Mastitis is a term that refers to the inflammation and infection of the breast tissue, resulting in excruciating pain that impacts the process of breastfeeding. Other symptoms that accompany this condition include swelling of the affected breast, extreme warmth and redness. Affected moms may also get feverish and experience body chills. Also known as lactation mastitis, the condition usually affects breastfeeding women, usually within the first 6-12 weeks postpartum.
Some of the causes of mastitis include a baby who is not able to latch properly when nursing, a baby who has problems suckling as well as skipped nursing periods which lead to accumulation of milk in the ducts, eventually causing inflammation. In some cases, this accumulation may become infected with bacteria leading to a condition known as infective mastitis.
It is also important to note that while mastitis commonly affects lactating mothers, it may also affect non-breastfeeding moms as a result of cracked nipples, or trauma to the nipple as is the case with a nipple piercing. Proper diagnosis of mastitis is important if affected moms are to make a full recovery. Medical treatment provided is dependent on the extent of the condition, but the good news is that the condition can be treated with ease. In addition to medical intervention, there are a number of home remedies that may be used to ease the pain and ensure a faster recovery.
1. Keep Up with Breastfeeding:
Time Required: Varies from one mother to another.
What You Need: To learn different breastfeeding techniques. A breast pump may also come in handy.
One of the most fundamental aspects of recovery after mastitis is to ensure that you continue breastfeeding. While this may sound contrary to common sense, it is actually at the core of treating the condition. Continuing to nurse serves the purpose of fully emptying the breasts, thus reducing the duration of inflammation and infection.
Learning different breastfeeding techniques goes a long way in helping manage the condition as it allows the mother to help the baby latch well. In addition to this, it is safe to continue pumping breast milk for the purpose of nursing. Note that breast milk is safe for the baby because in cases of infection, the bacteria present are destroyed by the digestive enzymes present in the baby’s body.
- Learn how to ensure that baby latches on properly with the different breastfeeding techniques. If in need, you may book an appointment with a lactation consultant.
- A breast pump may be used to cater for infrequent feeding sessions or in cases when there is excessive milk production. In the absence of a breast pump, one may also use hand-expressing to prevent the blockage of milk ducts.
Time Required: 20-30 Min
What You Need: 2 Tablespoons each of wheat germ oil and apricot oil as well as a water bath. You may also use 2 tablespoons of olive oil to which camphor oil has been added.
Mastitis often causes immense discomfort in the affected breast. One of the simplest ways to ease this discomfort and provide pain relief is to massage the breast. Massage not only helps unclog the milk ducts, it is also a powerful remedy used to relieve swelling and ease the discomfort. Remember to use oil for the massage as this helps prevent friction that adds to the discomfort. A warm water bath is recommended because it warms the oil and allows for the relaxation of the milk ducts. For this remedy, you may use either of the two combinations, apricot + wheat germ oil of camphor + olive oil. Follow the directions below to make the best of this remedy.
Using Wheat Germ Oil + Apricot Oil
- Place equal amounts of the wheat germ and apricot oils in a shallow bowl and stir together to mix.
- Transfer the bowl containing the oil mixture to a water bath and allow it to warm up for about 5 minutes.
- Slather a generous amount of oil on the affected breast and massage.
- As a general guide, it is advisable to massage from the outer breast and work towards the nipple in circular motions.
- Make sure you apply more pressure on the infected area to ensure speedy recovery.
- Do this for as long as you need to, severally during the day. You may plan to massage in between feedings for convenience purposes.
- Remember to clean the nipples with warm soapy water before nursing the baby to prevent ingestion of any residual oil.
Using Camphor Oil + Olive Oil
- Add a few drops of the camphor oil to the olive oil in a bowl.
- Place the bowl in a warm water bath and let it warm for a few minutes.
- Massage the breasts from the outer region towards the nipple, making sure you do so in small circles for great efficiency.
- Keep at it for as long as is needed and remember to clean the breast before breastfeeding.
3. Alternate Hot and Cold Compresses:
Time Required: 20-30 Min
What You Need: A hot water bottle with hot water, 2 thin towels, a handful of ice cubes and warm water.
Hot and cold compresses are useful in the natural treatment of mastitis as each of them plays an integral role in easing the pain and discomfort caused by the condition. A cold compress works by lowering the temperatures in the affected breast, and this helps keep the swelling down while providing much needed relief. A hot compress on the other hand, allows for the milk ducts to dilate which aids in unblocking them and thus encouraging recovery. Additionally, the hot compress helps improve blood circulation in the affected breast, and this is especially important in managing the infection. When there is increased blood flow, the blood cells help fight off the infection and prevents its spread. Follow the simple routine outlined below to make use of both hot and cold compresses.
- Use one towel to wrap the hot water bottle so as to prevent direct contact with the skin.
- With the other towel, spread it and place the handful of ice cubes on it.
- Wrap the towel containing the ice cubes so that you have a pack which you can apply on the affected breast.
- Place the hot compress on the affected breast and use it to gently massage it.
- After 15 minutes, switch up the packs and use the cold compress for 5 minutes.
- Place the cold compress on the breasts and leave it for 5 minutes.
- Ensure that the ice cubes do not come in direct contact with the breast skin to avoid frostbite injuries.
- Repeat this cycle twice or thrice as often as needed.
