Lactation Mastitis (Puerperal Mastitis)

By Jennalee Marie, apprentice 2011/2012

What is it?

In most cases, lactation mastitis occurs within the first three months after giving birth (postpartum), but it can happen in later months during breast-feeding. It usually occurs when a Mother does too much without resting!

Commonly mastitis during breast feeding is caused by clogged milk duct as a result of not emptying the breast completely, not feeding enough or feeding with a poor latch, restrictive clothing or bras, and when a Mother feeds less than usual. With these non-bacterial causes experts are still unsure why breast milk can cause the breast tissue to become inflamed. One theory is that it may be due to the presence of Cytokines in breast milk. Cytokines are special proteins that are used by the immune system and are passed on to the baby in order to help them resist infection. It may be the case that the breast feeder’s immune system mistakes these Cytokines for a bacterial or viral infection, and responds by inflaming the breast tissue in an attempt to stop the spread of what the body perceives as an infection. Bacterial infection can also be the direct cause of Lactation Mastitis: here, rather than a clogged milk duct, the Mastitis is caused by bacteria from the skin or the baby’s mouth that enters the milk ducts through skin lesions of the nipple or through the opening of the nipple. In this later case the infection is usually caused by Staphylococcus aureus. Often in these cases the nipple will have signs of cracks or soreness, and keeping the breasts and baby’s mouth clean are important.

Symptoms:

Lactation mastitis usually affects only one breast and the symptoms can develop suddenly. The signs and symptoms may include:

  • Breast tenderness or warmth to the touch
  • General malaise or feeling ill
  • Swelling of the breast
  • Pain or a burning sensation continuously or while breast-feeding
  • Skin redness, often in a wedge-shaped pattern
  • Fever of 101 F (38.3 C) or greater
  • The affected breast can then start to appear lumpy and red

Some women may also experience flu-like symptoms such as: aches, shivering and chills, feeling anxious or stressed, and fatigue.

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Jennalee’s Herbal experience with Lactation Mastitis:

(You may not need every remedy, but this is what worked for me! Seek out a knowledgeable herbalist to help you treat mastitis. I had a consultation with Jasmyn before I started on these potent and potentially toxic herbs.)

Internal:

  • 2-3 drops Phytolacca tincture 1:2 daily internally (or 12 hours between doses) plus 2 drops rubbed into Lymph in armpit, also I did one drop rubbed into the area because my ‘hot spot’ was far enough away from my nipple. WARNING: Phytolacca is not safe for an infant to ingest what so ever
  • 75 drops Corrallorrhiza tincture 1:2 every 4-5 hrs
  • 2-3 mls of Echinacea tincture 1:2 4 times a day
  • 3 cups Echinacea tea daily ( I made a strong decoction on day one and a strong 8 hr infusion after that)
  • 12 drops Propolis tincture 2x daily in water
  • 3000-5000mg Vit C (calcium ascorbate)
  • 1tsp Colloidal Silver 4x daily

External:

5x each day a Fomentation of 60parts Calendula succus, 20parts Anemopsis tincture, 20 parts Salvia apiana tincture, mixed with equal parts isotonic solution. I used small pieces of flannel to soak into the solution and then slopped it around the nipple and affected area.
Poultice or compress with Calendula, Symphytum, Rosemarinus. (I only did this once because It took too much time and I started seeing results from the other remedies) There was debate of whether to apply hot or cold to Mastitis: the whole inflammation question. I did cold.

I feel that it would benefit to do cold in between feedings for inflammation and heat right before to encourage milk flow. To be honest though, if you don’t have someone helping you it’s damn hard to get external applications going because you need to be nursing/pumping as much as possible. Also, Symphytum is not the ideal choice for infection; more for inflammation.

Other important healing factors:

* You must rest and sleep as much as possible and feed baby a ridiculous amount. Don’t worry about increasing your supply to an un-needed amount as this can be corrected. Drink tons of water. Use a breast pump in between feeds if you feel it is necessary (I did at first but didn’t need to continue). Rest!

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