Tackling engorgement and mastitis: an all-in-one guide

By Me & Qi
Mar 13, 2019

Engorged breasts and clogged ducts can be incredibly painful, especially if left untreated. They often occur at the start of breastfeeding, when a mom’s body is still getting used to all the changes, although they can pop up at any point during your breastfeeding.

What’s basically happening is that milk and blood flow get congested in the breasts, leading them to become swollen, hard and painful to the touch. The difference between an engorged breast and a clogged duct is that when a breast is engorged the whole breast is congested, whereas only a small area is concerned in the case of a clogged duct.

If left untreated engorged breast and clogged ducts can lead to an inflammation of the breast, a condition known as mastitis. In that case you’re not only left with swollen painful breasts or lumps but also with fever and flu-like symptoms.

Engorged breast versus normal breast

Many moms experiencing engorged breasts, clogged ducts or mastitis will be thinking that something must be wrong with them. Fear not, the immense majority of nursing mothers experience breast engorgement or clogged ducts: it occurs in 72% to 82% of lactating women1! Even mastitis is very common as 1 in 10 U.S. mother will have at least one episode during their breastfeeding2. So you’re not alone and your breasts are not uniquely painful: sadly, most breasts are!

Too often moms give up on on breastfeeding after a particularly painful episode of engorgement or clogged ducts. After having given birth, they feel there’s only so much they can take. They should be bonding with their newborn, not enduring repeated torture sessions! Please DON’T GIVE UP! There are so many health benefits to breastfeeding for your small one and for you, it would be a shame to give up on them! Also, as we’ll see in this guide, if you do things right, soon your breastfeeding pains will be a thing of the past. Breastfeeding will become for you what it should be: an intimate bonding moment between you and your baby.

Feel free to jump to the question that concerns you most or read the whole guide if you want to understand everything there is to know about engorged breasts, clogged ducts and mastitis:

How do you prevent engorgement or clogged ducts?

A good analogy for understanding the issue is to view your breasts as pipes and your breast milk as water that flows in those pipes. The size of your “pipes” need to get adjusted to the flow: if the flow increases faster than your pipes there will be too much pressure on them and you’ll end up with engorged breasts or plugged ducts. Same thing if you don’t empty your pipes by breastfeeding: the flow will keep accumulating and the increased pressure will make your breasts engorged.

These are the reasons why engorged breasts and clogged ducts tend to occur at the start of your breastfeeding: your body increases the flow to your breasts while your “pipes” haven’t adjusted their size yet. It’s also why many women encounter engorged breasts or plugged ducts when they change breastfeeding rhythm: for instance if you miss a couple of breastfeeding sessions, your body still sends the flow to your breasts but by not emptying them the accumulated pressure leads to engorgement or plugged ducts.

Clogged duct (plugged duct)

The key to preventing engorgement is to therefore establish a steady breastfeeding rhythm as early as possible. As soon as your little one is born, you should breastfeed them often and on-demand (typically every 2 to 3 hours for a newborn) and keep at it from day one. You can feed them on both breasts every time or alternate breasts between feedings: both techniques are fine but once you choose one, keep doing it the same way so your body learns to adapt. Also, it goes without saying, make sure your baby latches properly and gets fed until they’re full and satisfied. Sometimes mothers are getting engorged simply because they thought their breasts were getting emptied when in fact their baby wasn’t getting much milk at all! If you do all this, you might still be slightly engorged in the first couple of weeks since your “pipes” might not be large enough yet but your body will rapidly adapt and you’ll avoid bigger engorgement issues.

Afterwards if you want to change your breastfeeding schedule, do so progressively to let your body adapt to the new rhythm. If for instance you wish to wean your baby from night feedings, transform 3 nightly breastfeeding sessions into 2 for a couple of days, then into 1 for another couple of days and then finally into zero.

So to summarize, how do you prevent engorgement or clogged ducts?

  • Establish a steady breastfeeding schedule from day one and keep at it religiously
  • Ensure your baby is latched properly so they get the milk they need and your breasts are emptied
  • If you want to change your breastfeeding schedule, do so step by step to let your body adapt
  • If your little one cannot breastfeed for a few sessions, pump instead to respect your schedule.

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How do you relieve breast engorgement or clogged ducts?

If you have engorged breasts or clogged ducts, your first step to tackling the issue is to ensure you keep a frequent and steady breastfeeding schedule, especially on the affected breasts. If for some reason your little one cannot breastfeed, you can substitute with pumping.

