Mastitis Help

I have mastitis and it is very painful to breastfeed. I have been on several antibiotics and nothing seems to help. Is there anything that might help, naturally?
Kristi, ID.

Natural help for MASTITIS

Mastitis is an inflamed and infected breast, that is caused by invading germs, usually by a common bacteria (Staphylococcus aureus) found on normal skin. Typically, those germs pass from your baby's mouth, nose, and throat into a milk duct through cracks or fissures in the nipples The infection takes place in the fatty tissue of the breast and causes swelling. This swelling pushes on the milk ducts. The result is, redness, tenderness, pain, and lumps in the infected breast.

Mastitis can occur at any time while you're breastfeeding, but it's most common between the tenth and 28th days after you have your baby. About 1 in 20 nursing moms get Mastitis, and some non-nursing mothers do, too. And although you can get mastitis more than once, it's very unlikely that you'll get it in both breasts at the same time. Mastitis won't hurt your baby, though it can reduce the milk supply in the affected breast. In fact, the germs that caused the infection probably came from your baby's mouth in the first place, so don't worry about passing the same germs back and forth.

Certain events can set you up for mastitis: cracked or bleeding nipples, stress or getting run down, missed feedings or longer intervals between feedings. (Non-nursing moms may get mastitis when their breasts become engorged.) Other contributors include not completely emptying breasts of milk and lowered resistance to illness. First-time moms who haven't mastered a good latch-on technique and are suffering from cracked nipples are more likely to contract mastitis, although experienced nursing mothers aren't immune.
A breast infection can become a breast abscess that requires surgical draining, (usually performed while the patient is under general anesthesia) to drain the abscess. This can almost always be prevented by treating mastitis promptly. If the lymph nodes in the armpit become tender or swollen, consider contacting your doctor.

· Part or all of the breast is intensely painful, hot, tender, red, and swollen. (Some mothers can pinpoint a definite area of inflammation, while at other times the entire breast is tender.)
· Fatigue, feeling run down, achy, have chills or think you have the flu. (A breastfeeding mother who thinks she has the flu probably has mastitis. Mothers with mastitis will sometimes experience these flu-like symptoms, even before they get a fever or notice breast tenderness.)
· Body chills or feeling feverish, or your temperature is 101F or higher. (These symptoms suggest that you have an infection.)
· A feeling of progressively getting worse, your breasts are growing more tender, and your fever is becoming more pronounced. (With simple engorgement, a plugged duct, or mastitis without infection, you gradually feel better instead of worse.)

The following may help reduce the risk of breast infections:
· Careful nipple care to prevent irritation and cracking.
· Feeding often and pumping milk to prevent engorgement of the breast.
· Proper breast-feeding technique with good latching by the baby.
· Weaning slowly, over several weeks, rather than abruptly stopping breastfeeding.
· Making sure baby’s nose and mouth are clean before each feeding is very important.

Natural help:

Continue Nursing: Although nursing may be extremely painful at times, you need to let your baby feed frequently to keep your milk supply flowing and avoid further blockage.
· Try warm compresses on your breasts for several minutes before each feeding — this should help stimulate your let down reflex and make nursing more tolerable.
· If your baby doesn't empty the inflamed breast during each feeding, finish the job yourself with a breast pump or by “massaging” the milk out in a hot bath or shower.
· And if you find that nursing is unbearable, try pumping your breasts and giving the milk to your baby in a bottle. (But don't rely on this solely to get you through the infection, as your baby can "pump" your breasts more efficiently than any device.)
· Crushed ice wrapped in a wet cloth, or a frozen gauze pad, applied to the nipples immediately before nursing is a good local pain killer. This cold treatment also helps bring out soft or small nipples and helps baby feed more easily when the breasts are very full.
· Consider breastfeeding in a variety of positions to help relieve the pressure and make sure you drain the breast completely before switching to the other side.
· Wear loose fitting clothes and make sure your bra fits correctly; a bra that is too tight can restrict milk flow.

Get Plenty of rest: Breast infections are almost always a sign of too little rest. Regular naps or rest breaks are important too.
· Take advantage of when baby is resting to relax or nap yourself, if possible.

Prevent Cracked or Chapped Nipples: This will help prevent bacteria from entering into the milk ducts.

