Treating mastitis

July 21, 2010 at 2:59 am

Most women who’ve given birth and subsequently nursed their babies have at least heard about the possibility of developing mastitis (if not experienced it themselves). I have, on one occasion, developed what appeared by my estimation to be mastitis. It started out with what seemed like a plugged duct. I had experienced a plugged duct before, so I nursed frequently on that side while massaging the painful area. Eventually the pain was accompanied by flu-like aches all over my body. I didn’t want to wait around for the fever to start, so I immediately opened up my Nursing Mother’s Companion to see what suggestions were there. I was a little disappointed that it didn’t offer many concrete natural treatments and encouraged women to see their doctor for a prescription of antibiotics to avoid having the infection progress into an abscess. I have only taken antibiotics twice in my memory–once for an ear infection as a teenager and later for a supposed UTI (which was probably not actually a UTI in retrospect). I am not a big fan of antibiotics, and I think we all know they’re over-prescribed, over-injected, and largely responsible for the scary super-bugs we keep hearing about. So, needless to say, I didn’t want to go to the doctor and get a prescription.

I turned, instead, to the trusty internet, found some ideas, and put them to work. I continued to experience breast pain and mild aches for another day and half, but by the end of the second day I was pain and ache-free. I can’t promise that what worked for me will work for everyone, but here’s my recipe for treating mastitis without a prescription:

1. Frequent nursing accompanied with massage. As I mentioned before in regard to plugged ducts, the same goes for mastitis. Kick up the time spent nursing on the affected breast and massage the sore area toward the nipple.

2. Hot water. Damp heat encourages milk flow. You can do hot compresses with wash cloths, or you can simply get in the shower and position yourself so the water sprays directly onto the painful area of your breast. I found that doing the compresses was inefficient because they cooled down too fast. I opted for the shower instead. It also helps to massage the sore area as the water sprays on it as well.

3. Fluids! Plugged ducts and mastitis tend to develop in women who are dehydrated, so it’s important to restore those lost fluids. The body needs lots of fluids as the immune system works hard to combat infection. Fluids will also give your milk supply a boost and encourage blocked areas to flow freely again.

4. Plenty of rest. This is a no-brainer, I’m sure. Obviously, sleep will help your body heal faster. I felt really tired, so I found myself going to bed earlier anyway.

5. Vitamin C and raw garlic. Vitamin C has been shown to speed up recovery from colds, flus, and respiratory tract infections, and has many other heath and immune-boosting properties. I chose to get my vitamin C from a whole food source–lots of citris fruit–rather than a supplement. Then there’s garlic. Raw garlic is AMAZING. Yes… capital letters AMAZING! I won’t take the time to list all of its incredible properties here, but suffice it to say that garlic is a super-food extraordinaire. Google “raw garlic” and check it out for yourself! Research has shown that garlic has antibiotic properties without the nasty side effects that come with prescription antibiotics, so it’s especially helpful when you suspect you have an infection. It’s important that you take the garlic raw to get the immune-boosting benefits. Allicin–the antibiotic component in garlic–is destroyed by heat. Allicin is also responsible for the distinct garlic odor. So, chop up and swallow a few fresh cloves of garlic each day. I know, I know, but you’ve given birth for heaven’s sake, so you can handle a little garlic! One site recommends 4-5 cloves a day, if possible! I could only manage one or two, but I reasoned that even a little bit would give my body a boost.

And it did! I was thrilled to find myself well within two days. Nothing I did was complex or expensive. It’s amazing how often the best solutions are the simplest.