Breastfeeding First Aid Kit

One element of our natural medicine kit is a set of supplies for treating/preventing mastitis during breastfeeding. I highly recommend that new/expecting moms consider preparing a “Breastfeeding Emergency Kit” to have on hand, so that you’re not sending your Sweetie out to the health food store during those early days; especially if you’re needing it at 2 AM like I did!

I awoke at 2 AM one morning, painfully realizing that Enoch had actually slept for longer than a couple hours. During those early days, he had been an especially sleepy baby, with difficulty latching on, and I was especially prone to clogged milk ducts. So far, I had been able to address potential clogs while small, with focused massage on the areas, while he nursed (especially focusing on the lymph node areas near the underarm, as my lactation consultant directed).

But the engorgement of the early breastfeeding season, combined with the other concerns, resulted in a large, painfully swollen lump. Upon inspection, I realized that the area was quite reddened, and I knew I needed to act quickly to prevent mastitis from setting in. I didn’t have much on hand, and wasn’t quite sure exactly the best course of treatment, but I got started.

Knowing that I needed some immune-boosting treatments to prevent mastitis (and remembering Donielle’s post), I pulled a couple packets of Emergen-C out of my leftover birth kit (which had been free samples in the mail, actually), and drank a couple of them over the course of the early morning hours. I also put the kettle on, heating up water for a cup of Echinacea and Rose Hip Tea, with a spoonful of raw honey.

I hopped in a hot shower, and began massaging the lump, trying to see if that would help. I then put a cabbage leaf on it, since I had heard rumors that it could help (but I wasn’t sure how long to leave it on, and probably didn’t leave it on long enough to work well enough). I tried pumping to relieve some of the engorgement, and tried to get my sleepy baby to nurse.

But after bumbling through those early morning hours, the clogged milk duct didn’t seem at all improved. I called one of our midwives for some suggestions. She recommended continued heat and massage, along with some more immune-boosting treatments, including Echinacea tincture, a homeopathic remedy called phytolacca (based on poke root), and Vitamin C.

Over a couple days, I used these treatments, but still didn’t see much improvement. My midwife recommended a further step of taking Lecithin to try and thin out the “fatty” milk that might be clogging the duct, and make it flow better. I was noticing decreased milk supply in that side, since the lump was so large. (Over the next day or two of taking the Lecithin, the milk did seem to flow easier, which allowed for less frustrating nursing sessions, but the lump still remained.)

I then realized that calling my lactation consultant would probably be a wise step! After going through a series of trouble-shooting questions with me (ruling out latch issues, milk blister, etc.), she immediately recommended ice packs, NOT heat!

She said the redness and swelling indicated inflammation, which needed to be treated with regular ice packs over the next 12-18 hours. By then, the redness should pretty much be gone, and then massage could help address any lingering swelling/firmness in the area over the next 12-18 hours. Then, she said to continue the massage and heat or ice as needed for the next day or two, until everything was healed. (She was right, and her advice worked marvelously!)

After going about a week with a clogged milk duct, I was amazed that I hadn’t developed mastitis. I think the immune-boosting treatments really helped prevent the onset of infection. (I really didn’t want to deal with side effects from taking antibiotics; often prescribed for mastitis!)

Here is what I ended up with in my “Breastfeeding First Aid Kit”:

  • A couple Ice Packs in the freezer (or put some crushed ice in a freezer bag); I wrapped them in a flannel receiving blanket, and tucked them inside my shirt.
  • A couple Rice Heating Packs, which we kept warm in the oven
  • Arnica Massage Oil, for massaging the lump
  • A few Emergen-C packets (before I start taking the Vitamin C)
  • Vitamin C (taking 4000 mg over the course of the day; taking more may cause some digestive irritation)
  • Echinacea Tincture (taking 3 drops in a glass of water every 2 hours)
  • Phytolacca Homeopathic Pellets (a low dose of 6x or 30C, taking 3 pellets every 15 minutes for an hour to treat mastitis; if you see improvement, keep taking it, but if no change after 4-5 doses, then go ahead and stop taking it- according to my midwife)
  • Lecithin Capsules (taking 4800 mg over the course of a day; continue taking for about a week after the last clogged duct is gone)
  • A Breastpump (I borrowed a basic manual pump from my midwives; check to see if a friend has one you can borrow to try out before you buy one!)
  • A good nursing bra & unrestrictive clothing to prevent pressing on milk ducts
  • A tube of Lanolin
  • Lots of Fluids & Rest, with regular Nursing Sessions! (Do not stop nursing on the affected side!)

For more information on identifying a clogged duct and/or mastitis, check out this informational chart.


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10 comments to Breastfeeding First Aid Kit

  • Miranda

    I feel for you. I've battled mastitis one and off (about once every 6 wks) since my son was 6 months. He's now 20 months old and still nursing. Belladonna is good for any fever and inflammation as well. I pray this isn't a reoccuring things for you. God bless!

    [Reply]

  • samann1121

    My daughter is almost 5 months old, and I've only had one clogged duct incident thus far (knock on wood!). I tried pretty much every home remedy I read about to avoid having to go to the doctor for antibiotics. I had a fever that peaked at 100.9F, and I took about 6 cloves of raw garlic over the course of 36 hours to fight off infection. I think it helped.

    [Reply]

  • Carley

    I'd also add a bottle of Gentian Violet for thrush!

    [Reply]

  • wendy

    I just want you to know that I appreciate you writing this post and I'm glad I'm suscribed! I'm nursing a 14 month old (as you know) and am having my first very painful "clogged-duct" thing going on. I don't have health insurance right now, but I remembered you had written about natural remedies for this. I'm very encouraged and the chart link was helpful too. 😀 thanks!

    [Reply]

  • […] consulted with my lactation consultant, and tried everything in my natural Breastfeeding First Aid Kit, which helped prevent serious infection, but nothing brought long-term […]

  • CountryMidwife

    Hiya! Obviously I’m way late to this party, but… I’d also highly recommend castor oil. Castor oil compresses (either applied directly over a plugged duct or soaked into a small square of natural cloth) with heat over it — is a wonderful anti-inflammatory. Also great over “hot spots” on varicose veins and ANY other kind of swelling/trauma.

    [Reply]

  • […] Breastmilk (get a couple good nursing bras and some “first-aid’ items). […]

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