Note from Mommypotamus: Hey guys, I’m buried in boxes right now – packing up the house for a big move! We don’t know for sure where we’ll be in two weeks, but I’ll let you know as soon as I do. In the meantime, I’ve got some GREAT stuff lined up for you! Today’s guest post comes from Allison of The Sprouting Seed – thank you Alison!
I prepared in every way possible . . .
For the birth of my son Ezra. I took classes, read books, practiced prenatal yoga and worked on my breathing. I wanted to be ready for what I thought was going to be the most painful part of having a baby.
Little did I know that one of the most painful parts of having a baby can come with actually having the baby, in your arms and at your breast.
Ezra was already a year old when it happened. I thought the threat of mastitis (inflammation of the breast) was long behind us, but boy was I wrong. The whole ordeal first started with a round of ear infections. Rather than use antibiotics, Ezra’s pediatrician and I decided to treat his ear infections naturally. This resulted in lots of sleepless nights, breastfeeding round the clock and sheer exhaustion. By the end of it, I was fried.
Finally, for one sweet night, rather than waking up every two hours, Ezra slept a dreamy 10-hour stretch. It was heaven! I woke up feeling rested, refreshed and also a little lumpy. Though I loved the sleep, my poor milk-engorged breasts were angry. After weeks of working overtime, they suddenly went unused. It was like the anger curdled my milk and left cottage cheese and pain in its wake. I tried to breastfeed in the morning, but there was so much milk Ezra couldn’t even finish the feast.
Despite the fact he hadn’t finished his breakfast, I stuffed the engorged girls into a too-tight underwire; grabbed Ezra and we were out the door. As the day carried on, the lumps got worse. I tried to continue to breastfeed, but a milk blister formed over one nipple and blocked the flow. Big problem.
By that evening my angry right breast drew fiery red lines of graffiti, red arrows pointing to my mistakes. I should have rested. I should have massaged my breast, put on warm compresses, taken the time to empty her. I should have burned that darn push-up. But it was too late.
It was bad. Really bad.
A few hours later I succumbed to the fury of an angry boob. My fever spiked to 103F and I was delirious with pain. It was bad. Really, really bad. I was sick with what I would never wish on anyone for seven days.
My seven-day ordeal was a painful initiation into the sorority of women who have had mastitis. Through conversations and online forums, I heard others’ horror stories and warnings of reoccurrence. And they were right.
It happened again.
With the whole ordeal behind me, I felt a little sassy and started wearing that darn underwire again. I even took on more projects and expended more energy than I probably had to give. Ezra had a few nights when nothing could satisfy save the teat. And well, it happened again. One morning, angry, lumpy boob made another unwelcomed appearance. This time I was ready for her—with natural remedies in hand—and successfully avoided an infection.
Natural Prevention and Treatment
How to Prevent Plugged Ducts In The First Place
- Keep it regular—keeping a flexible schedule and feeding on demand helps regulate your milk; if baby boo wants to magically sleep through the night or you are away from baby and this isn’t the norm, pumping can help you not go too long between feedings
- Wear a well-fitting, comfortable bra—underwire can cause pressure and plug ducts, so use with caution!
- Eat a nourishing diet
- Get plenty of rest
- Make sure baby has a good latch
- For recurring plugged ducts and mastitis, lecithin has been recommended. Eggs are a natural source of lecithin. For more info, go here
What To Do
- Rest, rest, rest! Mastitis is a signal that rest is needed—snuggle with baby in bed as much as possible
- Nurse, nurse, nurse! While in bed with baby, nurse on demand—get lots of skin-to-skin contact by taking off your and baby’s clothes as this will encourage breastfeeding
- Apply heat to the breast before breastfeeding—this will help liquefy the milk pocket and get it moving out of the breast
- Massage towards the nipple when baby is breastfeeding on afflicted breast
- Massage during and between feedings will help loosen the milk pocket
What to Apply
- Therapeutic grade lavender essential oil—apply a few drops to afflicted breast a few times a day
- Poultice—apply a poultice of herbs to the skin a few times a day while resting, herbs that may help are fenugreek seed, rosemary, and dandelion
- Cabbage leaves—apply cool cabbage leaves to afflicted breast and leave on the breast for about an hour and then remove
- The leaves can be applied up to four times a day (if applied more than that for a longer period of time, cabbage is known to affect milk supply)
What to Take
- 4-5 raw garlic cloves per day—the cloves can be coarsely chopped and swallowed
- Tincture of Echinacea—3-4 times per day (Where to buy an echinacea tincture made with organic herbs)
- Whole food sources of Vitamin C—Rosehip tea is naturally high Vitamin C and is safe to drink while breastfeeding (Where to buy rose hip tea)
Remember to always consult your health care provider. Mastitis is serious and antibiotics may be necessary if the infection does not clear quickly. Disclaimer.
What natural remedies for mastitis have you tried? Which ones worked for you?
Allison Jordan blogs at The Sprouting Seed. She’s a nutritionist with a B.S. in Nutritional Science and a full-time mom. Allison got her start as a breastfeeding counselor and nutritionist at WIC. This was before she moved half way across the world to live in Central Europe, where she learned about real food, vibrant health, and traditional methods of preparation. Allison has found a way to make friends with little old ladies around the world and loves to share their time-tested secrets of life.
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