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Mastitis Prevention & Treatment

27 Nov, 2023

Although the natural act of breastfeeding has so many benefits for both Mum and baby, learning this new skill can present as a challenging time and among the most common support Bubba Mumma's seek, is to overcome the condition of mastitis.

Mastitis affects up to 30% of lactating mothers and is a common contributor to the cessation of breastfeeding. 75-95% of cases occur within the first 12 weeks post birth, as your body is still adapting to the milk supply needed to nourish your baby.

Be comforted in knowing that you are not alone, there is support available (including the 24 hour Breastfeeding Helpline). I'm also sending you a love note today with info to empower you for your nursing journey. Here I want share some practical ways to prevent and overcome mastitis, to make your transition into and throughout breastfeeding smoother for you and bubs.

What Is Mastitis?

Mastitis is an inflammatory condition of the breast tissue, which may cause pain, redness, swelling, lumps or firm tissue of your breasts. Milk supply is often also reduced.

The condition can progress quickly, from non-infective, to infective, to the development of an abscess in cases that are not properly managed. Symptoms can therefore come on quickly, causing flu like symptoms such as fever, chills, high temperature, fatigue, joint aches, headaches and weakness.

What Contributes To Mastitis?

Causes can include cracked nipples or stagnant milk flow and/or a blocked milk duct, allowing opportunistic pathogenic bacteria to travel into the breast tissue and compete with the beneficial microbiome. Two primary pathogenic bacterium involved in mastitis include Staphylococcus aureus and S. epidermis. Staphylococcal species have the ability to form a protective biofilm layer and become antibiotic resistant, therefore contributing to recurrent chronic mastitis infections in breastfeeding Mums.

Risk factors of mastitis can include:
• Antibiotic use during pregnancy and breastfeeding
• Age (under 21 years and over 35 years)
• Attachment issues
• Compromised gut health (including an overgrowth of pathogenic gut bacteria)
• Delayed feeding
• First pregnancy
• Improper draining of the breasts during feeding
• Less frequent nursing
• Oversupply
• Poor maternal nutrition
• Positioning of baby during feeds
• Run-down immune system*
• Tight-fitting bras

*Compromised immunity is common with new-Mumma broken sleep, indicating the need for supporting your body in other ways throughout your breastfeeding journey.

How To Treat Mastitis
• If breast lumps or hardening of the breast tissue develops, immediately apply heat (heat pack or warm shower).
• Massage your breasts with essential oil and carrier oils between feeds (wiping off any residue before the next feed).
• Encourage your baby to feed as often as possible, until milk is flowing again and you are able to drain your breasts and until any lumps clear.
• If your baby won't feed (as ducts are blocked and milk may taste sour), then continue to hand massage towards the nipple, until the ducts are completely drained and your swelling and lumps have disappeared.
• Rest and keep well hydrated.
• Herbal and nutritional medicine. Think immune supportive echinacea, poke root (topically), medicinal mushrooms, cod liver oil, zinc and vitamin c.
• Compress of parsley and comfrey leaves.
• Probiotic therapy.

"Clinical data has demonstrated that certain certain lactobacillus and bifidobacterium strains can be a rapid and effective intervention for the treatment and prevention of lactating mastitis by significantly reducing Staphylococcal bacterial counts in breast milk, ameliorating breast pain and promoting endogenous immune and anti-inflammatory processes..." As explained by Naturopath Georgia Marrion in the June edition of InFocus.

Specific herbal remedies, nutritional and probiotic supplements are outlined within 'Thriving Bubba', to support your immune system to overcome mastitis and to protect your gut health, if antibiotics are given.

Reducing Milk Supply
If your breast engorgement and mastitis is due to oversupply of milk, or if strong milk flow and production is contributing to colic in your baby, here are some ways you may be able to reduce your milk flow.
• Sage herbal tea, 3 cups daily. Discontinue once your supply has balanced out.
• Peppermint essential oil (5-10 drops per 10mls carrier oil), massaged over the breasts just after breastfeeding and wipe off any reside before the next feed, twice daily.
• Apply large frozen cabbage leaves to your breasts between feeds.

Trust The Healing Comes From Within
By being aware of mastitis signs and symptoms and taking swift action to keep warm, rest and support your lymphatic and immune system, you can support your body with mastitis and may prevent antibiotic therapy. In the case of antibiotics being required, there are specific nutritional and probiotic therapies that can help restore your gut, protect your baby and prevent future immune challenges. You can read further information and guidance for preventing and treating a lactation mastitis, within the baby book, 'Thriving Bubba'.

Kasey Willson Bio
Kasey Willson has a passion is to empower women just like you to feel balanced, nourished, nurtured and confident heading into and throughout the Bubba Mumma journey. As a Naturopath of ten years together with her recent motherhood experience, Kasey has created empowering education through her books, online course and one-on-one support for women (and couples) seeking to optimise their health through hormone balancing, preconception, pregnancy, mum and bub stages of life.

More support from Kasey found at

1. Barker M, Adelson P, Peters MDJ, et al. Probiotics and human lactational mastitis: a scoping review. Women and Birth 2020;doi:10.1016/j.wombi.2020.01.001.
2. Ojo-Okunola A, Nicol M, du Toit E. Human breast milk bacteriome in health and disease. Nutrients 2018;10:1643.
3. Irusen H, Rohwer AC, Steyn DS, et al. Treatments for breast abscesses in breastfeeding women. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2015;8.
4. Fernandez L, Cardenas N, Arroyo R, et al. Prevention of infectious mastitis by oral administration of Lactobacillus salivarius PS2 during late pregnancy. Clin Infec Dis 2016;62(5):568-573.
5. Hurtado JA, Maldonado-Lobon JA, Diaz-Ropero MP, et al. Oral administration to nursing women of Lactobacillus fermentum CECT5716 prevents lactational mastitis development: a randomised controlled trial. Breastfeeding Med 2017;202-209.
6. Soto A, Martin V, Jimenez E, et al. Lactobacillus and bifidobacteria in human breast milk: influence of antibiotherapy and other host and clinical factors. JPGN 2014;59(1):78-88.
7. Amir LH, Griffin L, Cullinane M, et al. Probiotics and mastitis: evidence-based marketing? International Breastfeeding J 2016;11:19.
8. Jimenez E, Fernandez L, Maldonado A, et al. Oral administration of Lactobacillus strains isolated from breast milk as an alternative for the treatment of infectious mastitis during lactation. Appl Environ Microbiol 2008;4650-4655.

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