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Seven things I am doing to prevent mastitis as a holistic Lactation Consultant

With my experience and knowledge as a holistic IBCLC lactation consultant, here is what I’m doing to dramatically reduce my chances of experiencing the challenges of breast inflammation and/or mastitis. 

  1. Taking a breastfeeding-specific probiotic first thing each morning. 

There is plenty of research to show us that Salivarius and Lactobacillus. Fermentum strains of beneficial probiotics directly impact the breast microbiome.  This means that the more beneficial bacteria in the breast, the more healthy and effective the immune response will be if inflammation arises in the breast tissue.

I take my probiotic first thing on waking for a couple of reasons, mostly it’s about doing it habitually, and the morning is the most potent when it comes to habits sticking. I have been taking a probiotic since my early weeks of pregnancy, so it’s fair to say this habit is pretty well formed. And secondly, I had my probiotic ( along with other supplements) muscle tested, and the results came back to have it on an empty stomach and away from food for best efficacy. Muscle testing is unique for each person and can also change depending on what the body needs. 

  1. Monitoring my breast health, keeping an eye out for any lumps or redness. 

It is important to be familiar with the texture and feel of your breasts. This can start during pregnancy with a beautiful belly and breast massage routine. Lifting under the breast where the bulk of the breast tissue generally is to inspect for any lumps and redness is necessary. The more you become familiar with your lactating breasts in a healthy state, the quicker you will pick up any variations that may require more attention. 

  1. Caring for my immune and lymphatic systems. 

The health of the breasts are dependent on the lymphatic system. I make sure I drink plenty of water, practice some form of movement daily and perform a dry brush or suction cup ritual a few times a week to boost lymphatic drainage. 

One of the helpful remedies for mastitis is lymphatic massage to assist with flow and drainage of the lymph fluid, helping to remove immune debris and harmful bacteria away from the breast tissue. Importantly, lymphatic massage should only be around 5-10% pressure, as the lymphatic system is just under the skin and requires very little pressure to be activated. When time allows, performing a quick yet gentle lymphatic massage around the breast area either during or after the shower can be a nice way to support your breast health.

  1. Making sure my baby drains the first breast before moving to the next. 

While it’s true each breast will never be “emptied”, aiming to drain as best as possible is important to reduce milk stagnation and inflammation in the breast tissue. Signs your baby may be ready to switch to the next side are; reduced swallows, fussiness, sleepiness, increasing distraction/play, a very soft breast and length of feed. If you are someone with a very abundant supply, perhaps block feeding, or feeding from one breast per feed is more appropriate to achieve breast drainage. 

  1. Prioritising nutrition, supplements and hydration. 

In order to keep my body strong and my immune system healthy, nutrition plays a foundational role in this. I make sure I am consuming enough protein with each meal, protein being an important building block of the immune system.  I take a regime of supplements that are tailored to my needs.  This includes keeping my iron levels optimal, as iron deficiency is linked to an inadequate immune response. I also have an immune complex supplement (a mixture of nutrients and herbs) on hand in case I am feeling under the weather or notice any early signs of breast inflammation.  Hydration is important to keep the water content in breast milk optimal, supporting lymphatic system health and my overall energy levels. 

  1. Being mindful to not overdoing it, as mastitis is often a sign of not enough rest. 

Throughout my years caring for breastfeeding families, I’ve commonly seen mastitis strike when a mother is not getting as much rest as her body needs. In this case, mastitis is often a siren from the body to slow down, and with such horrendous symptoms of fatigue, fever, aches, chills and pain rest becomes a non-negotiable.  It’s important to honour your body’s messages when it’s tired and where possible to prioritise necessary tasks and do the bare minimum when you can. 

  1. Know where to go for support. 

Having a team of health professionals lined up during pregnancy is a really important part of breastfeeding planning.  As mastitis often requires quite urgent attention it will feel more seamless to make contact with a care provider you already have a relationship with and who is familiar with your circumstances and needs. I personally have a relationship with my go-to GP & IBCLC, and know where I would book in for therapeutic ultrasound if needed. 

The fear around mastitis is real, and taking steps to prevent it is always more ideal than treatment. Having mastitis takes a huge toll on your body and may temporarily reduce your milk supply during and after the inflammation has settled. Use these holistic steps to take care of your breast health and milk supply to feel more confident in reducing your likelihood of experiencing breast inflammation and/or mastitis. 

Joelleen Winduss Paye

IBCLC Lactation Consultant, Registered Endorsed Midwife, Naturopath & Educator est.2021



This knowledge is general in nature and from Joelleen’s experience as an expert IBCLC Lactation Consultant. This information does not constitute as advice, nor does it replace the advice given by an expert health professional in the confines of a consultation. This content is purely educational to support parents seeking clarity around their newborn and also helps the reader to decide if Joelleen is the right IBCLC Lactation Consultant for them.