As mentioned above engorgement or clogged ducts tend to appear because it’s the start of your breastfeeding and your body hasn’t adapted yet. It can also happen because you’ve confused your body by changing breastfeeding rhythm (by maybe missing a couple of breastfeeding sessions). In any case your body needs to learn or re-learn your breastfeeding schedule and you therefore need to keep a consistent breastfeeding rhythm. Obviously you also need to make sure that you latch your baby correctly to your breast so as to ensure they breastfeed appropriately. Your breasts need to be thoroughly emptied after each breastfeeding session.

The worst thing you can do if you have engorged breasts or clogged ducts is to stop breastfeeding or breastfeed less than usual. It can seem like the intuitive thing to do because of the pain in your breasts but if you do so you will just worsen the problem. Your body will still produce milk and, if it doesn’t go out, your milk will accumulate in your breasts leading to increased pressure and engorgement.

The second worst thing you can do if you have engorged breasts or clogged ducts is to breastfeed or pump more than usual. It might get rid of the engorgement in the very short-term but by expressing more milk than usual you’re teaching your body that it needs to produce more milk. When you get back to a normal breastfeeding rhythm your body will still produce more milk than necessary and you’ll get engorged then. So really, breastfeeding or pumping more than usual when you have engorged breasts or clogged ducts is just delaying the issue, creating more problems down the line.

Another step you can take to tackle engorged breasts or clogged ducts is to drink a specialized herbal tea designed to unblock your breasts like our very own Unblock Nursing Tea. Originally mentioned in a 1'500 years old Chinese medicine book, our 12-plant recipe has been used for centuries by Chinese women to deal with engorgement and blocked milk ducts. It will help your body adjust to your breastfeeding schedule and will help alleviate some of the symptoms you encounter*. It’s made with natural plants only and it’s rigorously lab-tested to ensure there’s nothing harmful to you or your baby.

A last step you can take to help with your engorged breasts or clogged ducts is to see a professional lactation massage therapist. Massages after feedings have been proven scientifically to help with engorgement3. A specialized massage therapist should know exactly what to do. Alternatively you can also go see a Gua-Sha massage therapist (Gua-Sha is a form of Chinese medicinal massage): breasts massages with Gua-Sha have also been scientifically proven to reduce engorgement4.

Lastly remember that it’s important not to bind your breasts with tight clothing or an inadequate bra. A bra that’s too binding or tight might in itself cause engorgement or plugged duct and will at the very least make you uncomfortable. So try wearing a supportive bra or even consider wearing no bra at all if that’s an option.

So to summarize, How do you relieve breast engorgement or clogged ducts?

  • Establish a steady breastfeeding schedule and keep at it: do not breastfeed more or less than usual
  • Drink a specialized herbal tea designed to unblock your breasts like our very own Unblock Nursing Tea.
  • Consider getting breast massages from a lactation massage therapist or a Gua-Sha massage therapist
  • Wear a supportive bra that doesn’t bind your breasts.

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How do you know if you have engorgement or clogged ducts?

Breasts engorgement and clogged ducts (also sometimes called “plugged ducts”) are slightly different issues.

You know you have engorged breasts when your whole breasts are swollen, hard and relatively painful to the touch. Sometimes only one breast is engorged, sometimes both. On top of being swollen, the skin of your breasts often appears red and shiny and your nipple may also appear flattened and tight. Engorgement often occurs at the very start of your breastfeeding when your body is still getting used to the concept, although it can also occur later on if you for instance make big changes to your breastfeeding rhythm.

Engorged breast, engorgement

You know you have a clogged duct if you notice a hard lump or a small engorged area of engorgement on one of your breasts. The area in question typically feels hard, painful and hot to the touch and often looks reddish. You can have a clogged duct at any point of your breastfeeding although it is more common in the first few weeks or when you change breastfeeding habits.

So to summarize, how do you know if you have engorgement or clogged ducts?

  • You know you have engorgement if one or both of your breasts are swollen, hard and relatively painful to the touch.
  • You know you have clogged ducts if you notice a hard lump or a small area of engorgement in one of your breasts that feels hard, painful and hot to the touch.

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Is it bad to let your breasts get engorged?

Having engorged breasts is a very common occurrence for breastfeeding moms: 72% to 82% of lactating women experience it1! Engorged breasts are not bad, they’re a painful but frequent occurrence for nursing moms. Importantly they don’t affect the quality of your milk at all. It’s perfectly safe - and even highly recommended - that you keep breastfeeding when you face engorged breast, clogged ducts or even mastitis.

