Mastitis is an inflammation of breast tissue that sometimes involves an infection. The inflammation results in breast pain, swelling, warmth and redness. You might also have fever and chills.
Mastitis most commonly affects women who are breast-feeding (lactation mastitis). But mastitis can occur in women who aren’t breast-feeding and in men.
Lactation mastitis can cause you to feel run down, making it difficult to care for your baby. Sometimes mastitis leads a mother to wean her baby before she intends to. But continuing to breast-feed, even while taking an antibiotic to treat mastitis, is better for you and your baby.
Signs and symptoms of mastitis can appear suddenly. They may include:
- Breast tenderness or warmth to the touch
- Breast swelling
- Thickening of breast tissue, or a breast lump
- Pain or a burning sensation continuously or while breast-feeding
- Skin redness, often in a wedge-shaped pattern
- Generally feeling ill
- Fever of 101 F (38.3 C) or greater
When to see a doctor
See your doctor if you have breast symptoms that concern you.
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.
- Cold: I found that cold was most useful for helping with the pain, but I sometimes used heat as well. 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.
- 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.