So you have mastitis or you want to understand how to avoid getting it. You're in the right place. Mastitis is an infection in a milk duct of a nursing mother. It is one awful sickness! I have 4 children. With my oldest I had it 4 times before I finally figured out how to get rid of it at the first signs (no antibiotics needed). Studies indicate that when you've had it once, it's likely you'll get it again, so it’s good to know the signs to kick it before it goes full blown.
I've learned from studying my body that when I feel a concentrated area of tenderness on the breast when I am nursing it is more than likely the beginning of mastitis. It can also be red, hot to the touch or swollen. If I don't do anything about it that night or the next day I'll feel a headache coming on and by that time I know if I don't do something NOW I'll soon feel like I've been run over by a train.
With my next 3 babies, I successfully kept mastitis away by applying the following method at the first signs. If you don't catch it and it turns into a full blown sickness, this method will help you heal quickly without any antibiotics.
I discovered this herbal combination method from Sandra K. Livingston Ellis, a trusted midwife, master herbalist and author of the book “Dr. Mom.” (This is basically her method with a few tweaks that I made to the application process for comfort and convenience.)
1. You will need the herbal tinctures of Mullein and Lobelia. The tinctures kill the infection in the blocked duct. If you don't have these on hand, you can purchase them at your local health food store (ex: Good Earth, Sprouts, Wild Oats). Mullein is a very antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal herb, and Lobelia is a 'helper' herb that enhances any herb it's coupled with.
2. Use damp heat to help the herbs penetrate into the duct and open it for drainage. Get a paper towel wet, wring it out, fold it into a shape that covers the tender area on the breast and put a dropper full of each tincture on the damp paper towel. I back the paper towel with saran wrap to avoid getting my clothes wet. You can also get a diaper damp on the inside and put the tinctures in it as well. I’ve done both and either work great. The paper towel method just spares a diaper, and I like saving a few cents here and there.
3. Rub another ½ to full dropper of the tinctures directly on the skin (depending on the size of the tender area) and then cover it with the damp paper towel/saran wrap or the damp diaper if that's what you chose.
4. Cover the area with a hot rice pack and keep it there for most of the day if possible. I'll redo the dressing a couple times a day if the mastitis has gone full blown. If I feel the first signs of tenderness I’ll put the tinctures on at night and leave them on while I sleep. If I catch it soon enough, I will wake up feeling so much better and never get sick beyond this.
5. Provide opportunities for flushing of the duct. It’s important to have your baby continue to nurse. I've noticed that if I position the baby so the top or bottom lips align with the infected area, versus the corner of the mouth being aligned with the infected area, it gets flushed better. For example: If you draw a straight line from the tender area to the baby’s mouth where does the line end, at the top or bottom lip or the corner of the mouth? You want it to end at the lips so the suction is concentrated to that area.
Allowing the breast to drain in the hot bath or shower is also a great idea. With the hot water surrounding the breast, massage the tender area to encourage flushing.
I also suggest drinking a lot of water (at least half your body weight in ounces) and adding some immunity herbal tea to give a valuable boost to your immune system. I LOVE Yogi brand Immune Support and Tulsi Spiced Berry Immune Support tea. For other sicknesses, like a cold, this immunity tea has worked SO well to strengthen my immune system and keep me healthy. In the event I don't catch it in time and I do get sick, I'll brew two tea bags 3 times a day, but I recommend starting out a little at a time and work up to that if your body isn’t used to it.
Use this method at the first sign of red, hot tenderness to avoid the headache, body ache and flu-like systems of full blown mastitis. If you do get sick (happens to us all!) use this method to help you get better within a day or two without any antibiotics.
I hope this helps you!