Breastfeeding is a gift, but when mastitis appears, it can quickly become a nightmare. The good news is ancient Chinese Medicine has proven to effectively prevent its onset and boost recovery.
What is mastitis?
Mastitis is inflammation of a milk duct due to infection in a clogged duct. It can arise quickly and will leave you feeling like you’ve been run over by a bus. Common symptoms include acute breast tenderness, an engorged milk duct, red skin over a milk duct, fever/chills, fatigue, and body aches. If left untreated, mastitis can rupture into an abscess requiring surgical intervention. Therefore, it’s important to be as vigilant as you can about clearing clogged ducts.
Mastitis is most likely to occur within the first three months of breastfeeding and is the second most common infection during postpartum (for those who want to know, urinary tract infections are the most common postpartum illness).
The most common Western treatment for mastitis is a course of antibiotics to kill off an overgrowth of Staphylococcus aureus bacteria. S. aureus bacteria is generally transmitted from the baby’s mouth to the breast. If your immune system has been weakened by stress or fatigue, the bacteria can take up residency in a milk duct causing inflammation and engorgement.
How can I prevent mastitis?
Twenty centuries ago, Chinese doctors discovered the root cause of 99% of mastitis infections… anger, frustration, and/or resentment! Have you ever been so mad at someone/something you felt like you might explode with words or burst into tears? Anger is a powerful emotion that literally brings a rush of energetic heat to the body like a flame shooting upwards. According to Chinese Medicine, that is energy (qi) in the Liver meridian looking to escape. If you’re a nursing mama and the sudden rush of Liver qi is not expressed, it lodges in the breasts inflaming milk ducts and establishing ideal conditions for an infection. To prevent mastitis, your best bet is to find a safe outlet for any anger, resentment or frustration. An outlet could be talking to someone you trust, taking a walk, writing in a journal, or creating art.
If I get mastitis, what should I do?
Mastitis is best-treated sooner rather than later. If you notice a clogged duct not clearing with feedings, self-massage or heat, it’s best to seek professional help right away as mastitis can escalate quickly. Your family doctor or gynecologist can prescribe antibiotics, while an acupuncturist can perform a treatment aimed at getting the stuck energy (qi) moving and will likely send you home with Chinese herbs to clear the infection naturally over the course of a few days. To keep mastitis from recurring, stick to a regular feeding schedule, take the time needed to clear clogged ducts as soon as you notice them, and find a healthy way to release any unresolved feelings of resentment or frustration.
To schedule a consultation for all of your postpartum challenges, contact us at 512-686-0777 today!
Dr. Michelle Wendt, L.Ac., DACM
Dr. Michelle Wendt, L.Ac., DACM practices Oriental & Chinese Medicine in Hawaii and Texas.