Agggghhhhhh, most of us breast-feeders, unfortunately, will enter into the painful world of blocked ducts at some point in our feeding careers.  (NO, not BLOGGED ducts, that would be an altogether different kind of blockage. Bloggage?)

The following advice 5 WAYS TO AVOID OR TREAT MASTITIS NATURALLY featured in Tots to Teens magazine’s August/September 2014 edition.

Top Five Natural Ways to Avoid or Treat Mastitis.

Breastfeeding is indeed a labour of love, with one in three of us lactating mums suffering from mastitis at some point as a consequence of our commitment.

Mastitis is an infection of breast tissue caused by a blockage in one of your milk ducts.  The condition may arise from poor feeding if your suckling baby is incorrectly latched.  This creates uneven milk flow, and in turn can cause a blockage.  Gaps in your feeding schedule may also cause the problem, as milk collects and puts pressure on the ducts.  Pressure on the breasts- for instance from wearing a poorly-fitting bra- may also result in a mastitis infection.

The infection can cause you pain, swelling and redness of the affected area with flu-like symptoms, and can accelerate quickly.  Very commonly the prescribed remedy is a course of antibiotics to treat the infection; in the worst cases you may end up in hospital.

Antibiotic prescriptions are not great for a weary parent, nor are they ideal for your baby.  It’s possible your suckling infant will absorb the drug, and the quality of your breast-milk can be affected.

Several natural remedies may be effective as alternatives to antibiotics.  The key to the success of any mastitis treatment is to detect any problems as early as possible; so keep a close watch on your breasts.

A blocked milk duct causes a slight hardening of the breast tissue.  This feels similar to the sensation of fullness when bubs is overdue a feed- although tends to be localised, and remains even after she has had a vigorous suckle.  Another reliable indicator of blocked ducts is visible redness of the area.

If you notice either of these signs, give the following remedies a try straight away.  Any or all of them may work to clear away a milk duct blockage naturally and effectively.

If you experience no relief, or if the symptoms worsen within 2-3 days, don’t wait to seek help.  Some antibiotics are better than others in terms of their compatibility with breastfeeding, so ask your doctor for reassurance the appropriate brand is being prescribed for you.

1. Feed, feed, feed
It may seem counter-intuitive to put baby to a sore, inflamed breast, but encouraging her to suckle frequently will help the milk to keep flowing.  If possible, feed exclusively from the affected breast.  If you choose or need to skip feeds, keep your milk flowing by expressing that milk as fully as possible each time.

2. Rest
Mastits is an infection like any other; your body becomes a battleground between the invading organism and your natural defence force.   To give your immunity a fighting chance, rest as much as possible.  Perhaps easier said than done with an infant to care for, but now is the time to enlist help.  Take to your bed and give your body a chance to do its best for you.  Ensure your bra is comfortable and not too tight, and wear it round-the-clock to give good support to your breasts.

3. Massage & heat
Applying heat to the area can promote drainage of the affected duct, so get a wheat bag or hot water bottle onto your breast between feeds.  Very gently massage the area, starting at the rim of the hard lump.  If possible, continue the gentle massage while baby is feeding.

4. Garlic
Humble garlic is a powerful healing agent, with antiviral, antifungal and antibiotic properties.  To work effectively as a natural antibiotic you need to eat it raw.  The upside is that, unlike medically-prescribed antibiotics, garlic won’t destroy the healthy bacteria in your body while it doing its healing work.  Try to eat at least 3-4 cloves of garlic a day, crushing them and leaving them to oxidize for ten minutes before eating.  Can’t stomach the thought of munching on fresh garlic?  Disguise it in a sweet smoothie with honey, yoghurt and Nutella, or prepare a savoury vegetable juice with a couple of tomatoes, some lemon juice and a little sea salt.

5. Change position
Blocked milk ducts often occur because baby is incorrectly latched.  Keep a close eye on her during feeding to ensure she doesn’t get into lazy habits.  If a blockage occurs, try changing feeding positions to encourage milk flow.  If at all possible, direct baby’s chin towards the blocked area.  Using the ‘football’ hold, lying sideways or even leaning forward over baby can all help stimulate flow and ease milk duct congestion.

Seek help for feeding problems as soon as they occur.  Your local library will have a selection of books to help during the early stages of breast-feeding.  Contact La Leche League for further support, or check out their website’s comprehensive Frequently Asked Questions section at http://www.llli.org.nz.  Alternatively you may prefer to get some one-on-one help from a lactation consultant; ask your midwife or GP for a referral.




My Newborn Survival Guide Posts:

#1 Massage

#2 Osteopath

#3 Breastfeeding

#4 Coffee Group

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