Note: Persistently or suddenly sore nipples may indicate a thrush infection. Further symptoms of thrush include pink, flaky skin and itchy nipples.
· Expose the nipples and breasts to the air as much as possible to discourage the growth of infection or possible thrush.
· Avoid wearing a bra 24 hours a day. Wear nursing bras with the flaps down whenever possible.
· Expose the nipples and breasts to sunlight for brief periods to strengthen tissues. Increase gradually from thirty seconds in the sun to a maximum of three minutes.
· Olive oil, sweet almond oil, lanolin, or comfrey ointment rubbed into the nipples throughout the latter part of the pregnancy and the beginning weeks of nursing create healthy, flexible tissues very resistant to cracks, tears, and chapping.
· Experiment with different nursing positions until you find those in which you are completely comfortable, with the entire areola (dark area) in the baby's mouth, nipple centered.
· Offer your breast often. Reducing the number of feedings can make the baby so hungry that it tears at the breast.
· Avoid soap, cologne, deodorant and powder on your nipples or breasts. Do not wash nipples with soap. Soap predisposes the nipples to chapping and cracking.
· The gel from a fresh aloe vera leaf will soothe and heal sore and cracked nipples.
· Calendula ointment is an old favorite to heal and strengthen nipples.
· CAUTION:Ointments containing antibiotics, steroids and anesthetic (painkilling) drugs are potentially harmful to both mother and infant.

Herbal Help:

Using Poultices, Soaks, or making Herbal Oil Infusions are very effective. When applying these external remedies, remember that frequent, consistent, short applications work better than sporadic, lengthy treatments. That is, six or seven treatments of five minutes each spread over the day will be more effective than one treatment lasting for thirty minutes. Many brief poultices work better than one or two lengthy sessions.
  • Use Infused herbal oils - such as those made from the flowers of Calendula, Elder, or Dandelion, or Yellow Dock Root- can ease the pain of tender breasts and sore nipples.  
    • Gently warm a handful of dried or fresh blossoms in just enough olive oil to cover; keep warm for 20 minutes. Strain, cool, and rub into nipples and breasts whenever there is pain or sensitivity
  • Yarrow leaf or *yarrow infused oil - provide almost instantaneous pain relief and heal cracked nipples rapidly.
  • Comfrey and Calendula Poultice- Use comfrey leaves and calendula flowers as a mastitis treament. Hot applications to the breast at least four times daily will soothe the nipples, help draw out the infection and unblock the tubes and ducts.
    • To make a comfrey / calendula poultice, put the comfrey leaves and calendula flowers in the blender with a bit of water and some flour to make a gelatin like substance. This can then be put into cotton cloth and stored in the freezer for future use. They can be heated in the oven just before applying to the breast.
  • Parsley- Place a handful of fresh or dried parsley leaves in a clean cotton diaper and tie it closed with a rubber band. Put in a pan of water and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes.  
    • Apply the hot (fresh) parsley as a poultice or use the (dried) herb still tied in the diaper as a compress to ease swollen and painful breasts
  • Comfrey- Softens and strengthens nipples at the same time. It is exceptionally soothing to sensitive nipples and rapidly heals any fissures or bruises. 
    • Prepare fresh or dried comfrey leaves the same way as parsley. A hot compress or poultice of comfrey leaves soothes sore nipples, softens engorged tissues, reduces the pain of swollen breasts, and helps unblock tubes and ducts. 
    • Caution: It is generally considered safe to use comfrey root preparations externally. Nursing mothers should not use internally and should wipe away any comfrey before nursing, as it can be harmful and too powerful for an infants' liver.
  • Marshmallow Root- This makes a wonderful soak or poultice that soothe tender tissues and sore nipples, open clogged ducts and tubes, powerfully draw out infection, and diminish the pain of engorged, inflamed breasts.  
    • Steep two ounces of dried marshmallow root overnight in half a gallon of water just off the boil. The texture of the finished brew should be slippery and slimy. Heat as needed, pouring the hot liquid into a sink or basin and soak your sore and aching breasts.
  • Raw Potato- A cold poultice of grated raw potato can draw out the heat of inflammation, localize infection and unblock clogged tubes.  
    • Grated raw potato is applied directly to the breasts, and covered with a clean cloth. When dry, it is removed and replaced with fresh grated potato.
*Important Note: If infection is present, discard any plant material and wash the poultice materials after each use so as to prevent the spread of the infection.

Raw cabbage leaves are a great mastitis treatment. They can be placed directly on the infected area of the breast, also to help draw out the heat and infection.
  • At first sign of pain or redness, immediately slip a cabbage leaf over the nipple and into the bra.
  • The cabbage leaves will become warm and wilted and should then be changed out. This is especially effective just after a duct is clogged and before the infection sets in.

