Mastitis. I physically cringe when I hear or read this word because I know all too well the pain it can bring.
WebMD describes mastitis as:
” ………..an infection of the tissue of the breast that occurs most frequently during the time of breastfeeding. It can occur when bacteria, often from the baby’s mouth, enter a milk duct through a crack in the nipple. Breast infections most commonly occur one to three months after the delivery of a baby, but they can occur in women who have not recently delivered as well as in women after menopause.”
Statistics show that mastitis most commonly rears its ugly head one to three months after the birth of a baby. For me, I was about 2 weeks into my son’s life when mastitis hit me and boy did it hit me HARD. One of the top reasons mastitis can occur is from having a ton of milk that is not being expressed-aka engorgement. This was the case for me. I had a massive milk supply from day 3 of my son’s life. He never latched well so I was exclusively pumping from the time my milk came in. The strength of a baby’s suction is much more effective at removing milk from the breast than a medical grade breast pump. Isn’t that amazing? Since my son wasn’t breastfeeding I was at a higher risk of experiencing engorgement and a blocked duct. Add to that recovery from an extremely intense, all natural birth and little sleep made for a weakened immune system on my part.
I started realizing I most likely had mastitis when I began to experience these symptoms:
- Sudden onset of high fever
- Extreme body aches
- Intense fatigue
- Pain and tenderness in my armpit and infected part of the breast
- Redness around the infected part of the breast
- Feeling like I wanted to die (ok that’s dramatic but I felt awful!)
- EDIT: each time I contracted mastitis the infected area was usually quite hard which meant the duct was obviously blocked
The thing about mastitis is how quickly it sets in. I remember a friend was visiting and while we were sitting on the couch chatting away, I started to feel like I was coming down with the flu. It hit me out of nowhere. I had heard about mastitis from my sister (who has 4 children) so I immediately texted her. At her suggestion, I started taking extra strength garlic (capsules) every 2 hours. A few other things I began doing immediately were:
- Hot showers with water directed at infected area
- Strong massage to direct any milk and infection out/away from breast
- Hot baths with tea tree and lavender essential oils
- Raw potato slices laid over the infected area and left on for at least 20 minutes
- Applying a heated rice sock to the infected area before every pumping session
- Pumped frequently (I was already pumping every 2 hours so I just continued)
- If you can successfully breastfeed, I highly recommend resting in bed with that sweet baby and breastfeed as often and as long as you can manage.
I have no scientific, medical or health reasons why raw potato slices aid in healing mastitis but it has worked every time for me. Perhaps it’s the cold temperature of the raw potato to reduce inflammation and swelling? I’m not sure but what I did was have my husband thinly slice raw potato (because I always almost die using our mandolin) then I soaked the slices in very cold water for 20 minutes. I put on a sports bra and inserted the slices against the infected area. I left those on for at least 20 minutes and did this every few hours. I felt immediate relief from the potato slices.
Garlic, Tea Tree and Lavender are all antifungal so it makes sense why they work so well in fighting off infections.
While I try to avoid medicating fever, I did alternate ibuprofen and Tylenol at night so I could rest comfortably. Rest is the best thing you can do to give your body a chance to heal.
A personal side-note on antibiotics: I do not respond well to antibiotics. I believe they have their place in healthcare and can be lifesaving. I saw them literally save a friend’s life when she contracted a deadly strain of bacteria from bug bites in another country and went into septic shock from infection. This was an extreme case and her condition did not happen overnight. But it’s evident that we are a overmedicated society. I was antibiotic resistant by the time I hit my 20’s and began to experience candida overgrowth, bladder infections and more. I continued the frequent use of antibiotics until I began my journey into holistic and natural health.
When I experienced my first bout with mastitis I called my Dr.’s office and they scared the crap out of me, insisting that I come in immediately. Overkill? Maybe but it’s their job to inform people of the potential complications of mastitis (like breast abscess) and I get that. Anyways, I made an appointment for the next day and you know what? My mastitis had all but cleared it’s self up by then! Within 24 hours I was fever free and only slightly sore in the infected area. I had continued all my natural remedies in the meantime and I’m so glad I did. I contracted mastitis two more times in the following months but was able to beat it doing all the natural remedies I listed above.
All this to say, I am not a medical professional. I’m not advising that you don’t see your doctor for any illness you may be experiencing, resembling mastitis. Don’t disregard instructions concerning illness that you have received from your doctor. But I will gladly share some safe, all natural remedies that have worked so well for me. I hope you found this information useful. Have you ever had mastitis? What were some natural remedies that worked for you? I’d love to hear from you in the comments section below!
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