Here in the United States, there is a commonly held belief that every case of mastitis requires treatment with antibiotics. Research doesn't actually support this belief. The majority of cases of mastitis can be resolved without the use of antibiotics.
I want to take a moment here to make a differentiation. In the last five years or so I have seen more very early cases of "mastitis" being diagnosed. These cases are diagnosed in the early weeks of breastfeeding when the body should know it is dealing with engorgement and should be able to "deal" with it. What I have found in these instances is that the breastfeeding parent has had some early nipple damage and then came into contact with bacteria. The most common bacteria in these cases is staphylococcus or methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). The fact that these cases are labeled as mastitis has led to much confusion. If staph or MRSA are causing an infection in a parent's breast, they need to be treated immediately with antibiotics specific to what they are trying to fight. The more common cases of mastitis occur after the first weeks of breastfeeding. There are many reasons that a parent will experience mastitis during breastfeeding. These cases can occur when a breastfeeding parent is run down or has been ill, when a baby sleeps a longer stretch at night and the parent doesn't wake to feed the baby, when a parent is away from baby for a long period of time and is unable to pump to empty their breasts, and the list goes on.
There is lots of information out on the internet and in parenting groups on how to treat mastitis and so I am not going to go over them here. What I wanted to share is that there are resources available that provide tried and true natural healing techniques to deal with mastitis and many other ailments. I was lucky to find a book on this topic when my first child was very young. The book that I found is Natural Healing for Babies & Children by Aviva Jill Romm. This book was an often used reference for me during my children's early years. This book taught me to deal in a more holistic way with my children's colds and coughs and to naturally treat ear pain. Amazing by today's standards, each of my children has only used antibiotics once or twice in their lifetimes. They are currently 23, 19, and 14 years of age.
Back to the topic of mastitis, I only share this treatment plan if the common ones don't resolve the issue because I am sure people will think that I am a bit odd when I suggest it. I found this course of treatment in the book that I mentioned above. The instructions in my copy of the book are as follows:
"Apply a poultice of freshly grated potato (just a regular baker or boiler will do) two to three times a day. This is a wonderful remedy because nearly everyone has a potato, and it is remarkably effective in reducing pain, blockage, and inflammation. Remove the poultice when it becomes warm, usually after about 20 minutes. "
This potato trick seems to work for most people and it is so easy! If you are someone who is at all interested in finding alternatives to western medicine, you should check out the work of Aviva Romm. I found that there is an updated version of my book with a slightly different name. It is now named Naturally Healthy Babies and Children and is available in bookstores. I am always happy to share remedies that I have found helpful to me and my family but I love for people to own resources that they can refer to time after time.
Happy Natural Parenting!
Disclaimer...this blog post contains information that should not be misconstrued as medical advice. If you have health concerns, please contact your health care provider.