Natural Remedies for Mastitis

May 13, 2017

Mastitis simply means, “inflammation of the breast.” The the meaning is simple, but the condition is quite miserable for a breastfeeding mother. Natural remedies for mastitis include rest, heat, massage, garlic and lecithin.

A mother has many channels of milk ducts in each breast. If one of the ducts becomes inflamed or clogged, milk can back up in the breast, causing swelling, pain, fever and infection. It is not uncommon for a breastfeeding mother to get a breast infection when other members of the family are sick with a cold or the flu. Stress, improper breastfeeding practices, and infection can also cause mastitis.

Early Signs of Mastitis

If you suddenly feel a painful lump in your breast that becomes even more painful when you nurse your baby, you likely have a plugged milk duct. You should immediately begin treating the plug to keep it from developing into full blown mastitis.

Early Treatment of Mastitis

Rest

Mothers are busy and rest is hard to come by. But not taking the time to rest at the first sign of mastitis may mean that you end up with a more serious infection that will require several days of rest.

Massage

Gently massage the lump, especially when you nurse the baby. It is important to nurse the baby frequently if you have mastitis. Infrequent nursing can cause mastitis in the first place as milk backs up in the breast. (And do not worry about nursing during mastitis. The baby cannot get mastitis from you. The milk is not infected. The breast tissue is inflamed and can get infected, but the baby can still be nursed. However, it is not recommended to save any pumped breastmilk for future feedings.)

Heat

Use a warm rice sock or heating pad on the painful area between nursings.

Fluids

Make sure that you are drinking plenty of fluids. Water, herbal tea and broth are ideal.

Vitamin C

Nursing a baby is a lot of work! You may need extra vitamin C to keep up your immune system when you are nursing. Even 1,000 mg of sodium ascorbate three times a day is not too much for many nursing mothers.

Herbs for Mastitis

If these remedies do not resolve your plugged milk duct in 12-24 hours, you should move on to more aggressive treatment. If you have fever, malaise, or redness at the site of swelling, you will want to begin some of these remedies right away.

Continue with the above remedies of rest, massage, heat, fluids, and vitamin C. In fact, you may wish to increase your vitamin C intake to 6,000 mg a day. If you begin to get loose stools from the vitamin C, cut back a bit. Usually the body will require large amounts of vitamin C when you are sick and there won’t be an extra the body is trying to flush out.

Garlic

Garlic is a baby-safe herb that fights infection whether they are viral, bacterial or fungal. Take 1 clove of garlic 4 times a day until the infection is resolved. To take a clove of garlic, crush it, wait 15 minutes to allow the healing allicin to develop, then eat your garlic on a cracker or mixed with honey. You can add a clove to a salad you are eating or to your soup, but you do want to eat it raw.

Turmeric

Turmeric is another wonderful herb to treat infection and inflammation. ½ teaspoon of turmeric root powder can be mixed with 4 ounces of milk or juice. This remedy should be take 4 times a day.

Cabbage

A cold cabbage leaf can be used to treat mastitis. Simply cut a piece of cabbage leaf and place it over the affected area inside the bra. Change the leaf every 2 hours or more. The cold leaf is comforting as well. If you have trouble with your milk supply however, do not use cabbage. It can reduce the milk supply!

Charcoal Poultices

A charcoal poultice can be used to reduce pain and inflammation from a plugged duct. Place the poultice over the affected area and change this poultice several times a day. If you make several ahead and keep them in the refrigerator, they will be very soothing when you first apply a fresh poultice. You will find more information about making a charcoal poultice on this page.

Peppermint Essential Oil

Peppermint essential oil can be used topically to treat mastitis. Peppermint is cooling and will help to relieve the “heat” of mastitis. Massage a couple of drops of the oil into the swollen part of the breast after each nursing. (This will allow fumes to dissipate before the baby’s next feeding. Peppermint essential oil fumes can irritate the eyes.)