Echinacea root- Use in tincture form or Infusion as part of your mastitis treatment. Echinacea is an immune system stimulant, but is an excellent anti-bacterial for helping get rid of infection.
  • Tincture- One dropper full six times a day until the fever passed, and then smaller doses (2 or 3 times a day) until all symptoms had cleared.
  • Infusion- Drink two cups daily until the fever comes down then move to a lighter infusion of one-ounce root to a quart of boiling water and drink one or two cups until the symptoms clear.
  • Use dried Echinacea root, Place one ounce of root in a pint of boiling water and steep it for at least eight hours or overnight. Can sweeten with Agave nectar or Honey.

Poke Root (Phytolacca americana) tincture stimulates lymph gland activity and clears mastitis quickly. Poke root is potent and potentially toxic; the effect is cumulative. Use no more than two drops of the tincture daily. Combine Poke with Echinacea for acute and severe infections.

Herbal Healing Salve is provided on our website and is already made up and ready to use. It has Comfrey, Calendula, Olive Oil, and many other Herbs to aid in helping cracked/chapped nipples and fight bacteria.

Essential Oil Help
Essential oils rapidly absorb into the body, due to their molecular structure. They enter the skin and pass through cell membranes into the bloodstream bringing benefits to you quickly. Research indicates essential oils have the proven ability to affect the system and are safer to use than synthetics and artificial ingredients when entering the skin topically in a trans-dermal remedy.

Soaks, Direct Application, or Compresses with Essential oils may be useful before or after breastfeeding, to help with Mastitis. It is important that the oils are cleaned off the breast before baby comes into contact, as they can be very potent to an infant. Also, the use during breastfeeding, could interfere with baby sense of smell, finding mom, etc.

Tea Tree-( Melaleuca alternifolia) Anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, anti-viral, major anti-infectious (staph and strap), bactericidal, anti-fungal, anti-parasitic, and insecticide. Use Tea tree to help the Mastitis infection. Tea tree is may have a strong smell, but is very mild.
· Apply Tea tree, undiluted, on the breast, with an alternative hot and Cold compress.

Oregano- (Origanum vulgare L. hirtum) –GRAS- Anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, antiseptic, anti-infectious, analgesic, laxative, tonic, anti-parasitic, anti-viral, and immune-stimulant. For acute situations, Oregano can be taken internally, as an anti-biotic.
· Place 2-3 drops Oregano, in a capsule, then fill with carrier oil. Take 2x daily for 5 days, but no more than 10 days at one time.
· Caution- Oregano is a very Hot oil. Use with care. Keep out of reach of children.

For overall Pain-
  • Can apply 1-2 drops Birch directly onto breast. If sensitivity occurs, add carrier oil to dilute. Wash off before Nursing.
  • Can also use Pain blend, which has birch in it. Wash off before nursing.

Pain, Calming, Anti-Infectious, and Circulation Recipe:
  • 2 drops Birch
  • 1 drop Lavender 
  • 1 drops Cypress 
  • Apply recipe, undiluted on breast, with alternate Hot and Cold compress.
Pain, Calming, Anti-Infectious, and Cooling Compress:
· 14 drops German Chamomile
· 10 drops Lavender
· 5 drops Eucalyptus
· Mix together Essential Oils.
· Place 10 drops of Mixture into 1 cup Chamomile herbal Infusion. Soak a piece of Muslin or 100% Cotton into mixture and apply, as a compress, over the breast. Repeat twice daily, for up to 5 days.
· *Can apply 10 drops, of Essential Oil mixture, only, diluted with 2 Tbl. Carrier oil, directly over infected breast, for Acute situations.

Pain, Calming, Anti-Infectious, Cooling, Acute Recipe:
· This is a Three part system, that should be done daily:
  1. First- Apply 2 drops undiluted lavender over Infected Breast. 
  2. Second- Mix 1 Cup Warm Water, 5 drops Tea Tree, and 5 drops Lavender. (Soak a piece of Muslin or 100% Cotton in mixture and apply to Infected breast, as a Compress.
  3. Third- Apply 2-3 drops of the following Massage Oil Mixture over both breasts.

Cracked Nipple-
Massage the following recipe, over whole nipple and areola area. Also, use to stimulate nipples by rolling them between well-oiled thumb and forefingers.
· Add 5 drops Lavender to 1½ tsp. Almond Oil and ¼ tsp. Wheatgerm Oil.
· Wash off before Nursing baby.