Many women feel ready to give up breastfeeding if they encounter mastitis.
Indeed, it is a terrible illness with some mothers experiencing fever and shakes and incredible pain. But, there are many simple, natural ways you can get rid of mastitis once and for all, and you may not even need to take antibiotics.
How you got mastitis in the first place
These three causes of mastitis are taken from my Ayurvedic postpartum recipe book, Nourishing Newborn Mothers.
1. Doing too much is a sure way to bring on mastitis. Think back through the week prior to getting mastitis: did you push through aching tiredness to get just one more thing done?
Stop now and rest, rest, rest. Get a cleaner, ask your friends and family to cook and go to bed with your baby.
2. Manda agni, or low digestion, can result in kapha (water and earth) build up in breast milk. This sticky, heavy milk can block the ducts. If your appetite is low, try putting a few drops of breast milk into a glass of water: if it sinks in strands it is high in kapha. In this case you need help rekindling your digestion with lighter foods and more spices.
3. Clothing can also physically obstruct milk ducts.
When you can safely avoid antibiotics
Always see a doctor if you suspect you have mastitis. You will most likely be given a prescription for antibiotics, but you may not need to take them straight away. Breastfeeding expert Dr. Jack Newman says if you have had symptoms for less than 24 hours you can wait before starting medication.
If, over the next 8 to 12 hours, your symptoms are worsening (more pain, more spreading of the redness or enlarging of the painful lump), start the antibiotics. If over the next 24 hours, your symptoms are not worse but not better, start the antibiotics. If over the next 24 hours, your symptoms are lessening, then they will almost always continue to lessen and disappear without your needing to take the antibiotics.
5 Ayurvedic Remedies for Mastitis
1. Rest, rest and more rest. This could really count for all three ways to get rid of mastitis. If you think back through the week prior to getting mastitis, I’ll bet you did one thing too many. You can probably pin point exactly when you pushed through that aching tiredness to get just one more thing done. Stop now! If you’ve had mastitis once you are likely to get it again if you keep on keeping on. Resting is the single best way to avoid a recurrence of mastitis.
2. Massage out the lumps. It hurts, but it’s worth it. Massage your breast towards your nipple with the palm of your hand whilst you feed your baby, or when you are in a hot shower for some pain relief. Your mastitis will clear up much quicker if you can unblock that duct. Using a warm (not hot) water bottle directly on the lump prior to massaging it out and it may be easier and less painful.
3. A fever is your body’s natural way of fighting an infection. With your doctor’s approval, help your body win the battle by having a warm bath, going to bed with a hot water bottle or by wearing extra layers of clothes. You don’t need to bring down your fever unless advised by your doctor.
4. Wear comfortable clothes appropriate for breastfeeding and a well fitted maternity bra.
5. Rekindle your appetite with a warm soupy diet. Choose foods that are light and easy to digest, including mung dahl and basmati rice, or kitchari, and serve them warm and well cooked. Add ghee and spices including ginger, garlic, cumin, cardamom and fennel to rekindle your digestive fire.