What is Mastitis
Mastitis is closely linked with blocked ducts in breastfeeding mothers.
When breast milk slows down as a result of a blocked duct (saṅga srotaduṣṭi in stanyavaha srota), the milk needs a place to go, so it ends up leaking into the surrounding tissue (vimārga gāmana srotaduṣṭi).
The causes inflammation, and may or may not lead to infection.
It most commonly affects one part of the breast, but can effect the whole breast. The swelling due to a build of too much milk, fluid and blood flow can cause narrowing of the milk ducts.
Remember, your breast is safe for your baby, even if you have mastitis, so keep feeding.
Signs & Symptoms (Rupa)
- Increased body temperature (39.5C+),
- General ill-feeling of discomfort
- Red, swollen, painful part of the breast
- Body aches and pains
- Blocked duct – symptoms include pain, especially during milk ejection, tenderness at the area.
- Missed feeds
- Long gap between breastfeeds
- Incomplete breast drainage
- Stopping breastfeeding too quickly
- Oversupply of milk or breasts are too full (hyper-lactation)
- Blocked milk ducts
- Mammary dysbiosis (disruption of the milk microbiome)
- Overly tight bra
- Damaged or cracked nipple and outside sources of infections like from infant’s nose, mouth or mother’s hands. Research shows mastitis is NOT caused by nipple wounds.
- Mother and baby being seperated.
- Ensure proper hormonal balance postpartum by taking Post Natal Tonic ASAP after birth, and adhering to our Ayurvedic postpartum protocol.
- Breastfeed as often as your baby wants. This can be every 1-2 hours in a 24 hour period.
- Don’t miss or delay feeds. When baby is showing cues, attend to the hungry baby as soon as you can.
- Keep breasts well drained – keep overly full breasts down in volume – When your breasts are too full, wake your baby to feed. If they don’t want to feed, express a small amount. Do not fully empty breasts if you do not want to increase milk production, as this will increase milk production and swelling.
- Consult lactation consultant or practitioner to make sure your baby is attached and feeding properly at the breast.
- Offer both breasts at each feed. Balance and alternate between both sides.
- Avoid giving your baby formula or other fluids unless advised by a quality practitioner.
- Rest – sleep, meditate or rest when your baby is asleep.
Treatment & Remedies (Cikitsā) for Mastitis
- Massage castor oil in to the breast followed by warm compress (e.g. hot towḷ or hot water bottle) 2-3x/day before a feed. Also during the day is fine.
- If you have not already started Post-natal Tonic, start taking that.
- Begin feeds on the affected side, while still ensuring your feed on the other breast after (without neglect).
- Express if it is too painful to feed or the baby will not feed.
- Apply cold packs or cold (frozen/refrigerated) cabbage leaves to the breast (under a bra) post-feed to reduce inflammation and soothe discomfort.
- Massage gently towards the nipple during feeding/expressing to help encourage milk flow. Deep massage will increase inflammation.
- Stay well hydrated with fennel tea, cumin tea, plain hot water, Bliss in hot water, hot milk elixir.
- Minimise use of breast pumps – not as effective of removing milk than breastfeeding. It does not allow for the crucial bacterial exchange between mother and baby. If the baby cannot breastfeed, only pump to the baby’s appetite, the volume of milk pumped should not exceed what the baby will take at each feed.
There is a lot of information out there on breastfeeding, parenting and postpartum.
Go with your intuition and find practitioners and physicians you can trust.
Consult a lactation consultation, quality midwife or quality health care practitioner for more specific treatment.