Clogged Duct Relief & How I Remedy Mastitis

I have spent 6 years (cumulative) breastfeeding with our first 4 children and just welcomed baby #5 in April, with plans to breastfeed as long as I can. I have definitely had my run in with clogged ducts and mastitis.

In fact, the first time I ever had mastitis, with baby #1, my fever spiked to 105.3 and I was stayed overnight in the hospital. Needless to say, I developed a wee bit of anxiety surrounding mastitis. I know now that that particular bout of mastitis was directly related to my mother being a visitor in our home (she is quite toxic) and her demands of traveling the country (Germany at the time) and having me entertain her and my niece while my husband was in the field. Talk about a recipe for inflammation and infection!

It is also really fascinating to note that in her book “You Can Heal Your Life”, Louise Hay talks about the emotional/mental state surrounding breast issues is “refusal to nourish the self, putting everyone else first, overmothering, overprotection, overbearing attitudes.” Important to note that the “over” issues aren’t necessarily that YOU are doing it. Others emotional/mental, even physical states, can play a role in that.

With baby #2, I had a few bouts. Less with baby #3 and with baby #4, nothing that went into mastitis.

Now, in my role as birth worker, I work with moms who are either planning to breastfeed or in the beginnings of their breastfeeding relationship. It is beautiful but definitely a learning curve.

Clogged Duct Relief and How I Remedy Mastitis

Clogged Ducts

One of the key players in clogged ducts is…inflammation! A lot of moms (new and experienced) will struggle with clogged ducts when their milk comes in. So lets talk about that first.

1) Compresses

Hot water, is often recommended to help soften the tissue and relieve inflammation but I really love herbal compresses. My two favorite herbs? Lavender and Calendula. Together, they soothe inflammation AND stimulate lymph and blood movement (which is what helps with inflammation). Add in the benefit of the warm and wetness, you have a beautiful remedy.

I used this with baby #4 to stop mastitis before it took hold.

To make a compress - make a batch a strong Lavender and Calendula infusion. Strain and soak a small towel in the tea. Apply to breasts. Switch out towel when it starts to cool off.

Repeat as needed throughout the day.

I have seen tea bags of Lavender and Chamomile available at stores like Walmart - while I love Calendula, these two herbs are also a beautiful pair to help. Helpful to know when you need something fast.

2) Gua sha and breast massage

Now, this is a two-fer. Not only does the action of the gua sha and breast massage help with inflammation, it can also help to break a clog up and move it through (clogs could be in the breast tissue or on the nipple).

I always recommend applying an oil to the breast first (like our Breast Love Oil or Calendula Oil - but plain olive oil is just perfect too) to help the fingers or gua sha move easier over the breast.

Apply firm pressure and move towards the nipple. I like to move clockwise around breast (all breast tissue needs loving). I will do big circles with my palm first, to get an initial softening and then move into more direct massage with my fingers.

With a gua sha, whether using a gua sha tool or the side of a debit card, start with the big sweeping massage first then concentrate the tool over the area of the breast with a clogged duct.

These can be done in the shower as well!

To really get the most - start with a compress, apply oil, gua sha/breast massage, and then drink lots of room temp water, warm tea, nourishing infusion, or bone broth. Don’t forget to rest!

3) Dangle feeding

While no one likes being compared to a cow (although, if you stop and think about it, animals are pretty amazing), this is essentially what you will feel like. Dangle your breast down, like an udder.

What this does is let gravity assist the movement.

Lay baby on their back and, PUTTING THEIR CHIN CLOSEST TO THE CLOG, let them nurse.

On a nursing baby, the chin is the strongest point of suction. By have the chin on the side of the clog, not only are we having gravity help we are also using the power of the chin to literally suck it out.

If you are able to, massage the clog while nursing to help facilitate as well.

DO NOT STOP BREASTFEEDING. Many doctors are telling women to stop breastfeeding when they get a clogged duct because of lack of education on breastfeeding.

Dangle feeding every time can be kind of a hassle so just make sure you are switching nursing positions throughout the day.

Other options are cabbage leaves or raw potatoes soaked. I personally didn’t see much help from the cabbage and haven’t tried the potatoes BUT if you have them and nothing else, its definitely worth a shot.

Mastitis

While the above techniques will go a really long way in providing relief and avoiding mastitis, sometimes it progresses into mastitis - or an infection of the breast tissue. It feels like you have or are getting the flu with a nice red, tender area on your breast that may or may not spread out from the origin.

If you go and see a doctor, they most likely will prescribe you an antibiotic to clear the infection. While I do recommend this IF the infection is to the point where there is true concern about an abscess, it is not what we should be turning to right away.

1) Garlic

Raw garlic cloves, chopped and swallowed 3-4 times a day will be our first ally. I would put mine in a spoon of applesauce and knock it back (before I did that, I would do just the clove and once it got stuck on my tongue…never again!).

This has powerful antibacterial actions in our bodies, and is readily available - making this a beautiful go-to.

Another option, if planning ahead of time, is a garlic infused honey. This would be where the raw garlic cloves are still in the honey. They you can take one of the cloves out of the honey as a “spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.”

2) Echinacea

I do the tincture 4-6 times a day, with the garlic, for the first 24 hours after realizing what is happening.

Tea is another option but for those first 24 hours, I am a tincture person.

Look for Echinancea angustifolia. I have found it stronger than E. purpurea and my blend that I keep at home (which I call E2) is both. E. purpurea herb and E. angustifolia root together.

3) Compresses

Continue with the compresses I mention above BUT I also add in Echinacea herb to the blend.

4) Nourishment

It is always important in life - and especially postpartum - to DEEPLY nourish yourself with whole foods. While you are fighting this infection, eat stews, soups, steamed veggies with ghee…warming foods that are easy to digest. This will fuel your body while allowing the energy to be focused on fighting the infection. I recommend room temp water (so you don’t spend your energy warming it up after drinking), nourishing infusions, bone both, golden milk… I recommend them all the time during your postpartum but really ensure that you are getting it while fighting mastitis.

KEEP BREASTFEEDING (see note in clogged duct section).

Lastly -

Keep in mind that not taking time to rest postpartum, pushing yourself too hard too fast, or dealing with relatives and visitors (even well meaning ones) all add stress to the body that you don’t need. Postpartum, while a time with a new baby, is also a time about YOU. YOU carried the baby. YOU gave birth. YOU are a goddess in need of nourishment, rest, and unconditional love. Place people around you that see that and honor it.

Find a postpartum doula, especially one with mother roasting options.

Take time during your pregnancy to plan for a holistic, nourishing postpartum period (don’t forget natural supplies and herbs )