What’s bad is to let your engorgement or plugged duct issues linger and worsen. If you do so it can lead to mastitis, a very painful inflammation of the breast that you’ll need to see a doctor about. If you face engorged breasts it’s therefore important you take the right steps to solve the issue. Please read our dedicated section on how to relieve engorged breasts to learn more.

So to summarize, is it bad to let your breasts get engorged?

  • Engorged breasts aren’t bad, they’re a normal occurrence that most breastfeeding women experience.
  • It’s important though that you take the right steps to solve your engorgement issues. Read our dedicated section on relieving engorged breasts to understand what you can do.

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How long will it take for engorgement or clogged ducts to go away?

It depends. If you do everything right, it might disappear in under a day. On the other hand, if you do not correct the causes that led you to have engorgement or clogged ducts in the first place, the issue might linger for many days and even deteriorate into full blown mastitis.

You can read more details about it in the relevant section but there are basically three things you should do for the issue to disappear as fast as possible. You should establish a steady breastfeeding schedule and keep at it: the idea is to teach your body how much milk to produce for your needs. Secondly you should drink a specialized herbal tea designed to mitigate the issue like our very own Unblock Nursing Tea. Thirdly you should consider getting breast massages from a lactation massage therapist or a Gua-Sha massage therapist. If after doing these three things the issue doesn’t disappear within a couple of days, you might have a deeper problem and should go see a physician or a lactation consultant so they can identify what’s going on.

So to summarize, how long does it take for engorgement or clogged ducts to go away?

  • Normally in 1-3 days if you do everything right like keeping a steady breastfeeding schedule or drinking a specialized herbal tea.
  • It will take many days and might even get worse if you have a deeper problem or do not correct bad breastfeeding habits.

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How long does it take for engorgement to go away if you are not breastfeeding?

Sometimes moms get engorged breasts or plugged ducts when weaning or when they stop breastfeeding for a few days or even a few hours.  It’s normal: your body doesn’t know you’ve decided to stop breastfeeding and it still sends milk to your breasts. If the milk doesn’t go out, your breasts get engorged. You need to allow time for your body to understand that there is no point sending milk to your breasts anymore. This typically takes a week to ten days. You should allow for the same timeframe if you’ve decided not to breastfeed at all after giving birth.

If you stop breastfeeding suddenly or if you’ve decided to never breastfeed at all, you might not only be engorged but things might even degenerate into full blown mastitis, an inflammation of the breast that needs to be treated by a physician. In that case you’re faced with quite a few days of very painful breasts.

If at all an option it’s never a good idea to suddenly stop breastfeeding entirely. In an ideal world you should stop breastfeeding progressively to avoid engorgement or plugged duct issues. Your body needs to learn bit by bit to send less and less milk to your breasts. A way to do it could be to stop breastfeeding in 4 steps: breastfeed one fourth less than usual for a few days until your body adapts and so on and so forth until you’ve stopped breastfeeding entirely. This way your body will never send so much milk to your breasts that they’ll get completely congested and engorged.

So to summarize, how long does it take for engorgement to go away if you are not breastfeeding?

  • If you stop breastfeeding suddenly or never breastfeed at all, it takes a week to ten days for your body to stop sending milk to your breasts. Your breasts can be engorged during that whole time-span, although the issue will likely be worse during the first few days.
  • A sudden end to your breastfeeding might also lead to full-blown mastitis, a very painful inflammation of the breasts that needs to be treated by a doctor.
  • If at all an option, chose to progressively decrease your breastfeeding instead of stopping suddenly. This way you let your body adapt bit by bit and you’ll likely avoid engorgement.

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Do engorgement or plugged ducts go away on their own?

Most often, if you do things right, engorgement or plugged ducts go away on their own. If you read our section on relieving engorged breasts, you’ll see that there are basically three things you can do to help the issue disappear. Firstly you should establish a steady breastfeeding schedule. Secondly you should drink a specialized herbal tea designed to mitigate the issue like our very own Unblock Nursing Tea. Thirdly you should consider getting breast massages from a lactation or Gua-Sha massage therapist. In the overwhelming majority of cases, if you do those three things, the issue will disappear on its own. If the issue still remains after a few days, please go see a physician or a lactation consultant who can help you identify what’s going on.

