Breastfeeding is a personal choice and can be more of a challenge than a choice for many women. However, it has been shown to reduce a woman risk of developing breast cancer.
Anandamide and 2-AG are two endocannabinoids found in human breast milk crucial to human reproduction and development.
Anandamide protects the eggand ensures it’s attachment to the uterus. 2-AG is known to be responsible for stimulating the suckling response.
Other endocannabinoids in breast milk are thought to protect neurons in post-natal brain development.
Breastfeeding and Mastitis
Mastitis is a condition that can happen to breastfeeding women when milk is left in the breast, a milk duct becomes blocked, or bacteria enters your breast. People who aren’t breastfeeding can also get mastitis, but it’s most commonly experienced in the first six months of breastfeeding. (1)
Mastitis is usually felt first in one breast and can cause pain, discomfort, swelling, and skin that is red and hot to the touch. Some people also experience fevers or chills.
If left untreated, mastitis can lead to an abscess, which feels like a firm, painful lump. Untreated mastitis can also result in painful lymph nodes in the armpit near the breast, increased heart rate, and flu-like symptoms (1). If you experience any of those symptoms, be sure to get treatment quickly.
How to Prevent Mastitis
You can reduce your risks of developing mastitis by ensuring that
- All the milk in the breast is drained after breastfeeding (milk left in the breast can encourage the growth of bacteria)
- Your baby is properly latched to your breast, which reduces the chance of cracked or irritated nipples
- You don’t take long or inconsistent breaks between nursing, as this can cause milk ducts to become blocked
Mastitis is typically treated with antibiotics. While taking antibiotics, you can continue nursing your baby. If it’s too painful to nurse with your infected breast, begin with your healthy breast. Just make sure to drain any milk from your irritated breast, whether through hand expression or a breast pump.
Breast Massage as Holistic Prevention for Mastitis
Regular breast massage before and after breastfeeding can address the root causes of mastitis. You can put a warm towel compress on your breasts to increase milk flow.
After the compress, you can use a massage oil (make sure it’s suitable for breastfeeding women) to gently massage your breasts in a circular motion, starting at the center of your breast and sweeping outward. This ritual can stimulate milk flow and help drain toxins through your lymphatic system, promoting circulation and increased immunity.
Bōsm Wellness is working on a castor-oil free formula for breastfeeding women. Until then, any safe, nourishing moisturizer will do.
The ritual of breast massage can alleviate the painful symptoms of mastitis and be a reminder of how incredible and life-giving our breasts can truly be.
The way that breasts can feed babies is amazing and miraculous. That doesn’t mean it’s easy. For any women experiencing pain or discomfort from breastfeeding, breast massage is a powerful and holistic preventative medicine.
- “Mastitis While Breastfeeding.” Mastitis While Breastfeeding | Michigan Medicine, 5 Sept. 2018, www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/hw98039.