One of the most common issues that new mums experience when they start their breastfeeding journey is blocked ducts which, if not well managed, can lead to Mastitis. Mastitis simply means inflammation of the breasts and isn’t always as bacterial infection requiring antibiotics. That said, if the mother has sore, swollen breasts, accompanied by fever and flu-like symptoms, she is advised to seek medical help promptly. However, there are several strategies can be useful to help resolve blocked ducts and mastitis before it becomes serious.
One of main reasons for blocked ducts is that the baby isn’t effectively draining the breast. I would encourage the mum to seek help with ensuring the baby is well attached and draining the breasts effectively. Lactation Consultants GB have a list of International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLC) and there are many free groups locally with excellent breastfeeding support, including the group at St Peter’s, Brockley where there is a welcoming team who can offer feeding support: https://www.stpetersbrockley.org.uk/bumps-babies
The protocol for managing Mastitis has recently been updated. There is some research to suggest that applying heat to inflamed breasts can actually increase inflammation. Strategies to help resolve Blocked Ducts and Mastitis include: Feed on demand, Hand expressing – just enough to relieve the pressure, Cold compress after a feed (or expressing), and crucially for the mum, rest. It is now thought that firm massage can damage the breast tissue. Instead, a more gentle, Lympathic Massage is recommended to help drain lymphatic fluid from the breast, towards the lymph nodes in the armpit: https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5cae1b90a09a7e52e72c667e/t/5daa2c7b4990dc3d5fa76556/1571433600382/Lymphatic+massage+handout.pdf . In addition, gently moving the breast can be a helpful method to help get the milk moving – this link has some useful videos on Breast Gymnastics: https://www.mayabolman.com/videos
The baby is key in helping to relieve any discomfort from blocked ducts. A well attached baby will drain a blocked duct far more effectively than any pump; feeding to his or her rhythm will help regulate supply. Position the baby so the nose or the chin is pointing towards the blockage.
Some baby’s may find feeding harder when the breasts are engorged as the pressure from all the fluids in the breast can constrict the ducts delivering the milk towards the nipple. This is usually a temporary challenge which most babies manage admirably.
In addition to all the logistics of feeding with engorged breasts, there are several Homeopathic remedies that may be helpful:
BELLADONNA – for the initial stages of inflammation. The breast is red, hot and swollen. The pain is throbbing and worse lying down.
PHYTOLACCA – breasts are extremely sensitive and tender. Pains are stinging and shooting throughout the breast, radiating to the whole body when breastfeeding. The breasts are hard and purplish in colour. Nipples may be cracked
HEPAR SULPHUR or SILICA – indicated if there is an abscess with pus discharge. Pain is intense and breasts are sensitive to touch. Mum is chilly
Classical Homeopath (R.S.Hom)
Lactation Consultant IBCLC