Thursday, October 30, 2014

Natural Remedies for Mastitis {31 Days of Postpartum Health & Healing}

{This was first posted two years ago and thought it would be good to re-share during the postpartum series! Catching breastfeeding problems while still early can make all the difference. }

I remember my experience trying to ward off my first case of mastitis. I was clogged, inflamed, and in pain.

We were in the NICU about a week after the girls were born, and I asked to see the lactation consultant to see if she could help me. Two came in that day; one helped me get sized for new flanges for the breast pump (they were cushioned! Oh luxury!) and worked with me to try and unclog the duct using heat and massage. The other lactation consultant took one look at my sad, engorged breasts and said, "Call imaging, now! We have to get her in for ultrasound therapy, immediately!"

Well, it was Friday afternoon at 4pm. Let's just say that the imaging people were less than helpful. I didn't get in. So I went back to the properly-fitting pump flanges, hot compresses and massage for the next few days, trying to keep my breasts as empty as possible. Luckily, I was able to stay one step ahead of it before it turned into full-blown mastitis. Phew!

There are many causes of breast infection (mastitis is the clinical term), and can range from incorrect latch to restrictive clothing, or from engorgement due to oversupply or too long between feedings. Pumping moms need to be sure they have the correctly-sized pump flanges. For moms who struggle with recurrent infection, KellyMom suggests checking into potential food allergies.

Prevention is Key

The key is to catch it early. If you feel achy, feverish, and have a clogged milk duct (feels like a lump in your breast that will become tender to the touch, sometimes radiating heat or red streaks), get on top of it quickly. Untreated, it can lead to abscesses and that is a big problem.

It's also important to be extra diligent during the first three months after your baby is born and your body is working hard to produce and regulate your milk supply.

The ideal is to avoid it in the first place, by:
  • Allowing baby to empty the first breast before switching. This lessens your chances of having excess milk build up that can become a problem. 
  • Feed on demand, not by a rigid schedule. Your body will regulate your milk production to meet the exact needs of your baby. It's amazing!
  • Drink more water and nourish yourself with good food and rest. Stress and exhaustion can take a little case of inflammation into a full blown illness very quickly. According to Susun S. Weed, "Breast infections are almost always a sign of too little rest."
  • Wear nursing bras that fit properly without restriction and avoid clothing that puts too much pressure on your breasts. 
  • See a board-certified lactation consultant to check latch and positioning.
Natural Remedies

According to KellyMom, "these treatments should be used in addition to your efforts to find and remedy the source of the problem. Keep in mind that if the source of your recurrent plugged ducts or mastitis is something fixable (for example: oversupply, infrequent nursing, too tight bra, etc.), then solving the underlying problem is the most effective thing you can do."

