To Pregnancy and Beyond

An alternative approach to plugged ducts and mastitis

Anytime I’ve told somebody that I have an oversupply of breastmilk, I always get responses like, “you can’t have too much of a good thing” or “that’s a good problem to have”.

Those are half truths. But they also don’t make anyone feel any better. Yes, it’s true I have sufficient milk to feed my child, I am SO thankful for that. I can be thankful for what I have and still be frustrated with the consequences of what I’m experiencing. Even though I attended breastfeeding classes while pregnant, met with an IBCLC and read books on breastfeeding, I still didn’t fully understand the consequences of allowing my breasts to be fully engorged until it was too late.

Milk supply is a dynamic process so I hesitate to claim the “oversupply” title so directly. My child breastfeeds a lot. Then on some days, he breastfeeds less. It may take a couple days for my supply to catch up or to change my pumping schedule on the days I’m working. In the first 3 months postpartum, a new mom’s milk supply fluctuates drastically as the body adjusts to baby’s needs. I’m doing my best to be flexible while also meeting the needs of my child (and that means breastfeeding for more than just hunger. After all, 'I gave birth to a baby, not just a digestive system.’). As I’ve learned through The University of Motherhood (don’t you wish that was a thing?!), I gradually figured out how to adjust my feeding routines to reduce or increase my supply as needed.

Long story short, I’ve had plenty of opportunities to get plugged ducts and mastitis. Working so hard throughout preconception, pregnancy and postpartum to build and maintain a healthy microbiome for myself and my baby, I wanted to do my best to avoid using prescription antibiotics at all costs. I’m not against them if they are necessary, medicines always have their place, but if I can clear the infection before they’re needed then it’s a win-win: I’m out of misery and we both get to retain our healthy microbiomes.

Disclaimer: I recognize that I am not the top expert but many of these recommendations were learned from the experts: Naturopathic Doctors (ND), midwives, IBCLCs, herbalists, etc. I share these only to share what worked for me and the other mamas who I’ve shared these tips with. Please consult consistently with an educated holistic healthcare provider/IBCLC before taking any medicines (natural or not) or drastically changing your milk supply. Please follow your doctor’s orders should conventional medicine be necessary. The following are strategies I have followed to clear plugged ducts and mastitis.

My most recent bout of mastitis, caused because my 11 month old (at the time) came to the realization that solid food makes him more satiated than breastmilk :)

My most recent bout of mastitis, caused because my 11 month old (at the time) came to the realization that solid food makes him more satiated than breastmilk :)

Plugged milk ducts

A plugged duct (also called blocked duct) occurs when milk flow is cut off, like creating a dam in a river. The breast tissue where the block exists typically feels tender, warm, and lumpy. Clearing the duct is essential to preventing mastitis. This may sound like a lot of work but with

Rest! but balance with micro movements like range of motion, gentle massage and others listed below

Minimize pressure on the breast

  • Wear loose fitting bras/avoid tight bras

  • Avoid sleeping on the belly

  • Avoid wrapping baby too tightly to the chest 

  • Use the correct size flange for your breast pump if pumping.

  • Avoid pumping “too hard”. This is what caused most of my bouts of mastitis: I was in a rush at work and turned up the pressure on the pump. Trust me, whatever is rushing you can wait. It’s not worth the risk.

Stay hydrated

  • Cut down on caffeine (coffee and tea are the biggies)

  • Drink enough water or herbal teas (obviously ones that are safe during breastfeeding)

  • You may need electrolytes especially if you are following a lower carbohydrate diet. You can order some here.

Your baby is your best helper

  • The closer the lower jaw is to the plugged duct, the more likely it will get unplugged.

  • Vary nursing positions. See a how-to video here.

Use Contrast Hydrotherapy

Only heat it while you’re nursing or pumping because heat can increase flow (and thus production). Use cold to slow the flow once you’re done nursing or expressing milk.

  • Warm compress, bath or shower 10 min, frequently throughout the day

  • Contrasting compresses: freeze grated potato then put that on the plugged duct(s) immediately after a bath/shower/hot compress. Allow your body to heat up the frozen potato then remove and apply heat. Alternate for at least 24 hrs or until the duct clears. (The grated potato helps draw out the inflammation and loosen the rigidity of the duct. Potato also holds on to cold temperature well like cabbage leaves but doesn’t directly decrease production like they do.)

