guest article by Alexa Torontow
Mastitis is a type of infection that most people don’t know about until you get it yourself. Once you’ve had it, you’ll never forget it. I felt worse when I had mastitis than I did at any other point in my postpartum journey (including immediately after delivery). To say it was painful would be a huge understatement.
Mastitis is a painful inflammation of the breast, often due to an obstructed milk duct with a bacterial infection. Staphylococcus aureus is typically the bacterial culprit. It’s a bacteria that is normally present on the skin, but can lead to problems when it enters the body through cracked nipples.
Mastitis most commonly occurs in the first six weeks of breastfeeding, yet can occur anytime while lactating. It often presents with fever and flu-like symptoms, fatigue, a painful breast lump, and breast redness.
But don’t fret. There are a variety of holistic options for preventing and managing mastitis!
Prevention is key when it comes to mastitis. Some of the contributing risk factors are maternal fatigue, poor nursing technique, nipple trauma, rapid reduction in nursing frequency, and constrictive clothing. Moms often plan so much for the baby’s arrival during pregnancy, they either forget or are unsure how to prepare for their postpartum selves. The best time to prep for the postpartum experience is during pregnancy. Meal prep ahead of time, ask friends or family to assist around the house and hire a postpartum doula if possible.
You aren’t meant to struggle through motherhood alone! It’s helpful to take a breastfeeding 101 class during pregnancy to learn nursing positions and what a correct latch looks like. If the baby is struggling to latch correctly, seek out a lactation consultant immediately. Lactation consultants are well-trained professionals to assist you on your nursing journey. Lastly, buy a natural nipple salve containing calendula and apply it between feeding sessions to reduce nipple trauma.
I know this is much easier said than done as a mother. Resting is essential to a speedy recovery when it comes to any type of infection, including mastitis. The first 24 hours are really important to rest, so outsource all your duties as soon as you can for the day! If natural remedies don’t resolve mastitis within 24 hours, antibiotics are typically needed to prevent it from developing into an abscess, which would be a medical emergency. You can’t power your way through mastitis! Rest, rest and then rest some more!
Even though nursing might be painful on the affected sign, it’s important to continue nursing to help drain the breast. If possible, lay in bed naked with baby all day and allow yourself to be an all-you-can-eat buffet for your little one. It can sometimes be helpful to feed on the unaffected side first to establish milk let-down.
Acupuncture is one technique in the system of Traditional Chinese Medicine. It involves the insertion of very fine needles into particular points in the body to support your overall health and wellness. Certain points on the body help reduce pain and distention that occur with mastitis. Seek out your local acupuncturist or Traditional Medicine Doctor.
Homeopathic medicine is an energetic system of medicine that is based on the belief in the body’s natural ability to restore balance. Homeopathic remedies are typically taken in the form of a small pellet and are used on an as-need basis. Phytolacca, Hepar Sulph, and Belladonna are commonly prescribed homeopathic remedies given for mastitis, but it’s always best to get a personalized remedy from a Homeopathic practitioner or Naturopathic Doctor.
Raw cabbage leaves as a topical compress can help reduce pain and swelling. A tincture of echinacea is helps reduce infection. Lastly, supplementing with Vitamin C and Zinc boosts the immune system and assists in tissue healing.
Mastitis is a challenging and often very painful infection. Creating a postpartum apothecary and first-aid kit ahead of time can save you a lot of effort stress postpartum! Buy Vitamin C, Zinc, a tincture of echinacea, and natural nipple salve. Ask other moms in your area or do some research ahead of time to get contact information for a local acupuncturist and lactation consultant. Having your remedies, resources, and tools ready to go will assist in a smoother and more nourishing postpartum experience.
Naturopathic Medical Intern, Pre/Postnatal Yoga Instructor + Doula@alexatorontow
Alexa blends traditional wisdom with modern medicine for women and children. She’s a Naturopathic Medical Intern, Pre/Postnatal Yoga Instructor, Doula, and Mother. She teaches how to enhance your vitality through health practices that are sustainable (and actually enjoyable), so you feel energized, balanced, and confident in how to take the best care of your unique self and family.
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