I had mastitis four times with my first child, so I feel like I’ve been around the block with it and have a lot of empathy for it.
As if you need inflamed and sore breasts with all the worries a new baby brings. But that’s what life does – it throws you another curve ball, only this time it’s a hot and painful one.
Treating mastitis with Chinese medicine doesn’t have to mean a visit to your acupuncturist or herbalist. There are natural remedies you can use at home to ease the pain and encourage healing.
Symptoms of Mastitis
In Chinese medicine, mastitis is seen as “damp heat” or “phlegm heat” when you get the lumps.
Mastitis can come on quite suddenly. You may feel like you’re getting the flu – feeling hot and cold, and your joints could be sore. Or you may just feel a painful area in your breast. Your nipples may be cracked and very tender.
When you have damaged nipples due to poor sucking (that was me, sigh), then it’s easier for any nasties that may be lurking to make their way into your body.
I was told to sun my poor, damaged, blood-streaked nipples, put breastmilk on them to heal them, use a breast pump. But even doing all that, they weren’t healing as quickly and as nicely as I would have liked.
Treating Mastitis with Chinese Medicine Techniques at Home
Acupressure, herbs and nutrition are all fabulous for treating mastitis with Chinese medicine techniques, and you don’t necessarily need clinical supervision to use these natural remedies.
Let me take you through what you can do at home to ease your sore, inflamed breasts.
Acupressure for Mastitis
Although acupuncture can help to clear the blockage, it can be so hard to make it to an acupuncture appointment with a newborn.
In the meantime, using this acupressure point will help a lot to move the stagnation. It’s called SI-11, pictured below.
Get your partner to press this point for 3–5 minutes morning and night. When your baby is feeding, massage your breast in the area of the blockage towards your nipple.
There’s a great acupressure point to help with milk flow and let down and that’s GB-21, pictured below. It’s found on the top of your shoulder.
Get your partner to press on this point with their elbow on both sides for a good five minutes, morning, noon and night if they’re around.
You could use both SI-11 and GB-21 together to help get things flowing again.
This point will also help to relax and calm you. KD-1 is on the bottom of your foot. At the end of a long day after all your heavy lifting of bub and all that feeding, this will do wonderfully well to relax, calm and centre you. You can also press into this point by stepping on a small ball like a golf ball – a bit of do-it-yourself acupressure.
The Kidneys are the foundation of life in Chinese medicine and they get drained quite a bit throughout pregnancy, birth and mothering. This point is on the Kidney meridian so it’s a good one to have up your sleeve.
Chinese Herbs for Mastitis
Chinese herbs weren’t a problem for me as I’m a herbalist of course. But doing your own herbs is a bit of a tall order when you’re sleep deprived and can only think about breastmilk, your bub, eating and when the next sleep is for all of you.
There are some fabulous herbs to help clear your boobs and these are:
- Bai Zhi (White Angelica Root) great to clear hard painful lumps + also helps to clear the flu-like symptoms
- Qing Pi (Immature Tangerine Peel) – moves stuck Qi (aka breastmilk), especially in the breast
A quick note on herbs: don’t buy them individually. Chinese herbs need to be prescribed for you and your body type and they don’t work just by themselves. They work best in a formula. So some of the herbs in the formula will be for moving the inflammation, some could be to calm you, to improve your digestion, sleep etc.
So this is one option where it’s best to see or call your Chinese medical practitioner for advice because everyone’s situation is different. To arrange Chinese herbs at home, do a Skype or phone consult with your practitioner and have them send your herbs to you.
Nutritional Advice for Mastitis
When I was suffering mastitis, I didn’t know about these probiotics that are specifically for breastfeeding. They are called Qiara (we have no affiliation with them). I’ve since discovered that they’re particularly fabulous for mastitis and helping to prevent it. If I had another baby, I’d be taking these for sure.
The other important thing for mastitis is to make sure you’re staying hydrated. So lots of water, soups and stews to help with your healing is advised.
Other Natural Home Remedies for Mastitis
Your boobs can feel so hot and hard. Cold cabbage leaves are a-m-a-z-i-n-g!! Leaving cabbage leaves in the fridge which you then put into your bra is so very soothing. Whilst I am an acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist and therefore had a professional point of view on cabbage leaves for mastitis already, there’s nothing quite like first-hand experience!
Of course it’s also important to drain your breast, don’t skip feeds, relax so your milk can flow (OMG that’s about the last thing you can do when it’s so painful).
Hot showers are also thought to be helpful.
Summary: How to Treat Mastitis with Chinese Medicine and Natural Remedies
- Feeding baby as often as you can
- Taking hot showers
- Putting cold cabbage leaves in your bra
- Massaging your boobs while feeding baby
- Taking lots of probiotics
- Getting some Chinese herbs
- Using acupressure – get help from your partner
- Staying hydrated, eating nourishing soups and stews
- Having antibiotics on hand in case you need them (see your doctor for advice).
Here are some important links about what mastitis is and what to do in terms of all the breastfeeding detail:
Do you have your own natural remedies for treating mastitis? Tell us in the comments.