Breastfeeding is a special bonding experience for mother and child. Scientists at Warwick University studying the psychological effects of breastfeeding have affirmed that an infant’s suckling motion on the nipple releases mass doses of oxytocin, the hormone responsible for feelings of love, in the woman’s brain. This chemical release intensifies bonding and connection in the mother-child relationship. Aside from a clinical environment, most breastfeeding women will gladly offer their own testimonies regarding the joy that breastfeeding has added to their lives.
But as with everything, there is also a less pleasant side to breastfeeding. This includes latching difficulties, low milk production, engorgement, and the much dreaded mastitis. Mastitis is a breastfeeding woman’s worst nightmare. It is an infection of the breast tissue that involves enlargement, swelling, lumpiness, and pain in the affected breast. The pain has been described as excruciating for women who have suffered through it. It can be so extreme that the affected breast becomes red and hardened.
At worst case scenario, untreated mastitis can result in an agonizing abscess which may need to be surgically removed or drained, and possibly require the cessation of breastfeeding all together. In addition to these direct symptoms on the breast, mastitis is often accompanied by a fever and malaise.
The conventional method of treatment for mastitis is a course of antibiotics. While this treatment is certainly effective in treating mastitis, taking drugs while breastfeeding is rather controversial. The medication can pass to the baby through breast milk and antibiotic-resistance can begin developing in the infant’s system unnecessarily.
So what can women do to treat mastitis naturally?
Natural Remedies For Mastitis
1) Nurse the baby.
Mastitis usually indicates that there is a plugged milk duct in the breast. There is no better way to break up that clog than to have the baby nurse frequently. Although nursing may be painful during an active infection, it is still the best remedy for mastitis. Even with a conventional treatment of antibiotics, doctors typically recommend that patients continue nursing often to expedite the process.
2) Massage the breast.
As the baby is nursing, massage the affected breast with your fingers. This will help to loosen the plugged milk duct. Massage from the outer breast towards the nipple, in the area that is infected.
3) Stuff your bra with cabbage leaves.
As unusual as it may seem, a raw cabbage leaf placed in the bra over the infection will work wonders in soothing the inflamed breast. A cool cabbage leaf acts as a cold compress to reduce inflammation. This cabbage treatment not only relieves breast tenderness, but also helps to unclog the milk duct to flush the infection.
4) Eat raw garlic.
Eating a couple of raw garlic cloves a day is a natural alternative to taking antibiotics. Garlic is nature’s own antibiotic, without the negative side effects of taking man-made medications. It is also safe to ingest while breastfeeding.
5) Take hot showers.
Taking a hot shower and letting the water hit the affected breast will help to loosen the clogged milk duct, reduce inflammation, and relieve pain.
6) Get plenty of rest.
As with any infection, the body is in overdrive working to get rid of mastitis. Getting plenty of rest is crucial in supporting your own immune system to fight the infection off as quickly as possible.
7) Take Echinacea.
The herb Echinacea is an immuno-stimulator and assists the body in fighting off infections.
Following a strict protocol using these remedies at the first sign of an inflammation can be just as effective as taking antibiotics. If mastitis still doesn’t improve after attempting a natural treatment plan, contact your health care provider promptly before the infection gets worse.
As with every medical problem, the best cure for mastitis is prevention. Nurse often to prevent milk ducts from clogging. If the baby isn’t nursing regularly enough, express your milk with a breast pump. Don’t allow an ugly infection like mastitis to ruin the beautiful mother-child bonding experience that breastfeeding has to offer. With the remedies listed in this article, you can beat mastitis naturally and develop more fond memories of breastfeeding than foul ones.
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