Mastitis and engorgement are problems that can occur when breastfeeding. Mastitis is inflammation or infection of the breast, which can follow on from engorgement or a blocked milk duct. Symptoms include a painful breast, redness, a slight fever and feeling unwell and aching as if you have flu. Infection is often present. It is important to speak to a health professional to get a clear diagnosis, as other problems can have similar symptoms. Mastitis needs to be treated, to prevent or get rid of infection. There are herbal treatments you can use to help fight the infection and reduce the symptoms. If symptoms get worse very quickly it is especially important to seek professional advice.
Calendula officinalis (common name Marigold) can be used to make a strong tea for a compress to relieve engorgement or mastitis. Calendula should not be confused with Tagetes species, also known as French, Mexican or African marigold, which is a different type of plant entirely.
To make the compress, put a handful of marigold petals into a teapot or pan with a lid and pour on about ¾ pint (750 ml) boiling water. Cover with a lid and leave to infuse for 10 to 20 minutes. Strain into a bowl. The tea should still be hot but not too hot to put your hand in. Soak a flannel or cloth in the bowl of tea, remove and squeeze out excess water, then place over your breast. Hold it in place for a few minutes, until it starts to cool, then dip the cloth again and repeat. Do this a few times and you should start to feel some relief. The whole procedure can be repeated several times a day, using freshly made tea and a clean cloth.
Calendula is antibacterial and also antifungal, so it can be used for mastitis and also for thrush. A Calendula compress can be used at the same time as internal treatments such as antibiotics or herbal medicine. Also the heat of the compress is beneficial in itself.
I used this compress when I was breastfeeding and starting to get mastitis and was able to nip it in the bud before it became full blown. If you suspect you may have mastitis this compress can be used straight away until you are able to get professional advice.
Hand and Foot Baths
Herbs such as chamomile, yarrow, eucalyptus or lavender can be used in hand or foot baths to help treat mastitis. They can be prepared as strong teas, in the same way as the Calendula compress above, and poured into a washing up bowl, adding cold water to make the temperature comfortable. Alternatively a couple of drops of essential oil can be added to warm water in the bowl. Essential oils are too strong for close contact with babies, so ensure you wash them off your hands afterwards.
Allicin max is a good quality garlic product that is effective in treating infection. You can also take Biostrath, which is a herbal tonic to support immunity and restore energy.