Natural Remedies for Chronic Mastitis

Some mothers experience one bout of mastitis after another. This can be discouraging and painful!

Reduce Stress

Stress can increase the likelihood of mastitis. New moms need plenty of rest. If you have offers of help, take them! Use the baby’s nap time to rest or nap yourself, not catch up on other work. A magnesium supplement can help your body to cope better with stress. Epsom salt baths are also relaxing and deliver stress reducing magnesium to your body through the skin.

Lecithin

Some mothers seem prone to plugged milk ducts. Breast milk is high in fat and that fat can clog up the milk ducts. Lecithin helps to break down the fat and reduce the occurrence of plugged milk ducts. 1-3 capsules of lecithin may be needed daily as a preventative.

Pay Attention to Positioning

Make sure your baby is in a proper nursing position. Changing the positions in which you nurse your baby can help to completely drain the breast. You may need to consult a lactation specialist to make sure your baby is attaching properly. Improper positioning can mean that all of the milk is not being drained from the breast, resulting in mastitis.

Evaluate your Underwear

Underwire nursing bras can cause continuous pressure in one area of the breast. This can cause milk to back up in one area and increase your risk of mastitis. Find a comfortable bra without wires for this nursing season. Bras designed for sleep time are especially comfortable even for day wear. Give your breasts a break and sleep without a bra if possible.

Have you used natural remedies for mastitis? Please send us some feedback!



Apple Cider Vinegar  

5 star (2) 
  100%
Share your thoughts with our readers
Write a review


Posted by Adam's Mom (Atlanta, Ga) on 05/07/2011
5 out of 5 stars

Yea! I am breastfeeding my third child and recognized the symptoms of mastitis. The whole top side of my right breast was a hard lump and no amount of massage or hot compresses made a difference. I nursed him on that breast until he was unable to get any more milk, but the top of my breast remained engorged and hard.

I got on earth clinic and sure enough ACV was listed as one of the cures. I took 1 tablespoon of organic ACV and put my son back on that breast to nurse 5 mins later. I did switch positions to the football hold; the milk began to flow and my breast began to soften instantly. I couldn't believe it. I've just finished feeding, baby is asleep with a full tummy and I have no symptoms! My breast is soft with no hard lumps! You've gotta love ACV!


Posted by Wendy (Boise, Idaho) on 07/15/2008
5 out of 5 stars

Apple Cider Vinegar cured my mastitis. My mom has used Apple Cider Vinegar for years and when I was getting the symptoms of mastitis - she told me to take Apple Cider Vinegar. Within 24 hours of taking it all the symptoms were gone. I didn't even have to go to the doctor and get put on antibiotics. I took 1 tablespoon of ACV 3x a day.


Apple Cider Vinegar, Baking Soda  

5 star (1) 
  100%
Share your thoughts with our readers
Write a review


Posted by Tanya (Townsville, Queensland, Australia) on 01/27/2010
5 out of 5 stars

1 Tblspn Organic Apple Cider Vinegar with 1/2 Tblspn Bi Carb Soda 3x per day cured my Mastitis overnight. Mastitis is a condition I go and get antibiotics ASAP for. I googled bi carb for inflammation and found Earth Clinic. I tried the ACV and bicarb remedy straight away and by the morning, the sorness, redness and congestion in my breast tissue was halved. My fever and flu-like symptoms did not advance and I progressively felt better over the following 2 days as I continued to take the remedy. Three days later, I am more than cured - I feel the best I have in a very long time and will continue to take this daily. No anti-biotics needed!

Replied by Diane
Duluth, Mn
02/06/2010

Tanya

Are you sure you have your instructions right? I have a feeling you may have meant 1/2 tsp. Bi carb. I tried it because I just got over a breast infection and it was awful tasting. I have been doing Teds lime/bi carb remedy which balances PH so your body can fight infection (an so much more). Also, after having 8 children and battling mastitis the fastest cure for me is to take a hot bath and go to bed and keep the inflamed side empty by letting baby suckle that side first. Diane

Replied by Holly
Jackson, Al
10/24/2016

Do you mix it with water and drink it or apply it to breast?

