the joys of making milk: postpartum remedies

April 23, 2012, Michaela Evanow, 4 Comments

On Easter weekend, I quickly came down with a nasty pain in my breast, chills and sweats, a headache, body aches, stiff neck, fever, red streaks on the infected breast. Disgusting symptoms to have while sleep deprived and trying to care for a newborn. It was a nice case of mastitis, my first ever “issue” in the postpartum. I’ve been very blessed to have minimal issues with breastfeeding and the like. Of course my thrush came back just as the mastitis started to bloom, so it was a miserable time. I’m guessing the thrush caused it, as well as a prolonged period of not feeding Florence, since she was sleeping a lot and we were traveling.

I tried to avoid antibiotics, but to no avail. Next time around I might try a little harder before the fever kicks in, but let’s hope there isn’t a next time. —> I’m happy to report there never was another case of mastitis. If I ever felt my breasts getting too full or hard even after breastfeeding, I took 1-2 pastilles of Phytolacca, and noticed a difference right away.

My midwife gave me a fantastic list of natural ways to deal with or prevent mastitis:

  1. A grated, raw potato can draw out inflammation and unblock plugged ducts. Simply place the potato poultice over the breast, cover with a clean cloth and change when dry.
  2. A wool and castor oil poultice: Take a clean piece of wool big enough to cover the breast. Soak it in warm water with a few drops of castor oil in it. Wrap wet wool over breast, cover with a plastic bag and place a heating pad on top. Relax for at least 45 minutes, and immediately after removing the heat, feed the baby on the sore breast. Repeat after a few hours until the soreness is gone.
  3. Vitamin C: 1000mg 3-4 times a day.
  4. Echinacea: 5-10 drops every 2 hours for 2 days until infection subsides.
  5. Homeopathic Remedies: Belladonna 30c, Byronia 30c, Phytolacca 30c, Silica 30c. Phytolacca seems to be the remedy of choice. The recommended dosage is 2 pills, 6 times a day until resolved.

After my bout of mastitis, I noticed a marked decrease in my milk supply. This was worrisome because I’ve always had heaps of milk. My midwife suggested I donate to the milk bank at BC Women’s, which I’m seriously considering, seeing that many friends have relied on donor milk at some point. It is such a fantastic program.

Note: After “seriously considering” donating my milk, I noticed that I’m required to donate a minimum of 100 ounces. The largest donation ever was 7,000 ounces. That seems like all the milk Florence would ever need…wow. I must say I’m a little intimidated by the required numbers, so I’m not really considering it anymore. Has anyone ever donated to a milk bank?

To combat my decreased milk supply, which is normal when you have mastitis, I brewed up a batch of barley and lemon water. It’s delicious, and besides being a lactogenic food, barley water can also help with urinary tract infections, it works as a digestive aid for mama and baby, it’s energizing, and great for colds and flus, especially if warmed.

lemon barley water for breastfeeding

Barley and Lemon Water

  • 1 cup pearl barley (not rinsed)
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 lemon
  • Honey to taste
  • 1 tbsp each of fennel and/or fenugreek seeds (optional).
Yield: 6 cups
Soak the barley in the water overnight in a sealed container. Strain barley from water (the barley can be added to soup or eaten with curry or sauce of your choice as it’s now “cooked”. It tastes delicious, creamy and hearty).
Add lemon and honey. Stir.
If you use the fennel seeds, simply heat up 1 cup of barley water and steep 1 tsp fennel seeds in water for half and hour. Strain off seeds. The fennel is great if you’re really struggling with milk supply issues.



  • Reply Going Coverless April 25, 2012 at 8:22 AM

    Great info, and the barley lemon water looks yummy! I’m glad to hear that you got over it. I drank some lemon-garlic-honey water last week to work through a cold, it’s amazing how much drinks like that can help. I’ll keep yours in mind for the future.

    Also, thanks for the link, and I love your blog 🙂

    • Reply Michaela. April 26, 2012 at 11:55 AM

      Why thank you! I love your blog too!

  • Reply Miriam April 23, 2012 at 3:03 PM

    Glad to hear you are feeling better! I had to take Fenugreek to bump up my milk supply for awhile (I probably could have come off earlier but I was nervous]. Teas are really hard to measure, with Fenugreek and other herbs, the capsules are best. I took 6 caps a day (Natural Factors has the cheapest]. But you are coming into that time period where the over abundance subsides and you get a more regular flow of milk. This can be concerning to moms because they are use to gushing. This keeps changing as the fat content gets more suitable for the babies maturing guts, so I wouldn’t be too concerned. As for the milk bank, they do pasteurize it, so unfortunately it has the same negative effects as formula (which is that the babies are more prone to autoimmune disease], so I personally wouldn’t bother. I lived and breathed breastfeeding for 6 months cuz of the problems we had – the specialist here Dr. Wickens has off-the-charts info and I drilled her with questions. Let me know if you have any :]
    ps. Lecithin is a good prevention for recurring mastitis too (and good for brain function!]

    • Reply Michaela. April 23, 2012 at 3:15 PM

      as always, a fountain of wisdom!
      My supply is back up, way up and still explodes all over the place. But I’m watching for the slowing down phase…wouldn’t mind it 🙂 I will just take Florence time to adjust to a slower letdown and flow…if that happens!

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