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Natural Remedies for Problems in Breastfeeding - Part 2 - by Susun Weed


Painful, sore breasts and nipplesare one of the most common problems encountered during lactation. Virtuallyevery nursing mom will need help on this account at least once. Sore breastsand nipples can prevent nursing, lead to a decrease in milk production, andinterfere with the bonding between infant and mother.

There are three main causes ofpainful breasts. 


1.        Engorgement

An oversupply of milk engorges thebreast tissues, causing tenderness and pain. There is no fever and the breastsare not lumpy. Engorgement may occur as a result of a decision not to nurse,when milk comes in very quickly, when mother and child are separated for anextended time, or during weaning.

A very strong tea of sage is a classic remedy for stoppingthe flow of milk.  It is taken sip bysip, up to three cups a day.


2.        A blocked milk tube or duct

This causes swelling of the breastand acute pain. The blocked duct may feel lumpy and bruised, and a red streakmay radiate out from it. Cessation of nursing can increase the discomfort andendanger the milk supply. Nursing should be continued, but carefully, nursingand pumping just enough to empty the breast.

Right before nursing, use a warmcompress for 5 - 10 minutes (see following). They all taste fine to baby, so noneed to wash your breast before offering it.


3.        Mastitis (infection in the breast)

Causes swelling and pain,accompanied by acute tenderness and redness of the breast. The infected breastmay be hard, lumpy and swollen. There may be fever as well. This condition isthe most dangerous of the three. If not treated promptly, the infection cancause scarring of the ducts and prevent nursing a later child.


Use hot compresses or soaks atleast four times daily.  Get plenty ofbed rest. Breast infections are almost always a sign of too little rest.Regular naps or rest breaks are important too.

Nurse as often and as long aspossible on the infected breast. A breast infection will not make the infantsick.


Propolis is collected and used by bees as glue. It has ahistory of use against infection in Russiaand a strong following among midwives in North America.It is said to accelerate healing time by increasing the body's metabolism andgeneral resistance to disease. A dose of the tincture is 10 to 15 drops twice aday.


Echinacea roottincture is an excellent ally for any woman with mastitis. I use one-halfdrop per pound of body weight as a single dose. (For a woman who weighs 130pounds, the dose is 65 drops or two dropperfuls.) The dose is repeated as oftenas twelve times a day until symptoms remiss. I continue taking Echinacea for atleast a week after all symptoms have cleared. 


Poke roottincture (Phytolacca americana) stimulateslymph gland activity and clears mastitis quickly. Poke root is potent andpotentially toxic; the effect is cumulative. Use no more than two drops of thetincture daily. I combine poke with Echinacea for acute and severe infections.



Poultices, compresses and soaksare the best first aid for painful breasts. A poultice consists of fresh orcooked herbs placed directly on the breasts. A compress is prepared by soakinga cloth and applying that. And a soak is just that: - a soak in hot water.

Hot water alone has beneficialeffects for women dealing with sore breasts, no matter what the cause. Hotwater stimulates circulation and eases the tension in taut, swollen, breasttissues. Herbs infused in the water used to compress or soak increase theeffectiveness.

When applying these externalremedies, remember that frequent, consistent, short applications work betterthan sporadic, lengthy treatments. That is, six or seven treatments of fiveminutes each spread over the day will be more effective than one treatmentlasting for thirty minutes. If infection is present, discard any plant materialand wash the poultice materials after each use so as to prevent the spread ofthe infection.

Soak the breasts in a sink full ofwarm water. Fill the sink, lean over, and immerse one or both breasts. You canmassage the milk out while soaking to further relieve engorgement and easepain.

Place a handful of fresh or dried parsley leaves in a cleancotton diaper and tie it closed with a rubber band. Put in a pan of water andsimmer for 10 to 15 minutes. Apply the hot (fresh) parsley as a poultice or usethe (dried) herb still tied in the diaper as a compress to ease swollen andpainful breasts.                                                     

Prepare fresh or dried comfrey leaves the same way asparsley. A hot compress or poultice of comfrey leaves soothes sore nipples,softens engorged tissues, reduces the pain of swollen breasts, and helpsunblock tubes and ducts. It is generally considered safe to use comfrey rootpreparations externally, but nursing mothers may be understandably leery to usethem for fear of injuring her infant's liver.

A cold poultice of grated raw potato can draw out the heat ofinflammation, localize infection and unblock clogged tubes. Grated raw potatois applied directly to the breasts, and covered with a clean cloth. When dry,it is removed and replaced with fresh grated potato.


Marshmallow roots make wonderful soaks that soothe tendertissues and sore nipples, open clogged ducts and tubes, powerfully draw outinfection, and diminish the pain of engorged, inflamed breasts. Steep twoounces of dried marshmallow root overnight in half a gallon of water just offthe boil. The texture of the finished brew should be slippery and slimy. Heatas needed, pouring the hot liquid into a sink or basin and soak your sore andaching breasts.


Infused herbal oils - such asthose made from the flowers of calendula,elder, or dandelion, or from the roots of yellow dock - can ease the pain of tender breasts and sore nipples.Buy them ready-made. Or make them yourself: Gently warm a handful of dried orfresh blossoms in just enough olive oil to cover; keep warm for 20 minutes.Strain, cool, and rub into nipples and breasts whenever there is pain orsensitivity.