EC: The poster drank it.


Apple Cider Vinegar, Garlic  

5 star (1) 
  100%
Share your thoughts with our readers
Write a review


Posted by Cateyeblink (Melbourne, Victoria Australia) on 12/07/2009
5 out of 5 stars

ACV and Garlic for Mastitis and General Breastfeeding Health.

I'm still happily feeding my 7month old son. I've been following a strict(ish) Weston A. Price diet and since the second time I got mastitis I've been drinking a generous splash of ACV and a teaspoon of stevia liquid (natural herb sweetener) in a large glass of (fluoride-free) water every evening, occasionally twice, thirst depending. It's delicious, refreshing and mastitis hasn't occurred since.

To originally treat the mastitis I ate little pieces of organic garlic. I cut about ten bits in to the size of my little fingernail and just chomped and swallowed. I felt so horrid from the pain and oncoming fever I didn't care that I'd possibly stink for a day or so, and I read online somewhere that it really worked, so I had faith the taste could be dealt with. WAAAAY better than hardcore antibiotics! : )

I went to bed early both times, and fed my baby lying down. My fever was gone the next few hours and the pain by the following morning. I can't recommend this highly enough.


Castor Oil  

5 star (1) 
  100%
Share your thoughts with our readers
Write a review


Posted by Allie (Vancouver, Bc, Canada) on 12/04/2009
5 out of 5 stars

Castor oil compresses for mastitis

I had mastitis when my daughter was 3 weeks old, and it was so bad I went to emergency and had IV antibiotics, then had to be on oral antibiotics for 10 days. I was right out of commission for a few days because it caused a migraine headache as well. My midwife told me that if it came back I should try putting castor oil on a rag (I used paper towels) and then hold hot wet compresses (I used washcloths) over it. I did that when it threatened to come back about 5 weeks later, and I think it staved it off - I didn't need to get antibiotics that time. Still had a high fever, but the infection wasn't nearly as bad.


Chaga Mushroom  

5 star (1) 
  100%
Share your thoughts with our readers
Write a review


Posted by Theresa (Columbus, Ga) on 05/26/2016
5 out of 5 stars

I had a frequent and recurrent plugged duct. I tried all the tricks recommended online to relieve it but nothing helped until I decided to put chaga mushroom cream on my affected breast before going to bed one night. I put it all over my breast, sparing the nipple. The cream helps tremendously with the inflammation and pain. I have used it three times for a plugged duct and every time, the duct is unplugged by morning.


Essential Oils  

5 star (1) 
  100%
Share your thoughts with our readers
Write a review


Posted by Ky Mama (Clinton, Ky, Usa) on 07/30/2012
5 out of 5 stars

I have had terrible mastitis a couple of times with my most recent baby. I made an oil up with 2 oz. Olive oil, 1 T. Eucalyptus oil, 1 T. Peppermint oil. (adding 1 T. Castor oil would be good if you have it, it is a good analgesic. ) I massage this into the affected area after each nursing. (Avoid contact with eyes and mouth. ) Don't apply it right before nursing, it will bother baby's eyes and mouth. This helps better than anything! Charcoal poultices or cabbage leaves are good for overnight. (Don't use cabbage leaves if you have trouble with your milk supply; it can dry up your milk.)