Adjust milk supply, if necessary

  • Block nursing to decrease supply: Nurse from one side for 3 hours then switch to the other side. It’s all about feedback inhibition: if your breast is full, it will signal the body to decrease production. On that note, if you keep pumping, you will continue producing excess. So there’s a fine balance between allowing your breasts to stay full enough to signal slower production but not too full that it promotes plugged ducts.

  • Cold Cabbage leaves can be used to decrease supply but they can work quickly so be mindful to only use them as necessary. I once used them while alternating heat for 24 hours and saw a significant reduction in my supply, which was desired but also shows how powerful they are.

Herbal Remedies /Supplements

To support lymphatics, milk flow, milk thickness, and immune response.

  • Herbal tincture: “Happy Ducts” by Wish Garden, promotes lymph flow. 2-3 droppersfull in hot water 3-4x/d

  •  Galium (Cleavers) tincture 1 tsp 3-4x/d. I recommend the Wise Woman Herbals brand, offered in my online dispensary.

  • Essential oils (see below)

  • Vitamin C- 500 mg 3x/d or to bowel tolerance. I use liposomal Vitamin C for better absorption and less impact on bowels (offered in my online dispensary).

  • Colostrum- 2 capsules/d (offered in my online dispensary)

  • Sunflower lecithin may impact the viscosity of the milk, possibly reducing recurrent plugged ducts though it may not do much in terms of treating an already plugged duct. For prevention: 3600-4800 mg lecithin per day or 1 capsule (1200 mg) 3-4x/day. You can purchase one through my online dispensary here, categorized under the “women’s health” favorites.

Manual Therapy

  • Massage gently from the sore area toward the nipple 

  • Massage lavender, tea tree and/or Dottera OnGuard essential oils into the lymph nodes near your armpit and the plugged ducts, 3 drops each when you apply heat. I like to this immediately after a shower/bath.

  • Use a dry skin brush to promote lymph flow. Watch a tutorial here.

  • Cupping may prove beneficial for helping to clear the plugged duct. Work with a trained provider (acupuncturist or massage therapist). I recommend Thrive Integrative Health locally.


Milk stasis can occur if flow does not resume promptly after the duct has become plugged. Just like a body of water that remains still with no inflow or outflow of water, bacteria from your skin can enter the duct and stimulate flu-like symptoms. You may feel like your life is ending, I know I did. The headaches, joint-pain, fever and weakness were so debilitating, I could hardly get out of bed. This is the body’s way of making you rest, so listen!

This is the protocol I used:

  • Work diligently to clear the plugged duct

  • 20-40 drops echinacea tincture 6x/d. For prevention: 10-15 drops 2x/d for at least 5 days. You can purchase one through my online dispensary here, categorized under the “women’s health” favorites.

  • Anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen and/or curcumin at therapeutic doses (I used these only if I was having trouble sleeping due to massive headaches) please consult your doctor, especially if you choose to take these .

  • Pulse Electro Magnetic Field (PEMF) Flex Pulse on continuous mode at 10 Hz, applied to the site of the plugged duct

Closing Thoughts

I don’t wish mastitis upon any woman. Though, I imagine if you’ve made it this far, you’ve needed these suggestions and you’re not just reading it for pleasure. I’m sorry.

Every day I’m working with mamas-to-be and new mamas to optimize health and minimize illness. Nutrition can be a major piece in the wellness puzzle. If you think our philosophies might be congruent and you’d like to work with me, consider scheduling an appointment. If you found this article helpful, please share in the comments below what tips helped most and share this post with a mama in need.

Resources That Helped Me Prepare for Pregnancy, Birth and Postpartum


Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler

I can't tell you how many people have come to see me who have begun IVF or other fertility treatments before even knowing when they are ovulating. PSA: not everyone ovulates on day 14 of their cycle. It kills me to see women diagnosed with infertility when it might just be that they are not having sexual intercourse at the right time of their cycle! This book (and the ovagraph app) are great starting points to understanding the ins and outs of your menstrual cycle and how to detect if your hormones might be unbalanced. If that's the case, there is a lot we can do with nutrition to help balance hormones! Curious to read about my experience with the Fertility Awareness Method, see my post here.