If you don’t do things right or if you have deeper reasons that cause the issue, your engorgement or plugged ducts may not go away on their own and might even worsen into mastitis, a painful inflammation of the breasts. In that case please go see a physician or a lactation consultant who can help you. If you have mastitis a physician might prescribe antibiotics or anti-inflammatory medication.

In any case it’s very important that you never stop breastfeeding (unless a physician tells you otherwise): a change in breastfeeding rhythm, particularly if you breastfeed less than usual, will likely worsen the issue. If actually breastfeeding is too painful for you, pump instead while you have the condition: the important thing is that you keep emptying your breasts thoroughly and regularly.

So to summarize, do engorgement or plugged ducts go away on their own?

  • Yes, engorgement or plugged ducts go away on their own in the overwhelming majority of cases if you do things right. That is: you need to 1) keep a steady breastfeeding schedule, 2) drink a specialized herbal tea designed to mitigate the issue and 3) get your breasts massaged by a specialist (or yourself if you’re familiar with the techniques).
  • If your engorgement or plugged ducts do not go away on their own or worsen into mastitis, please go see a physician or a lactation consultant.

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How do you stop breasts getting engorged at night?

Your breasts likely get engorged during the night because your body expects you to breastfeed your baby during the night and therefore fills your breasts accordingly. The best way to avoid getting engorged during the night is therefore, you’ll have guessed it, to breastfeed your baby during the night! That way you never let your breasts get filled with so much milk that they end up getting engorged.

If breastfeeding during the night is not an option for you, a way you can help mitigate the issue is to breastfeed (or pump) right before you go to sleep and straight after you wake up. The less time you allow between two breastfeeding sessions, the better. That way you avoid your breasts getting too overfilled.

In any case it’s crucial that whatever you do, you do it consistently. Like this you give a chance to your body to adapt to your rhythm. If for instance you decide not to breastfeed during the night and you do so consistently, you’ll observe that your body will progressively send less milk to your breasts during the night. Your body learns that there is no point sending milk to your breasts during that time-span. The worse you can do is confuse your body by changing your breastfeeding schedule all the time. If you do so you never give your body a chance to adapt and your engorgement issues will linger.

On top of keeping a steady rhythm, you can also help mitigate your engorgement issues by drinking a specialized herbal tea like our very own Unblock Nursing Tea. It’s an all-natural tea based on a recipe used for centuries by Chinese women to deal with engorged breasts and plugged ducts. We recommend you drink at least 3 cups a day while you deal with the issue.

Lastly you can also get your breasts massaged by a specialist (like a lactation or a Gua-Sha massage therapist). Specialized massages have been proven scientifically to reduce engorgement4.

So to summarize, how do you stop breasts getting engorged at night?

  • The best way to avoid engorgement during the night is to breastfeed your baby during the night.
  • If you can’t breastfeed at night, consider breastfeeding right before sleeping and straight after waking up. The less time you allow between two breastfeeding sessions, the better.
  • In any case, it’s important that whatever your breastfeeding schedule, you do it consistently so as to let your body adapt to it. The worst you can do is to sometimes breastfeed at night, sometimes not.
  • To help mitigate your engorgement issue, consider drinking a herbal tea designed for the purpose or getting your breasts massaged by a therapist.

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Can breast milk go bad if you have engorged breasts or plugged ducts?

The answer to this is a resounding no! Breast milk doesn’t go bad if you have engorged breasts, plugged ducts or even mastitis. It’s perfectly safe - and even highly recommended - that you keep breastfeeding your baby (or pumping) while you deal with those issues. Even if you see your breast milk tinged with a bit of blood - something that’s relatively common if you have plugged ducts or mastitis - your milk is still safe to use for your baby.

Engorgement or plugged ducts are typically caused by your breasts having more milk than what they can bear. As a result the last thing you should do if you encounter those issue is stop breastfeeding as it’ll result in even more milk accumulating in your breasts, thus worsening the issue! See our dedicated section to learn how you can deal with engorgement or plugged ducts issues.

So to summarize, can breast milk go bad if you have engorged breasts or plugged ducts?

  • No, your breast milk is still good for your baby if you have engorged breasts or plugged ducts.
  • It’s highly recommended you keep breastfeeding when you have engorged breasts or plugged ducts as it’ll help resolve the issue.

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Should I pump to relieve engorgement?