Garlic  

5 star (1) 
  100%
Share your thoughts with our readers
Write a review


Posted by Mommy V (Washington, D. C., Usa) on 04/27/2011
5 out of 5 stars

I battled chronic overproduction, plugged ducts, and mastitis while nursing both of my boys. Before learning about garlic, I frequently suffered for weeks with swelling, pain, redness, and spiking fevers. I could barely stand the pain of a shirt, and couldn't leave the house. Garlic has worked wonders for me. At the FIRST SIGN of soreness, I crush and swallow one clove of garlic with a glass of water. Then I head straight to bed. (Mastitis is a sign that mommy needs rest! ) I eat one crushed clove, three times a day until symptoms subside (usually within 24-48 hours), and then I usually eat one a day for a few more days just to be sure. Since using garlic, I have never had a bout that kept me from working or going about my usual business.


Ginger  

5 star (1) 
  100%
Share your thoughts with our readers
Write a review


Posted by Khitbar (Philadelphia, Pa) on 01/22/2011
5 out of 5 stars

I was diagnosed with mastitis and wasn't about to take any chemical medications. So luckily I read somewhere on this sight that Apple Cider Vinegar would help. Unfortunately for me it didn't work, so I tried soaked ginger. As it is good for joint pain and cracking, so I decided I might as well give it a try. Drank a glass ful Before bed. During the middle of the night I woke up to nurse my baby and with the will of GOD I had no inflamation at all and didn't feel a thing. So it only took about a couple of hours to rid of the inflamation.


Pineapple  

5 star (1) 
  100%
Share your thoughts with our readers
Write a review


Posted by Shannon (New Castle, Pa) on 08/13/2014
5 out of 5 stars

I have six children and anytime I start to get a clogged duct, I eat pineapple. It can be fresh, my preference, or canned. I generally have a fresh pineapple but keep a can in my pantry at all times, just in case. It generally works by the next time my babies need to nurse....the longest it ever took was up to 24 hours for the pain to be completely gone. I would say I eat about 1/4 of a whole pineapple. I would love to hear feedback from people who have tried this! I feel like it is amazing!!


Poke Root Tincture  

5 star (1) 
  50%
1 star (1) 
  50%
Share your thoughts with our readers
Write a review


Posted by Ohr (Nc) on 06/20/2015
5 out of 5 stars

I have cured chronic mastitis more than 8xs with tincture of poke root...

***Caution poke root can be very dangerous!!

I topically applied (but make sure baby will not ingest) or took 1-2 drops a day! Works Every time!!! Every time I just begin to feel the inflammation coming, I take one drop and it goes away! I use it for 3-4 days to make sure it's gone afterward... And generally stop drinking coffee and eating sugars during the first symptoms until 3 days...

Replied by Elaine
Edmond, Oklahoma, Usa
08/10/2015

How do you make the tincture? Do you apply on the breast or do you ingest it?

Replied by Mama To Many
Tennessee
08/11/2015
1 out of 5 stars

Warning

Two herbalists for whom I have much respect, discuss the use of poke root for certain ailments. It is something I would consider using with great caution and care.

I can give you a recipe for Poke Root Tincture, but it takes six weeks to make and if you have mastitis now, that would take too long. Plus you need to harvest the root in the fall....

I do not know of a reputable source for Poke Root tincture. Likely because it can be dangerous, companies are not willing to sell it. Because it is such a strong remedy and potentially dangerous, I would not get it from a source unless I was very confident about it.

The author of this post is suggesting taking it internally and using it topically for mastitis. If using it topically, you would still use a tiny amount and make sure the baby would not get any at all, even in a tiny quantity. One drop of poke root tincture is the internal dose, so it is very, very strong.

If I were to have poke root tincture in my house, it would be in a very safe place. Most herbal/natural things that I use are so safe I can leave them accessible. Not so with poke! An over dose could be very serious or fatal. And when a beginning dose is one drop...well, you see what I mean.

I have a great respect for poke and it is something I would consider using for a serious condition.

For mastitis, I would try something else first. I have had much success with many different mastitis remedies over the years. (I nursed 9 babies for a year or more each and have had my share of mastitis! )

Warm compresses, peppermint essential oil, mullein/lobelia salve, cabbage poultices, charcoal poultices....

~Mama to Many~