In this instance, it completely crept up on me. You see, I'm no longer breastfeeding. My littlest and I finished that up about 10-12 weeks ago so mastitis was not something that I was expecting. After palpating (that's a fancy name for have a feel around) I realised that I was in fact still producing a little milk so I guess that explains why I could still get mastitis.
When you're breastfeeding, mastitis treatment involves doing a lot more breastfeeding, using different positions to get baby's nose or chin to stimulate or press into the blocked duct to help clear it. But when you're not breastfeeding (it didn't seem very fair to my Littlest to start up again just to clear a duct ...and then take it away again) ....what do you do? Here's my tips for Treating Mastitis Naturally Even if You're Not Breastfeeding Anymore:
1. Don't wait it out!
Mastitis will rarely resolve itself and if left, can make you extremely ill and even lead to blood poisoning (septicaemia). You need to act on it straight away but that doesn't necessarily mean that you have to run straight to your GP for antibiotics. So much can be done to treat mastitis naturally, with great success and without upsetting the microbial balance of baby's tummy.
2. Call your Naturopath or Herbalist
Or better still, call them before baby arrives and get your first aid kit stocked and ready for any possibility.
For treating Mastitis you will need Lymphatic herbs and strict instructions on how to use them. Don't forget, these herbs WILL ENTER YOUR BREASTMILK!
Lymphatic herbs stimulate lymphatic function, cleansing of lymphatic tissue (which is what breast tissue is) and the ultimate cleansing and clearing of the milk ducts.
Good lymphatic herbs for Mastitis include Echinacea (blend of purpurea and angustifolia) and Poke Root (Phytolacca decandra). A good quality echinacea should make your tongue and lips tingle.
If you are using Poke Root ....YOU MUST BE UNDER THE SUPERVISION OF A QUALIFIED NATUROPATH OR HERBALIST! Please do not self prescribe. Poke root is most definitely the herb of choice with mastitis but it is extremely powerful and you will only need a drop or 2 PER DAY.
Echinacea is both lymphatic and anti-microbial so is lovely combined with poke root to help clear out the infection.
3. Alternate hot and cold compresses
Heat is great for softening the breast tissue especially if you are preparing to massage out the lumps but don't use heat alone. According to lactation experts and midwives, heat can stimulate milk production and can also worsen the blockage through a 'hardening' of the milk within the duct. You need to alternate heat with cold to get the lymphatic circulation moving and reduce inflammation. A cold cabbage leaf, straight from the fridge is perfect ....we'll get to that shortly.
I jumped into the shower under warm water (not hot) to soften the breast tissue. When I'm nice and warm, I get a little almond oil and rub it over the breast as a lubricant ....and then I brace myself for ....
I'll not kid you ...this is extremely painful! It's unpleasant, it's horrible but it has to be done. You'll be using a 'lymphatic drainage' technique in an attempt to unblock the milk duct. Massage out any lumps or blockages in the ducts by moving your fingers gently but firmly from the outside of the breast, toward the nipple, across the painful lump. Once you have done this a few times, you will need to hand express milk from the nipple.
Yes, you have to. Mastitis comes about from stagnation in the affected milk duct. The milk can't move through, the ducts become clogged and infection sets in. You have to get it moving.
5. Raid the Vegetable crisper in your fridge
I know you're not hungry. But did you know that cabbage leaves and poultices of grated potato are perfect for healing mastitis naturally?
Raw Cabbage leaves contain antibiotic and anti-irritant properties which decrease tissue congestion by dilating the capillaries and improving blood flow to the area. If placed directly on the infected area of the breast, it will help draw out the heat and infection. A cold cabbage leaf will also bring down the swelling of the engorged breast. Just place a large leaf in the cup of your bra and change frequently.
Grated Raw Potato can be used as a poultice to help draw and soothe the infection. You could add some green clay and a little water as well if you wanted to, but it's not necessary. You'll smell like a french fry for a few days but if that swelling is going down ...you won't care :). Grate a cold potato, place a handful of it over the affected area, place some cling film over it and pop on a soft bra. Leave it for several hours and change it several times per day.
6. REST, REST and more REST
I know this is hard. You're a mother, you have a young child or baby, the washing is piling up, there's nothing to eat, the toilet needs scrubbing, well meaning friends are dropping by to check on you and you may even be working from home. DROP IT ALL! Just for a few days. Rest is absolutely necessary for healing. If you're friends want to know how they can help, get them to cook a meal for you or some snacks. They want to help so get them to hang out the washing or hold the baby while you have a shower and massage your breast ...but then they need to go home so you can go to bed. If you work from home, take your computer to bed and do some work there ....AFTER you have had a nap!
And if you're still breastfeeding ....
7. BREASTFEED THAT BABY!
Keep feeding that baby. Yep, it hurts but it has to be done. Change your baby's breastfeeding position so that either it's nose or chin is resting over the blocked duct. I have even heard of mum's getting themselves in a position where they have their breast hanging down to encourage the flow from the ducts. Do whatever you have to do to get that milk flowing and avoid unnecessary antibiotics. Antibiotics decimate the intestinal flora of both yours and your baby's digestive system and have flow on effects to health and immunity in the weeks and months to come. Try really hard to avoid them. That being said, if the infection worsens and despite your best efforts, you can't get on top of it, you will need antibiotics to get well. Just make sure that you take a high quality probiotic alongside them (at different times of day).
Do you need help getting your new mummy First Aid Kit together? I can help! Book now for an appointment in the clinic or by FaceTime/Skype.