)
FINALLY FOUND WHAT I WAS MISSING!
A tincture by Wish Garden called HAPPY DUCTS!! I was specifically looking for poke root at Whole Foods, which is supposed to be really effective in treating plugged ducts. They didn’t have it plain, but they had this with poke root in it. I’m SO glad I found it! My condition has been noticeably improving since taking this for 24 hours now. Its herbal ingredients are as follows: Usnea lichen, Elder flower, Bee Propolis, Yarrow aerials, Baptisia root, Boneset aerials, Hops strobile, Echinacea root, Red root, & Poke root. Just wanted to share so maybe others can suffer less & heal faster!
Thank you!!! I went and got the suggested tincture. Cleared my blocked ducts in 12 hours.
Can you tell me how much Vitamin C is in one of these capsules?
Oh man, yes! I have had the 105 degree fever dreadful mastitis, also while on vacation. I ended up taking antibiotics 🙁 and pounding water and vitamin c. It still took about 48 hours for me to become functional, I would definitely try to avoid antibiotics next time.
I had Mastitis when nursing my second child, twice. What I want to say is i recently developed cancer in the breast that had the mastitis and believe that the damaged cells from the infection were attacked by the cancer cells, since they were already damaged and at risk. I am not a doctor either, but I know my body. Just a reminder that you should get some sort of breast checking done and self-exams are important too. That was the sickest I have ever been when I had Mastitis, not fun, glad you’re better.
Thank you for your comment and sharing your experience. I had mastitis while nursing my second child and 30 years later had ductal carcinoma in that same area. I never put the 2 together before.
I came here for information on a plugged duct and now I have another reason to keep me awake at night. Mastitis connected to cancer? The sharing is wonderful, but this just scared the Dickens out of me as I have had a few plugged ducts with my second child. Wellness mama, maybe you should do a post on the pursuit of health slowly and insidiously morphing into hypochondria and burgeoning anxiety! I am not joking. I know information is power, but sometimes I feel like all the web searching in the pursuit of health for myself and my family just creates more fear and anxiety than empowerment and peace. Is it just me or does anyone else struggle with this?
Katie - Wellness Mama
I completely understand what you are saying… I”ve had to learn to let a lot of it go and just focus on the present without getting too stressed out (easier said than done, I know).
I know this post is from April, but I just wanted to share that there has been no causal relationship between women who develop mastitis from breastfeeding to breast cancer. There have been studies on this, and studies have shown that women who develop nonpuerperal-mastitis (not related to pregnancy or breastfeeding) or women with a family history of BC are at a higher risk of developing breast cancer. The risk of breast cancer is still significantly lower in women who breastfeed with no increase in lifetime risk of having had multiple episodes of mastitis. Just thought I’d share since I know it can be scary thinking about a possible link between mastitis and BC when developing mastitis is painful enough as it is.
I think that it is possible for damaged cells to become cancerous also. My sister died from breast cancer which was discovered only a couple of months after she was hit in the breast by a piece of lumber. (she worked in a mill at the time). I was kicked in the breast by a colt and developed breast cancer a few months later in exactly the same place where the little hoof hit my breast. I think it is important to protect our breasts from injury if possible and of course self breast exams are important every month.