Like we saw in the section on preventing engorgement, your breasts get engorged because they get filled with more milk than what they can bear. The main way to deal with engorged breasts is to therefore empty them, via breastfeeding or pumping.

That being said, it’s also important that you not pump too frequently when dealing with engorged breasts. If you do so you send a signal to your body to produce milk more often than necessary. You should only pump or breastfeed on a schedule that produces enough milk for what you need. Like that you teach your body to produce just the right amount of milk and you won't face further engorgement issues down the line. Of course if you pump very frequently and feel that you can keep up with that rhythm going forward, go for it. The key is to avoid facing a situation where your breasts get filled with milk that won't be emptied.

On top of breastfeeding or pumping on the right schedule for your baby, there are other things you can do like we saw in the section on relieving engorgement. For instance you can drink a herbal tea designed to help you avoid blockages in your breasts, like our very own Unblock Nursing Tea. Also you can go get a breast massage from a specialized therapist.

So to summarize, should you pump to relieve engorgement?

  • Yes, pumping or breastfeeding do help since your engorgement is likely caused by an overflow of milk in your breasts.
  • It’s important however that you don’t pump too often as doing so would tell your body to produce more milk than necessary. Pump or breastfeed at a rhythm that you can sustain.

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What helps engorged breasts when weaning?

In an ideal world you shouldn’t get engorged breasts when weaning. One way to achieve that is to reduce your breastfeeding in small steps (each step lasting a few days) so as to progressively teach your body to produce less and less milk. That way you can avoid an overflow of milk in your breasts, the cause of engorgement.

If you still get engorgement when weaning, one way to help is to drink a herbal tea especially designed for the purpose like our very own Unblock Nursing Tea. It’s based on a 12-plant vegan recipe used for centuries by Chinese women to deal with engorged breasts. You can also get yourself a massage from a specialized therapist. For more details, read our dedicated section on relieving engorgement.

So to summarize, what helps engorged breasts when weaning?

  • There is no reason you should have engorged breasts when weaning. If you reduce your breastfeeding step by step, your body will progressively reduce the milk flow to your breasts and you might avoid engorgement.
  • If you still encounter engorgement when weaning, read our dedicated section on relieving engorged breasts.

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Do cabbage leaves help engorgement?

There have been many scientific studies to understand whether cabbage leaves help relieve engorgement. No serious study has to this day seen that cabbage leaves help engorged breasts. They all tend to conclude that applying cabbage leaves on your breasts has no significant impact on engorgement or plugged ducts.

For instance an Australian study performed in 19985 gave cabbage leaves to 21 lactating women with engorged breasts while a group of 18 other lactating women were given a placebo cream with nothing in it. Both groups perceived the same relief on their engorged breasts after applying their respective treatment, meaning that cabbage leaves were no more effective than a placebo cream with nothing in it. What this study found however was that emptying your breasts by breastfeeding was actually effective against engorgement. This is consistent with what we recommend under our section on how to relieve engorged breasts.

Other example, a 2001 systematic review of various forms of treatment for breast engorgement6 also found that cabbage leaves had “no overall benefit” on breast engorgement. They did find however that breast massage is likely an effective remedy against engorgement, again consistent with what we recommend under our section on relieving engorged breasts.

So to summarize, do cabbage leaves help engorgement?

  • They don’t, serious studies conducted on the question find that the application of cabbage leaves provides no benefit to breast engorgement.
  • Instead of relying on cabbage leave, read our section on relieving engorged breasts to learn about effective ways to help engorgement.

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Do engorgement and plugged ducts lead to mastitis?

Engorgement and plugged ducts, if not dealt with properly, can lead to mastitis, a painful inflammation of the breast. Like we explain in our dedicated section on relieving engorged breasts, there are several steps you can take when faced with engorged breasts or plugged ducts. For instance you should keep a steady breastfeeding schedule in order to teach your body how much milk to produce and when. This will avoid your body overflowing your breasts with more milk than you can express, the cause of engorgement. Also you can make use of herbal teas designed to relieve engorgement like our very own Unblock Nursing Tea. Lastly you can regularly massage your breasts, either yourself if you know the techniques or with the help of a specialized therapist.

If you still get mastitis, first of all don’t worry: albeit painful it’s a very common condition that many women go through. Your best step is to go see a physician who’ll likely prescribe antibiotics, anti-inflammatory medication or both. In any case, unless told so by your physician, you should keep breastfeeding your baby when you deal with mastitis. Your milk remains perfectly safe for your baby and breastfeeding is actually one of the most effective remedy for the issue.