  • Sore nipples heal rapidly, oftenwithin a day or two, but it is still easier to prevent them than to heal them.Nipple sprays intended to prevent sore nipples have been shown to beineffective, but the following Wise Woman remedies are safe and effective. Note:  Persistently or suddenly sore nipples mayindicate a thrush infection. Further symptoms of thrush include pink, flakyskin and itchy nipples.
  • Continue to nurse. Neither sore nipples northrush are helped by discontinuing nursing; in fact, they may be remedied bymore frequent nursing.
  • Expose the nipples and breasts to the air as much as possible to discouragethe growth of thrush. Avoid wearing a bra 24 hours a day. Wear nursing braswith the flaps down whenever possible.
  • Expose the nipples and breasts to sunlight for brief periods to strengthen tissues. Increasegradually from thirty seconds in the sun to a maximum of three minutes.
  • Olive oil, sweet almond oil, lanolin, or comfrey ointment rubbed into thenipples throughout the latter part of the pregnancy and the beginning weeks ofnursing create healthy, flexible tissues very resistant to cracks, tears, andchapping.
  • Experiment with different nursing positionsuntil you find those in which you are completely comfortable, with the entireareola (dark area) in the baby's mouth, nipple centered.
  • Offer yourbreast often.  Reducing the numberof feedings can make the baby so hungry that it tears at the breast.
  • Avoid soap, cologne, deodorant andpowder on your nipples or breasts. Do not wash nipples with soap. Soappredisposes the nipples to chapping and cracking.




  • Crushed ice wrapped in a wet cloth, or a frozen gauze pad, applied tothe nipples immediately before nursing is a good local pain killer. This coldtreatment also helps bring out soft or small nipples and helps baby feed moreeasily when the breasts are very full.
  • Comfrey ointmentsoftens and strengthens nipples at the same time. It is exceptionally soothingto sensitive nipples and rapidly heals any fissures or bruises.
  • Yarrow leafpoultices - or yarrow infused oil - provide almost instantaneous painrelief and heal cracked nipples rapidly.
  •  Any of the poultices described for painful breastsmay be used advantageously. Comfrey andmarshmallow are especially effective. Many brief poultices work better thanone or two lengthy sessions.
  • The gel from a fresh aloe vera leaf will soothe and heal sore and crackednipples.
  • Calendula ointmentis an old favorite to heal and strengthen nipples.  CAUTION: Ointments containing antibiotics,steroids and anesthetic (painkilling) drugs are potentially harmful to bothmother and infant.




The Complete Book of Breastfeeding, SallyOlds and Marvin Eiger; 1972 Bantam Books

Nursing Your Baby, KarenPryor; 1973, Simon and Schuster

The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, La LecheLeague, 1963.

Breastfeeding Basics, CeceliaWorth; 1983 McGraw Hill

La Leche League, 9616 Minneapolis Ave., Franklin Park, IL 60131

Aftercare: Sharon Hamilton; BabiesGrow on Milk and Kisses; Arny Galblum Booklets available from Emma GoldmanClinic for Women, 715 Dodge Street, Iowa Cily, IA 52240

The Way of Herbs,Michael Tierra; Unity Press


Susun Weed, green witch and wise woman, is an extraordinary teacher with a joyous spirit, a powerful presence, and an encyclopaedic knowledge of herbs and health. She is the voice of the Wise Woman Way, where common weeds, simple ceremony, and compassionate listening support and nourish health/wholeness/holiness. She has opened hearts to the magic and medicine of the green nations for three decades. Ms. Weed's four herbal medicine books focus on women's health topics including: menopause, childbearing, and breast health.


Visit her site  for information on her workshops, apprenticeships, correspondence courses and more or contact her at:

Susun Weed

PO Box 64

Woodstock, NY 12498

Fax:  1-845-246-8081

For permission to reprint this article, contact us at:


Legal Disclaimer: This content is not intended to replace conventional medical treatment. Any suggestions made and all herbs listed are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease, condition or symptom. Personal directions and use should be provided by a clinical herbalist or other qualified healthcare practitioner with a specific formula for you. All material contained herein is provided for general information purposes only and should not be considered medical advice or consultation. Contact a reputable healthcare practitioner if you are in need of medical care. Exercise self-empowerment by seeking a second opinion.




Browse the publishing site - Ash Tree Publishing - to learn more about her alternative health books.


Venture into the NEW Menopause site to learn all about the Menopausal Years the Wise Woman Way.

Or Join the Forum! Susun Weed’s Wise Woman Forum - an open space for discussion. Make yourself at home, post a message or start a discussion. This place is for you to share your questions, concerns, and comments with other wise women like you. Take a moment to register and become part of the community. Enjoy!


Susun Weed’s books include:


Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Year

Author: Susun S. Weed. Simple, safe remedies for pregnancy, childbirth, lactation, and newborns. Includes herbs for fertility and birth control. Foreword by Jeannine Parvati Baker. 196 pages, index, illustrations.

Retails for $11.95 Order at: Ash Tree Publishing

Healing Wise 

Author: Susun S. Weed. Superb herbal in the feminine-intuitive mode. Complete instructions for using common plants for food, beauty, medicine, and longevity. Introduction by Jean Houston. 312 pages, index, illustrations.

Retails for $17.95 Order at: Ash Tree Publishing


New Menopausal Years the Wise Woman Way

Author: Susun S. Weed. The best book on menopause is now better. Completely revised with 100 new pages. All the remedies women know and trust plus hundreds of new ones. New sections on thyroid health, fibromyalgia, hairy problems, male menopause, and herbs for women taking hormones. Recommended by Susan Love MD and Christiane Northrup MD. Foreword by Juliette de Bairacli Levy. 304 pages, index, illustrations.

Retails for $16.95 Order at: Ash Tree Publishing

For more great info on menopause, visit the site.

Breast Cancer? Breast Health!

Author: Susun S. Weed. Foods, exercises, and attitudes to keep your breasts healthy. Supportive complimentary medicines to ease side-effects of surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, or tamoxifen. Foreword by Christiane Northrup, M.D. 380 pages, index, illustrations.

Retails for $14.95 Order at: Ash Tree Publishing

For more great info on Breast Health, visit Susun's Breast Health site.

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