4. Raw Garlic:
Time Required: 10 Min
What You Need: 2 Cloves of raw garlic. 1 glass of orange juice or plain water (optional).
Garlic cloves are rich in antibiotic healing properties, which is exactly why they are recommended for the treatment of mastitis. The antibiotic properties help get rid of the bacterial population responsible for causing the infection. Additionally, it also enhances the healing process while improving the response by the immune system. All you need is 2 cloves of raw garlic. You may take the remedy alongside water or orange juice if you find the taste of garlic too overwhelming.
NOTE: Garlic may cause your baby to feel bloated, so you may want to start with a small dosage and monitor your baby’s reaction. If the garlic does make your baby fussy, you may want to switch it up with another remedy. This is because the fussiness can easily prevent them from nursing well, which only compounds the effects of the mastitis.
- Peel the garlic cloves and proceed to mince or grate them.
- If you can, chew on the grated garlic.
- If not, add the grated or minced garlic to a glass of water or orange juice to swallow it with.
- Use this remedy daily to aid in the recovery from mastitis.
- The other option is to take garlic supplements, but you have to consult your doctor before doing this to avoid drug interactions especially if you are on any other medication.
5. Fresh Cabbage leaves:
Time Required: 20-30 Min
What You Need: 5-10 Cabbage leaves
Chilled cabbage leaves are one of the simplest ways to manage inflammation and get relief from the pain that often accompanies the affected breasts. Part of the reason for this is that cabbages are rich in sulfur compounds which, on application, reduce the rate of inflammation and help keep the swelling down. The low temperatures of the chilled cabbages also go a long way in providing relief from the blocked milk ducts and resultant engorgement.
- Place the cabbage leaves in the refrigerator to chill them before use. You will need to leave them for at least 30 minutes for the remedy to be effective.
- After half an hour, place a chilled cabbage leaf on the affected breast. This is done to provide a cooling effect.
- After a short while, the leaf will reach room temperature. At this point, you will need to replace this leaf with another chilled one.
- Continue doing this until the condition clears. You can use this remedy as often as required.
6. Fenugreek Seeds:
Time Required: 20 Min
What You Need: 4 Tablespoons of fenugreek seeds, 1 bowl of water, a grinder and a clean cloth.
Fenugreek seeds have long been recommended as a natural herb that assists with breastfeeding and milk production. As such, the use of this remedy to treat mastitis is not far-fetched. These seeds also help reduce inflammation and infections in the breast, thanks to the presence of the flavanoids. Prepare this Ayurvedic remedy by following the simple directions below.
- Place the fenugreek seeds in a bowl and leave them to soak overnight.
- Take the soaked seeds the next morning and grind them to form a paste.
- Transfer the paste to a clean cloth and warm for a few minutes.
- Do not allow the compress to become too hot as this may irritate the affected breast.
- Once the compress is just warm enough and comfortable to touch, place it on the affected breast and leave on for 15 minutes or until the compress attains room temperature.
- Repeat this remedy twice daily for a couple of weeks.
- Alternatively, take a cup of fenugreek tea thrice daily.
- Simply strain the soaked seeds in step 1) above and drink the resulting liquid.
- Do this until the condition starts to improve.
7. Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV):
Time Required: 20 Min
What You Need: 1/4 Cup of Apple cider vinegar, 1/2 a cup of warm water and some cotton wool.
Apple cider vinegar is one of the most effective and versatile home remedies. It is therefore no surprise that it is actually recommended for treating mastitis naturally. The presence of acetic acid in the vinegar provides the remedy’s antimicrobial properties. These healing properties reduce the inflammation and help the body fight against the infection. Prepare this simple remedy by following the simple directions below.
- Mix the apple cider vinegar with warm water in the ratio 1:2 respectively that is 1 part of the ACV and 2 parts of warm water for dilution purposes.
- Soak the cotton wool in the mixture and use it to apply the ACV mixture on the affected breast.
- Using the wet wool, massage the mixture in gentle circles.
- Leave the mixture on for 15-20 minutes.
- Rinse the remedy off with warm water.
- Repeat this remedy thrice daily.
8. Aloe Vera:
Time Required: 30 Min
What You Need: Freshly cut aloe vera leaf, warm water, cotton wool and a soft towel.
Aloe vera is Mother Nature’s wonder remedy, and its healing properties make it ideal for the natural treatment of mastitis. The gel obtained from a freshly cut leaf is also packed with anti-inflammatory properties that ease the inflammation and keep the swelling down. Another benefit of using aloe vera gel is that it has skin-healing properties that help repair the affected breast skin.
- Squeeze the gel from the edges of the freshly cut leaf and collect it on some cotton wool.
- Use the cotton wool to apply the cool gel on the affected breast.
- Leave the gel to dry on its own for 15 minutes or so.
- Rinse the breast with warm water and pat to dry with a clean towel.
- Do not aggressively dry the breast as this may worsen the discomfort.
- Repeat severally daily.
- Remember to completely wash off the aloe vera gel before nursing.
These home remedies will help alleviate the symptoms of mastitis while improving the recovery period. Other helpful tips include wearing comfortable clothes, preferably loose-fitting ones to prevent friction against the breasts as well as getting adequate rest whenever possible. In addition to this, it helps to keep the nipple area dry in between feeds. If using nursing pads, make sure you change them frequently to avoid further infections. Lastly, avoid using the breast as a pacifier for the baby as it increases the risk of infections.