How to Treat Mastitis Naturally
By the time my oldest child was 12 weeks old, all of our newborn breastfeeding struggles were behind us. He latched well, and stayed latch. In hindsight, I realize that part of my son’s latch issues were caused by my overactive letdown. Oh, how I wish I had been more prepared for breastfeeding!
I had begun working from home when my son was around 10 weeks old and didn’t have to pump anymore. Oddly, my overactive letdown and supply abundance had never translated into a good pumping experience. (Read more about my experience with working and breastfeeding.)
We had entered into the promised land of breastfeeding. Gazing on my sweet baby’s milk drunk face after a nursing session was my reward for having met the challenge of my struggles. It was empowering to know that when he cried and couldn’t be consoled by anyone else that I, and I alone, had the magic he needed.
Mastitis Strikes Unexpectedly
One morning, when my son was around 6 months old and had started sleeping more at night, I woke up with pain on the side of my left breast. It was a sharp pain and upon examination, I saw small red line under my skin.
At first glance I thought that maybe, during the night, my son had latched onto my skin by accident. However, the pain was too intense to be a simple “nursing hickie”.
I tried to nurse my son on that side every other feeding as usual, but the pain was too intense. Of course, the less I used that breast, the more engorged I became, further adding to the pain.
By that evening I felt dizzy and fatigued. While holding my son, I realized that he felt cool to the touch. That meant I had a fever.
Mastitis! Before I typed the word into Google I knew what I was dealing with. I’d read the stories of other breastfeeding moms with mastitis in my breastfeeding support groups. I knew what I was in for.
I Treated Mastitis Without Antibiotics
I sat at my computer, barely able to hold my head up, and searched the symptoms and treatments. Most websites recommended seeing a doctor for antibiotics, but I felt so sick that I couldn’t imagine driving myself to the doctor with a baby in tow. Anyway, I needed to get through the night before I could visit a doctor. I definitely wasn’t going to drag my baby to the germy emergency room with me for a condition I didn’t consider to be an emergency.
At this point of my life I wasn’t into natural living the same way I am now. If doctors made house calls I would’ve taken antibiotics. Of course, I’m glad I didn’t, because I wound up treating mastitis without antibiotics, which would teach me what to do when I got mastitis again with my next two babies.
To treat my mastitis naturally, I nursed from the infected breast as much as possible, even though it was horribly painful. As my baby latched on to my painful breast, I cried and had flashbacks. All of the physical and emotional pain of our difficult first weeks of breastfeeding came flooding back.
I nursed through night, as usual, but I didn’t feel better when I woke up. I let my job know I wouldn’t be working that day and considered calling my husband, who went to work at 4 A.M, to take me to the doctor.
I decided that if I didn’t feel better when he got home that afternoon, I would go. While I waited, I stayed in bed with my baby and nursed and slept.
By that afternoon, my fever was gone, but I was still very tired. I continued to nurse on the infected side and the pain decreased a little each time.
My fever came back a little that night, but went away the next morning and stayed away. I was able to get some work done that day (day 3 of mastitis) and went to bed early that night. By the fourth day, the pain in my breast was slight and the redness had diminished.
By the day 5, I felt much better and was nursing with no pain.
What Treating Mastitis Naturally Taught Me
I came out of my first experience with mastitis feeling brave and empowered! I hadn’t visited the doctor nor had I used antibiotics to help me get better. This was the start to my journey to natural health.
My breastfeeding experience so far had taught me a few good things. First, breastfeeding was worth the effort, not only for the nutrition it provided my baby but for the empowerment it provided me as a mom. Secondly, I can, indeed, do anything I decide to do. Lastly, I’m so much stronger than the twenty-year-old me ever dreamed I could be. (Seriously. I wasn’t exactly a superhero when I had my wisdom teeth removed.)
Would I have known these truths about myself if not for breastfeeding? Maybe. I only know for sure that breastfeeding my oldest son taught me a lot about myself and the strength I didn’t know I had. In the way that some moms receive empowerment and strength through natural childbirth (one of my biggest regrets as a mom is not having a water birth at home), working through my breastfeeding struggles empowered and strengthened me as a woman and as a mother.
The story doesn’t end here. Read about my experience with breastfeeding and pregnancy.
Important Note: I share my breastfeeding experience to offer encouragement and celebrate my triumph over personal struggles, not to judge or condemn other moms whose stories are different from my own. If you feel like a breastfeeding failure you have to read this article to moms who think they failed at breastfeeding. You’re not a failure, mama.
My breastfeeding experience spanned a continuous 5 years and 9 months. In this series I share my breastfeeding story, with all of its ups and downs, for the purpose of inspiring and encouraging both new moms and those who are well into their breastfeeding experience.
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