Physical Treatments
  • DO NOT STOP NURSING! Try and nurse even more than usual to keep the milk flowing through. 
  • Heat or Cold Packs - Apply heat/cold before and after nursing baby. If there is redness or swelling, it's inflammation and you need COLD. Once the swelling goes down, you can use HEAT.
    • Take a hot shower, use washcloths, a towel-covered ice pack, or rice packs as compresses, or use these really cool things called Booby Tubes from Earth Mama Angel Baby. They can be used hot or cold.
  • Massage, while nursing or pumping. 
    • Find the lump with your fingertips, and while nursing baby on the side with the plugged duct, use your finger tips to massage gently but firmly from the plugged area toward the nipple. Massage in the shower for a double whammy!
  • Soak in a sink full of warm water. 
    • Fill the sink, lean over and immerse one or breasts. Do this for 5 minutes 5-7 times per day.
  • Rest! Nap while your baby naps, at least once a day. 
  • Sleep on your side or your back in a cotton nursing bra with no wires. Sleeping on your stomach can put pressure on your breasts and lead to clogged ducts.
  • Wear loose clothing during the day with a well-fitting bra to prevent restricted blood flow. 
  • If you have a breastpump, you can pump for just long enough to relieve pressure or engorgement.
  • If you're really uncomfortable, try nursing for a few sessions on your hands and knees with your baby underneath. It feels strange and awkward but it works to get the milk flowing.
Supplements & Foods:
  • Vitamin C 
    • 1000mg 4-5 times per day
  • Echinacea Tincture
    • Take 3 drops in a glass of water every 2 hours. You can also take it in tea form in addition to the tincture. Continue taking for at least a week after symptoms have resolved.
  • Raw Garlic
    • Eat a whole clove 3-5 times per day
  • Homeopathy 
    • Fever & Swelling: Belladonna 30C – 3 pellets 2-3 times per day.
    • Hepar Sulphur and Phytolacca
      •  Dosage (allow pellets to dissolve in mouth): first, take Hepar Sulphur 30C – 3 pellets; 3 hours later, take Phytolacca 30C – 3 pellets; 3 hours later, take Hepar Sulphur 30C – 3 pellets; 3 hours later, take Phytolacca 30C – 3 pellets. (Per KellyMom)
    • If neither remedies work in the first 24 hours, try another remedy from the list on the Little Mountain Homeopathy Blog.
  •  Propolis
  • Apple Cider Vinegar + raw honey
    • Mix 1 Tbsp. ACV with honey to taste in a small glass of water. Take 3 times per day.
  • Lecithin
    • Eggs are the best source: One mom I heard of swears by 2-3 raw pastured egg yolks per day (add to a smoothie!). If you can't get a hold of some pastured eggs, buy organic and cook the yolk gently. 
    • If you can't eat eggs, try a non-GMO Lecithin supplement
  • Cabbage leaves
    • Place a cool leaf inside your bra, directly against your breast. Leave it for 15-30 minutes, then remove. Do this once or twice per day (careful, it can negatively affect your supply!)  
  • Thieves Oil 
    • 1-2 drops diluted in 1 tsp. coconut oil, rub on affected area - a good friend swore by this!
  • Acupuncture
  • Chiropractic Care - read about Frugal Granola's experience.

And if none of the above treatments work to completely resolve the problem, antibiotics might be necessary, although in my opinion (I'm not a Dr.!) and from many of the informed opinions of those I admire, that is the last resort, because of the damage it can do to your gut and the developing gut of your newborn, and because of the increased risk of a fungal infection like thrush. If you do have to take antibiotics, make sure you supplement with a very high quality probiotic and eat lots of yogurt and naturally fermented foods.

Sources & Resources:

Prevention and Treatment of Mastitis at Keeper of the Home
Homeopathic Treatment of Mastitis at Little Mountain Homeopathy Blog
Natural Cures for Mastitis at Naturally Knocked Up
Mastitis and Blocked Ducts at Holistic Kid

What's your go-to remedy for mastitis or clogged ducts? Have you tried any of those listed above?

I love sharing my experiences, but this site isn't meant to give medical advice, it's only for informational and educational purposes. Please discuss with your own qualified health care provider before adding in supplements or making any changes in your diet. Also, any links to sponsors or affiliates (including Amazon) may give me a percentage of the sale or a pay per click. Thank you so much for supporting this site! 

Monday, October 27, 2014

Postpartum Belly Binding {31 Days of Postpartum Health & Healing}

If you're like me, the after shock of what a baby-less belly looks like is a bit shocking. Like a deflated mushy balloon, only it's not air inside, it's your organs! Or it's a little bit like kneading a batch of bread dough...moving on...

A look at postpartum practices around the world will show us one thing they almost all have in common: abdominal binding after birth. Fortunately, postpartum belly binding is becoming more popular in the U.S. as more women are learning about the benefits.

As we discussed in the last post, during pregnancy, the connective tissue of the abdomens stretches incredibly thin, and sometimes has a difficult time coming back together correctly, especially if doing activities that stress the abdominal wall - like crunchies and plank - leading to the condition of diastasis recti. Splinting after birth can assist this healing process. According to Julie Tupler, inventor of the Tupler Technique and author of Lose Your Mummy Tummy"Wearing a splint can be compared to wearing a cast for a broken bone. You want to keep the two bones (like connective tissue) in the same position continuously so they will heal. 'Protecting' the connective tissue is about not doing activities that stretch or put intra-abdominal force or pressure on the weak tissue."

