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)
Thank you so much for this post. I had my first encounter with mastitis last week. It came on in about 2 hours. I had to go to the ER and have antibiotics (my BP was 80/40 and my hands/feet were going numb). Now that I know what to do, if it starts I can try these remedies first. I really try to avoid antibiotics! Thank you!!!
Oh man… I had clogged ducts all the time the first month of nursing my baby! I got mastitis only once, fortunately. My midwife told me to use castor oil compresses with heat, to keep massaging it, and to nurse as often as possible. I also took oregano oil capsules and tons of Vitamin C. I felt terrible for two days (like the flu) but it subsided on its own, and I was grateful to avoid the antibiotics.
I had mastitis several times with my 2nd child and actually ending up having to have surgery to remove a painful lump where the infection crystallized into a sharp, pointy lump. It was so bad a couple of times, I had red streaks coming up on the breast. I wish I had this information 20 years ago! In hindsight, my naturopathic doctor felt like the first pregnancy took all the nutrition from my body and weakened my immune system. I’ve never been the same physically and developed fibromyalgia by the time my 2nd child was 2 or 3. I would encourage anyone who is pregnant or nursing to do everything they can to boost their immune system. I was dealing with 2 young children in diapers and the 2nd one was quite sick. I neglected my health and grabbed snacks when I could, instead of focusing on good, healthy food. At the time I didn’t have the energy to cook (much less clean!) Hindsight is 20/20 and there are no do-overs, so go into pregnancy healthy with a pumped up immune system and do what you can to stay healthy while nursing.
I had similar situation with my first pregnancy depleting my body of nutritients as I did not know I had Lyme disease 24 years ago; after many doctors claiming I was depressed or exhausted from having 3 children ages 3 and under, I was labeled with thyroid issues, adrenal exhaustion, chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia along with myocafacial issues.
Every one of my 7 pregnancy resulted in breast infections at least once but I was able to beat them sometimes using the recommended natural ideas shared here plus massage at the area of pain under a hot shower (great relief!!) but never cabbage leaves which dried up milk in every mom I’ve known. Occasionally, the infection shows up when I was pregnant but still nursing a little one; with 15 pregnancies over 22 years, it tends to get you run down.
Drink, rest, nurse, rest and watch for streaks which is indicative of an infection which needs antibiotics.
I have had mastitis many times with three children and an organic, raw, potato grated and placed directly on the sore, red, inflamed area has worked every time. Once the potato dries out take it off and repeat as necessary. Wear an old bra, the potato will turn it grey. I first read about the potato cure in the book Childbearing Year by Susan Weed.
I’m happy you feel better. Mastitis is the worst.
Ladies, about the garlic: this is what I do for mastitis or any infection. (Works great for kids too) Smash it up and either encapsulate it or make garlic socks (mix with coconut oil or it will burn your skin). I can’t handle the taste but must get it into my bloodstream.
Also, about the overabundant supply which can contribute to mastitis, the hormone LHT regulates anterior milk supply. If you can get a holistic doctor to balance it with biofeedback or homeopathy, the supply will calm down. Mine is always crazy massive amounts of milk, which I’m so thankful for, but must stay on top of or mastitis is always around the corner.
Another simple trick I learned is to position the baby’s head so that his or her mouth is pointing in the direction of the infected area. This directs the strongest suck towards the clog. It did wonders for me and was such a simple remedy.
I’ve had mastitis 3 times!! It is soo terrible, the first time was the absolute worst! However I did lots of research and decided to try out poke root. The next 2 times I felt mastitis coming on I took the poke root and within 12 hours it went away! Magic for me and so happy I found it! ( also tried to rest up! Ate garlic and elderberry syrup to try to boost my immune system) 🙂
Great remedies! Just a word on the cabbage leaves…they can decrease milk supply (pretty rapidly in some women).
Thanks for the information. I have had mastitis four times in a year, I hope it will not come back, but if it does I know what to do! Thank you and lots of blessings to you and your family.
I just had mastitis last week. I took raw garlic, soaked in epsom salt bath, massaged the area while nursing and applied young living’s Melrose oil and warm compress over the plugged duct and was better in a couple days. I’ve had mastitis several times unfortunatey and I think taking the raw garlic is what really helps the most.