So to summarize, do engorgement and plugged ducts lead to mastitis?

  • Engorgement and plugged ducts can lead to mastitis if they’re not dealt with properly. To learn what to do if you have engorged breasts or plugged ducts, read our dedicated section on relieving engorged breasts.
  • If you have mastitis, go see a physician who’ll best be able to help you. In any case, unless told differently by a doctor, do not stop breastfeeding.

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How do you prevent mastitis?

There are two main causes to mastitis. The first one is because you had plugged ducts or engorged breasts that weren’t dealt with properly and therefore worsened into mastitis. The second one is because you got infected by a bacteria via cracked skin or a fissure in or around your nipples.

To prevent mastitis, it’s very important that you deal with plugged ducts or engorged breasts properly if and when you experience them. To learn more on this read our dedicated section on relieving engorged breasts or plugged ducts. You’ll read that the best thing you can do is to keep breastfeeding steadily so as to empty your breast thoroughly during each feeding. This also means that the very worst thing you can do is to stop breastfeeding on the affected breast. Even though it may hurt, expressing milk is crucially important as an accumulation of milk is what’s causing engorgement. You also need to pay attention that your baby latches to your breasts properly so they get the milk they need and so they do not damage your nipples. You’ll also read that there are some herbal teas especially designed to help mitigate the issue like our very own Unblock Nursing Tea.

Dealing with cracked skin and fissure in and around your nipples will also help prevent mastitis. One way to help cure nipple fissures is to gently rub your nipples and the area around them with a bit of breast milk. Breast milk is full of antibacterial and moisturizing elements so it’s conveniently one of the best remedy for sore/cracked nipples. You should apply some regularly after each feeding to help mitigate the issue. Another recommended ointment for cracked nipples is Lanolin as it’s been proven scientifically to help deal with traumatic nipples7. You can find Lanolin in most shops selling OTC medicine.

Nipple fissure and clogged duct

Lastly since mastitis is often caused by bacteria, it’s important to keep a rigorous personal hygiene for you and your baby. Precautions include regular showers/baths, washing your hands and the hands of your baby several times a day as well as thorough and regular cleaning of any equipment or clothing that might be in contact with your breasts or nipples.

So to summarize, how do you prevent mastitis?

  • Treat plugged ducts and engorged breasts before they worsen. Learn how to do so by reading our dedicated section on relieving engorged breasts or plugged ducts.
  • Deal with cracked skin and fissure to avoid bacteria entering your nipples. To do so regularly rub your nipples with breast milk and Lanolin.
  • Keep a rigorous personal hygiene for you and your baby and thoroughly clean any equipment or piece of clothing that might be in contact with your breasts or nipples.

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What are the first signs of mastitis?

Mastitis is an inflammation of the breast occurring together with flu-like symptoms (e.g. fever, general malaise). It can either affect one breast or both. The affected breast(s) will often be reddened, warmer than usual, swollen and painful to the touch. They will also sometimes have hardened lumps.

It’s often easy to mix up mastitis with engorgement or plugged ducts. The main difference is the flu-like symptoms: if you have them, you most likely have mastitis.

When faced with mastitis, don’t panic. Even though it’s painful, it’s not overly harmful to you or your baby. It’s particularly important that you keep breastfeeding when having mastitis as it’s probably the best thing you can do to solve the issue. Mastitis has no incidence on the quality of your breast milk, it’s as good for your baby as usual.

If you suspect mastitis, contact a physician who’ll be able to prescribe appropriate medication. They’ll most likely give you antibiotics and/or anti-inflammatory medicine together with an analgesic to deal with the pain. They’ll also likely encourage you to keep breastfeeding and brief you on proper breastfeeding techniques.

So to summarize, what are the first signs of mastitis?

  • Flu-like symptoms (e.g. fever, general malaise)
  • Reddened breast(s)
  • Swollen breast(s)
  • Breast(s) warmer than usual, sign of an inflammation
  • Breast(s) painful to the touch
  • Hardened lumps on the breast(s)

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Is mastitis very painful?

Mastitis can be incredibly painful. It is so painful that it is a leading reason why women give up on breastfeeding. Many women experiencing mastitis find that they simply cannot deal with the pain and wrongly believe that stopping breastfeeding will make them feel better.

