Mastitis or plugged duct?

If you feel like your boobs aren’t quite working as they should, and they are tender or sore, you could have one of these issues.  There are lots of natural techniques to help you overcome these obstacles.  To some extent it depends which one you have and to another it really doesn’t so here are the commonalities:

Rest! Your body needs the resources to be able to fight any boob malfunction.  This should be your first focus.  Send your guests away and focus all your attention here.

Feed! Your baby is cleverly designed to help you through this by feeding and keeping the flow going.  By creating gaps in the feeding it will be harder to re regulate supply.

Resource up! You’ve just had a tiny human deplete you of all your resources.  Feeding can be draining too, especially if you are trying to carry on your life as normal.  Water and minerals are really important as well as good nutrition.  (coconut water, green veg, fruit).  Drinking herbal teas or bone broth can be really beneficial.

So what’s the difference?

A blocked duct is where one of the ducts which feed milk to the nipple gets blocked and you get a backup of milk.  One of the reasons for this can be that the flow of milk has been impaired somehow (latching problems, fast or slow feeding, feeding multiple babies, nipple shields, blocked pores),  or irregular feeding (substituting with a bottle, skipping feeds), tight/ constricting clothing and injury to the breast can also be contributing factors.

A blocked duct can cause milk stagnation, which can cause inflammation and lead to mastitis.  Inflammation can also be caused through a cracked nipple or through bacteria like any other infection.

Mastitis is an inflammation of the breast tissue and can make the breast feel swollen or sore.  One will look redder that the other one.  This can be true of a blocked duct as well but mastitis often comes with flu like symptoms or a fever.

Natural therapies look at the body as a whole, but both conditions can be caused as a result of general ill health: poor immunity; stress; anaemia or still recovering from birth.  A consultation would aim to address these issues at a deeper level that you can manage acutely.

The most important word is FLOW!

In a blocked duct, the best way to unblock it is to feed through it and keep the flow going.

In mastitis, milk that hangs around in inflamed ducts will make the problem worse so try and move it through as best you can. This is ideally through feeding, and completely emptying the breast.   Sometimes this is not possible, in which case, feed as much as you can and then express as much as you can.  Don’t ignore the other breast, this needs using too!

While your body tried to naturally heal, your milk can take on a slightly different taste with increased sodium.  This is completely normal and completely safe for the baby, but they might be a little put off by the taste and require some coaxing – persevere!  Good hydration will help water imbalances here.

What to do if feeding alone doesn’t clear it.

Heat stimulates milk production flow, so use warmth (shower, hot flannel, heat pack) to get the flow going again.  While the breast is nice and warm, take a lubricant (coconut oil, soap or conditioner in the shower) and massage the breast towards the nipple.  Try to hand express some milk to get the flow going even more.  As you recover, do this every morning in the shower to help the process.

Go without a bra.  Any kind of constriction can impair flow.

Feed creatively!  Get the baby in to different positions to bed access the blocked duct.  See this post on Kelly Mom (excellent feeding support) on Dangle Feeding.

Here are some remedies which may help:

Belladonna Comes on quickly.  Hard swollen breast.  Throbbing pain.  Red streaks from nipple.  You feel worse from light, noise or touch.
Bryonia Hot hard, painful.  Worse from movement.  You want to lie still.  Thirsty.
Cimicifuga Left breast especially.  Worse when cold.  Worse in the morning.  Often associated with low feelings.
Merc Sol Sweating.  Bad breath.  Lots of salivation.  Thirsty.
Phytolacca Heavy, stony hard breasts.  Tender with radiating pain.  Better for heat.
Silica Lots of discharge.  Feelings of weakness or felling chilly.  Worse for cold or draughts, damp, noise, light or being  jarred.


You will never use too much milk.  Milk supplies are never depleted by overuse.  The opposite in fact so keep feeding!

Although antibiotics are not always prescribed, they can be suggested by a GP where symptoms do not improve within a day.  The pathogens can be resistant to the antibiotics, so care is taken in selection.  This can also mean that they don’t help, while killing off your beneficial bacteria at the same time.  No bacteria at all decreases your chance of fighting off disease.  Antibiotics also suppress the inflammation but do nothing to address the flow issues and their potential causes.  So it is far better to use the techniques above and nip it in the bud.

In the event of your taking antibiotics, take a decent probiotic alongside it like Optibac.

Obviously keep an eye on your symptoms. The body can throw off low level inflammations with a bit of effort but trust your instincts.  If you experience increasing levels of weakness, pus or bloody discharge, you have a sudden spike in temperature or you have only recently been in hospital, then contact your chosen health professional.

One thought on “Mastitis or plugged duct?

  1. Great blog Debs, thanks! I’ll be sharing this with my post natal clients 🙂


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