If you’re dealing with mastitis, you know it can be super painful and uncomfortable and you’ll want to remedy it as soon as possible. Most common in those who breastfeed, mastitis often develops due to a clogged milk duct and results in hot, swollen and painful breasts. It’s no fun to deal with, but fortunately there are natural mastitis remedies to help you feel better as quickly as possible.
What is Mastitis?
Mastitis is an inflammation that develops in breast tissue that sometimes becomes an infection. The breast becomes swollen, hot and painful and although it’s most common in those who breastfeed, it can also occur in those who aren’t nursing. Mastitis often occurs in the first 6 to 12 weeks of breastfeeding and you’re more likely to get mastitis if you have breast implants, diabetes, eczema, a nipple piercing, if you smoke or if you have nicks in the skin from plucking or shaving chest hairs. Mastitis usually only affects one breast at a time and there are 2 different types of mastitis:
Lactation: This type of infection affects those who breastfeed. It’s the most common and is also called puerperal mastitis.
Periductal: Those who are menopausal and postmenopausal as well as smokers are prone to periductal mastitis. This occurs when milk ducts thicken and is also called mammary duct ectasia.
What Causes Mastitis?
The two main causes of mastitis are:
1. Clogged milk ducts: If a breast doesn’t completely empty at feedings, one of your ducts can become blocked.
2. Germs on the skin or in your baby’s mouth: These bacteria can enter breast tissue through a milk duct or crack in the skin.
Mastitis can also occur due to:
- Pressure on the breast
- Excessive stress
- Weaning too quickly
There are also certain factors that can increase the risk of developing mastitis in those who breastfeed:
- Cracked, sore nipples
- Improper latching or only using one position to breastfeed
- Wearing tight fitting bras that restrict milk flow
9 Mastitis Signs and Symptoms
1. Breast tenderness and warmth to the touch
2. Breast swelling
3. Thickening of breast tissue, or a breast lump
4. Continuous pain or burning sensation, or while breastfeeding
5. Nipple discharge
6. Skin redness
7. Fever and chills
8. Nausea and vomiting
When to See a Doctor
If you experience a worsening of mastitis after 1 or 2 days of home treatments, be sure to get in touch with your healthcare provider. You may need antibiotics. You should contact your doctor right away if you have a fever of 101 F or higher, notice pus or blood in your breastmilk, have red streaks on your breasts that run from your areola to your underarm, have red, hot or swollen breasts, have cracked nipples that look infected or if you experience worsening flu-like symptoms.
10 Natural Mastitis Remedies
It may not be easy with a new baby, but rest is one of the best remedies for mastitis. Try your best to take it easy and stay in bed or post up on the couch. See if your partner or a family member or friend can help out so you can take care of yourself and get the rest you need to heal.
2. Constant Nursing
Try offering breast milk to your baby as often as possible or at least every 2 hours. This will help keep things flowing through the clogged duct as suction helps dislodge clogs. Start on the uncomfortable side, but make sure to offer both breasts so the other one doesn’t become engorged.
3. Drink Lots of Water
Drinking lots of water and staying hydrated is very important when you’re dealing with mastitis. When you’re breastfeeding, your hydration needs increase and drinking plenty of water will help keep your milk supply up. More milk means more feedings and more opportunities to clear up clogged milk ducts.
4. Hot and Cold Compresses
Apply a warm compress to the affected breast to help speed up healing and relieve discomfort. If you’re breastfeeding, apply it for 15 to 30 minutes before a feeding to help milk flow more easily. You can also apply a cold pack to the area after feeding for 15 to 30 minutes to help bring down swelling.
5. Heated Massager
A heated massager is really useful if your mastitis is caused by blocked milk ducts. A clog is formed when fat gets stuck in milk ducts. When the fat is stuck, it creates a clog and milk starts to back up, which creates a painful lump behind the clog. A heated massager provides heat and vibration to help break up the clog. Adding heat will help break up the solid milk and turn it to liquid so it can flow.
6. Epsom Salt Bath
Run yourself a nice warm bath with epsom salts to help with discomfort. If your milk duct is clogged, epsom salt can help draw the clog out. It also helps reduce pain and swelling at the site of infection.
Raw garlic is highly lauded for its antibiotic properties. It stimulates the immune system, can fight illness and infection, and can help you recover from mastitis. Chop up a couple cloves of garlic and wash it down with orange juice to help it go down better.
8. Cabbage Leaves
Cabbage leaves can help with breastfeeding discomfort and engorgement, and can work wonders for pain and inflammation during mastitis. Clean and dry green cabbage leaves and chill them in your fridge. Cover your entire breast with the cabbage leaves (leaving your nipple bare), and leave on for about 20 minutes or when the cabbage starts to get warm. You can slip the leaves into a loose-fitting bra if it’s easier. Wash your breast and gently pat dry. Repeat this up to 3 times daily, always using new leaves.
9. Vitamin C
Vitamin C is known as a healing nutrient and helps replenish antioxidants in the body. Be sure to eat lots of vitamin C-rich foods including oranges, grapefruits, lemon, bell peppers, tomatoes, kiwi, broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts. You can also take a vitamin C supplement, but make sure to check with your doctor if you’re taking any medications to ensure it won’t interfere.
10. Fermented Cod Liver Oil
Fermented cod liver oil is excellent for your overall health and can help support your immune system through mastitis. It’s also high in omega-3 fatty acids, which can help reduce inflammation. Use it to help your body fight infection during mastitis.
If you’re experiencing mastitis, try these home remedies to help reduce pain and symptoms. Be sure to contact a medical professional at any of the warning signs listed above or if symptoms don’t decrease after a day or 2 of home remedies.