Even though it can be immensely painful, giving up on breastfeeding when you have mastitis will likely worsen the condition rather than improve it. This is because mastitis is often caused by an accumulation of milk in the breast: stagnant milk is a breeding ground for bacteria and infections. If you give up on breastfeeding, your body will keep sending milk to your breasts for 7 to 10 days and more milk will thus accumulating in them, making the issue worse!

The right thing to do when dealing with mastitis is to keep breastfeeding or pumping so as to thoroughly empty your breasts. You should also consult a physician so they can prescribe the appropriate medication, including analgesics to deal with the pain.

So to summarize, is mastitis very painful?

  • Unfortunately yes, mastitis can be incredibly painful.
  • Even though your instinct might tell you to stop breastfeeding or pumping to stop the pain, doing so will likely make it worse. You should keep breastfeeding or pumping when you have mastitis so as to thoroughly empty your breasts.
  • It’s always a good idea to go see a doctor when faced with mastitis. They’ll be able to prescribe the right medication, including something to deal with the pain.

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How can I get rid of mastitis fast?

To cure mastitis, your first step is to keep breastfeeding or pumping on a steady schedule. It might seem counterintuitive to do so because it’s likely very painful but this the most effective way to solve the issue. This is because mastitis is most often due to bacterias that develop in milk that remains stagnant in your breasts. When you empty your breasts, there is no stagnant milk anymore and this will go a long way to help clear the issue.

You should also pay attention to not breastfeed or pump more or less than usual. Stick to a consistent schedule that you’re ready to continue observing going forward.

If you express less milk than usual your body will take many days to understand that it needs to produce less milk. This means that for many days (7 to 10 days on average) it’ll send more milk to your breasts than what you express with your pumping or breastfeeding. This will make your mastitis worse since stagnant milk will keep accumulating in your breasts.

Conversely if you express more milk than usual you’re giving a signal to your body that it needs to produce more milk going forward. If afterwards you reduce your pumping or breastfeeding your mastitis may come back since there’ll be milk in your breasts that you don’t express and therefore remains stagnant. The key is to avoid facing a situation where your breasts get filled with milk that won't be emptied.

A second good step to take to cure mastitis is to go see physician so they can prescribe appropriate medication. Most likely they’ll be prescribing antibiotics that are compatible with breastfeeding and can rid you of the bacteria in your breasts. They might also give you appropriate pain medication and might prescribe anti-inflammatories that deal with some of your symptoms.

You can also consider drinking a herbal tea specialized for the purpose, like our very own Unblock Nursing Tea. Based on a 12-plant recipe used for centuries by Chinese woman to deal with blockages of the breasts, it will help your milk flowing unrestricted. Since mastitis is mainly due to milk stasis, meaning milk getting stuck in your breasts’ ducts, it’ll likely help*.

Lastly, even though it might hurt, consider massaging your breasts regularly or getting a breast massage from a professional therapist. Mastitis is largely due to milk stasis and massages done the right way help unblock your ducts.

So to summarize, how can you get rid of mastitis fast?

  • Keep breastfeeding or pumping on a steady schedule that you can keep in the long run. Do not express more or less milk than usual.
  • Go see a physician so you can prescribe appropriate medication like antibiotics, analgesics for the pain and anti-inflammatories.
  • Consider drinking a herbal tea designed for the purpose like our very own Unblock Nursing Tea.
  • Consider massaging your breasts regularly or getting a breast massage from a professional therapist.

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How do you cure mastitis naturally, without antibiotics?

It is possible to cure mastitis naturally. After all women have been having mastitis since the dawn of time and they didn’t wait for the advent of modern medicine to cure it.

Like we detail in the section above on getting rid of mastitis the most important step you can take to cure mastitis is to keep a steady breastfeeding or pumping schedule. Mastitis is most often due to stagnant milk accumulating in your breasts, it’s therefore critical that you empty your breasts regularly by breastfeeding or pumping. Don’t worry: your milk remains perfectly safe for your baby to consume. Even though you might be tempted to do so because of the pain, it’s important you don’t breastfeed or pump less than usual as this will lead to milk accumulating in your breasts, thus worsening the issue.

When you breastfeed it’s important to ensure that your baby is latched properly. This is crucial because otherwise they won’t be able to drain your breast of its milk and they won’t get properly fed.

You should also consider drinking a herbal tea designed to help mitigate the issue like our very own Unblock Nursing Tea. It’s made with plants only and it’s based on a recipe used for centuries by Chinese women to clear blockages in the breasts such as plugged ducts or mastitis. We recommend you drink 3-5 cups a day until you see the issue improve.