Photo from
Diastasis can lead to all sorts of uncomfortable problems for women that can last for many years: low back and hip pain, pelvic floor pressure and uterine prolapse, and stress incontinence, and looking like you have a "pooch" that won't go away no matter how many "ab" exercises you do.

While a splint by itself will not heal a diastasis and should not be used long term, it will aid your body and help as you re-learn proper realignment and re-stabilize the core through proper exercises that strengthen the natural corset of the body, the transverse abdominus.

The main goal is to strengthen your core in the appropriate way so that you no longer need the splint.

According to Kelly Dean, PT of the Tummy Team, "Proper positioning of an abdominal splint for belly binding helps approximate the 2 sides of the outer most abdominals...and provides your temporary transverse abdominis (corset) to help realign and support your back and organs and help increase blood supply to improve healing to the area."

If you do decide to splint, make sure you do it correctly - wearing it too tight is the #1 mistake that most women make and was a mistake I was making before being corrected by my chiropractor. Watch this video and read these instructions from the Tummy Team for detailed information.

There are several inexpensive splints available on Amazon (although the belly bandit certainly is cute!) or through the Tummy Team website.

Belly Bandit on Amazon

Resources & Learn More

The Splint is Temporary, Your Transverse is Forever from Kelly Dean, PT
Abdominal Splinting with Video Demo from Kelly Dean, PT / Tummy Team
Binding Your Belly After Birth from Fit2Be
Articles by Julie Tupler, RN or the Tupler Technique
The Tupler Technique book by Julie Tupler and the Tupler Technique web site
Diastasis Recti Test + Exercises: What Works and What Doesn't from Wendy Powell

(Disclaimer: I am not a Tummy Team affiliate, I just love the information they provide! I am however an Amazon affiliate and receive a small commission if you choose to shop through the links provided.) 

Friday, October 24, 2014

Do You Have Diastasis Recti? {31 Days of Postpartum Health & Healing}

Lower hip and back pain? Is your belly still pooching out even months/years after giving birth? There's an answer.

Diastasis recti is a common problem among women who have been pregnant and is when the right and left rectus abdominus muscles separate. This is a completely normal experience that happens in every pregnancy as our amazing bodies expand to make room for growing baby, but the problems come after pregnancy, when the abdominal wall is weak and the muscles do not come back together. In subsequent pregnancies, lower back pain can be more severe and can even lead to poor presentation of the baby.

Check Yourself for Diastasis recti

There's a self-test you can do to check for DR. Watch this video on Fit2Be from Kelly Dean of the Tummy Team (a local diastasis recti expert and physical therapist) to check yourself.

If you do find that you have it, don't worry! There are exercises you can do to bring your abs back together. But in the meantime, do NOT perform the exercises listed below.  You have been told these traditional core trainers lead to a flat tummy - nope! They make diastasis worse!
  • Crunches of ANY kind
  • Oblique twists 
  • Pilates 100s
  • Plank
  • Reverse leg lowers 
From my own experience, I ordered a prenatal yoga DVD off of Amazon and, after learning about diastasis after the birth of my twins, was somewhat shocked that the instructor recommended a plank position. So be aware that not all instructors know that the above exercises are not recommended.

Healing Diastasis recti

According to Fit2Be's informative diastasis handout, "The injury is improved by correcting alignment, strengthening the transverse, utilizing upright activities, and discontinuing any exercise or activity in which you cannot keep your transverse abdominus actively engaged (ribs down, navel in). For women, proper prenatal core training and postnatal rehabilitation of the abdominal wall can effectively and non-surgically correct this condition."

Download and print out these "Exercises for Everywhere" and check out Fit2Be for diastasis safe exercises - perhaps join their monthly membership program! I am currently participating in their 5x5 program.

Fit2Be is also offering readers a 30% discount on a year membership that ends July of 2015 using the code bohomama. 

Next up we'll talk belly binding!


Diastasis recti printable from Fit2Be
Kelly Dean's the Tummy Team online course
Diastasis Recti Test + Exercises: What Works and What Doesn't from MuTu System