Lastly try massaging your breasts yourself or getting a professional therapist to do it for you. Mastitis is first and foremost a failure of your milk to flow properly. Massaging your breasts will help clear any blockage and will go a long way to solve the issue.

If you don’t start feeling better after following the above for a couple of days, consider seeing a doctor. You should especially see one if you feel more and more feverish, a sign that the inflammation is getting worse.

So to summarize, how do you cure mastitis naturally, without antibiotics?

  • Keep breastfeeding or pumping on a steady schedule.
  • Even though it hurts, do not express less milk than usual. You want to empty your breasts thoroughly and regularly.
  • If you breastfeed, ensure that your baby is latched properly.
  • Consider drinking a herbal tea designed for the purpose like our very own Unblock Nursing Tea.
  • Massage your breasts regularly (or get a massage therapist to do it) to improve milk flow

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Can mastitis clear up on its own?

Mastitis can clear up on its own, if you do the right things.

First and foremost you should keep breastfeeding or pumping on a steady schedule. Your mastitis is likely due to an accumulation of stagnant milk in your breasts so draining them is essential to clear up the issue. You might be tempted to breastfeed or pump less than usual because of the pain. However this is a wrong instinct as it’ll likely worsen the issue. Inversely you shouldn’t breastfeed or pump more than usual as this is a signal to your body to produce more milk than necessary, making it more likely for you to accumulate stagnant milk again in the future.

You can also consider massaging your breasts, particularly in the affected areas. Curing mastitis is very much about getting your milk to flow smoothly again and regular massages can really help achieve that.

Lastly you might also want to drink a herbal tea designed to help clear milk blockages like our very own Unblock Nursing Tea. It’s a vegan tea made with 12 plants. It’s based on an ancestral recipe used for centuries in China to help woman with milk blockages such as mastitis. We recommend you drink 3-5 cups a day until you see things improving.

If the issue doesn’t disappear on its own after a few days and particularly if your fever gets worse, go see a doctor. They’ll best be able to guide you and prescribe the appropriate medication such as antibiotics or anti-inflammatory medications.

So to summarize, can mastitis clear up on its own?

  • Mastitis can clear up on its own but you need to do things right.
  • You need to keep breastfeeding or pumping on a steady schedule, not more or less than usual.
  • You need to massage your breasts regularly to help restore an unobstructed milk flow.
  • You should consider drinking a herbal tea designed to help clear milk blockages like our very own Unblock Nursing Tea.
  • If the issue doesn’t disappear on its own after a few days and particularly if your fever gets worse, go see a doctor.

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Sources:

1. Priyanka, Powar & C, Basavaraj & A, Ramannavar & Kurhade, Geeta & Kurhade, Arvind & Justiz-Vaillant, Angel & Powar, Rajarm & Vuma, Sehlule. (2016). Comparative effect of ultrasound therapy with conventional therapy on breast engorgement in immediate post-partum mothers: A randomized controlled trial. Integrative Molecular Medicine. 3. 553-558. 10.15761/IMM.1000203.

2. Jeanne P. Spencer, MD, Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center, Johnstown, Pennsylvania. Am Fam Physician. 2008 Sep 15;78(6):727-731.

3. Prevention of nipple tenderness and breast engorgement in the postpartal period.Storr GB. J Obstet Gynecol Neonatal Nurs. 1988 May-Jun; 17(3):203-9.

4. Chiu J-Y, Gau M-L, Kuo S-Y, et al. Effects of Gua-Sha therapy on breast engorgement: A randomized controlled trial. J Nurs Res2010;18:1–10

5. Roberts KL, Reiter M, Schuster D. Effects of cabbage leaf extract on breast engorgement. J Hum Lact. 1998 Sep;14(3):231-6.

6. Mangesi L, Dowswell T. Treatments for breast engorgement during lactation. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2010;9:CD006946.

7. Shanazi M, Farshbaf Khalili A, Kamalifard M, Asghari Jafarabadi M, Masoudin K, Esmaeli F. Comparison of the effects of lanolin, peppermint, and dexpanthenol creams on treatment of traumatic nipples in breastfeeding mothers. J Caring Sci 2015; 4 (4): 297-307. doi: 10.15171/jcs.2015.030.

 

Article tags: Breastfeeding Mastitis Engorgement Plugged ducts

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