Ancient Map For Modern Birth by Pam England

There are so many books you can read to prepare for birth. This was one I felt was the most balanced, unbiased and thorough. It walks the reader through the process of mindfully preparing for birth, regardless of whether it is planned to be at home, birth center or a hospital. It also guides the reader in facing her fears head on and planning for the unexpected. It acknowledges the spiritual and sacred nature of birth and views it as a normal and natural process, not a pathological “condition” that is to be feared.

  • My husband and I participated in the Birthing From Within Childbirth Preparation class created by Pam England and follows the same philosophy as her book. You can learn more about that here. We loved having Barrie teach our class locally.

Exercising through your pregnancy by James F. Clapp III MD and Catherine Cram- Don’t judge this book by its cover. There is tons of great evidence shared in this book supporting the benefit (and importance) of exercising in pregnancy. 

Ina May's Guide To Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin- Inspirational and real stories of women’s birth experiences on “The Farm” community where legendary Midwife Ina May served thousands of families with the lowest Cesarean rate. She shares wisdom about childbirth from her years of midwifery experience.

Ina May's Guide to breastfeeding by Ina May Gaskin- Ina May shares more of her wisdom and natural remedies for encouraging breastfeeding and navigating its challenges.

The First Forty Days: The Essential Art of Nourishing the New Mother by Heng Ou- inspired by the Chinese tradition of zuo yuezi, this book shares essential wisdom in a modern and balanced way. The second half of the book includes many nutrient-dense recipes that I chose to make (during the waiting period) and freeze ahead for my early postpartum. The ginger lemonade switchel was one of the only things I could keep down while I was in labor, thankfully I made a 2 gallon jar of it! I drank the whole thing! I also loved the braised trottters (pig’s feet), the beef and seaweed soup, and the goji berry and Chinese date tea.

Baby Knows Best: Raising a Confident and Resourceful Child, the RIE™ Way by Deborah Carlisle Solomon

The RÍE philosophy acknowledges children’s innate drive for excellence regardless of constant parental praise. It educates parents on how to create an environment that fosters baby’s natural drive to explore, learn and experience success. I listened to this book and found it to be very reasonable. My favorite part about this parenting philosophy is that it acknowledges babies as simply little humans, with their own thoughts and feelings that need to be respected.

Go Diaper Free by Andrea Olson- Learn how to potty your infant from birth using Elimination Communication (EC) and cut your diaper waste significantly by minimizing how long your child spends in diapers as well as how many they use while in diapers. Doing EC has helped me understand and connect to my child’s needs so well. Who would have knew that a baby’s sudden outbursts, distractions, nipple bites and smiles were simply them giving us signs to attract our attention to inform us of their need to use the bathroom?!

The Wonder Weeks by Frans X. Plooj- I’ve enjoyed reading this book before and during each developmental leap to see what cognitive or motor skills my baby is learning and how I can foster an environment that helps him explore his new skills. It also helps explain why my baby might suddenly be clingy, fussy  or have interruptions in his normal routine.

You might notice I have no recommendations for books on baby sleep. For some reason, I knew this wouldn't be an issue so I didn't really prepare for that other than optimizing my own sleep rhythms.

Instagram Accounts to follow

If seeing is believing, then I recommend surrounding yourself with what you want to believe. If you visualize yourself having a homebirth, an unmedicated birth, or a planned cesarean, allow your social media feed to be filled with the positive stories that you want to see. If you want to be comfortable in your postpartum body, I encourage you to follow accounts that are body positive and inclusive.

During my preparation period, I found it to be SO helpful to see home/water births with regularity. Seeing so many women give birth helped me realize how natural and normal of a process birth is! In the same way, I found it encouraging to see other women weightlifting and exercising throughout their pregnancies as I was.


Birthfit- Sharing of birth stories among women in the Birthfit community, inspiring empowerment of women in the motherhood transition
Real Food Mamas- A RD and ND share interviews and wisdom on nutrition/health topics of interest for mamas seeking optimal health
Unruffled Respectful Parenting with Janet Lansbury
Move your DNA with Katy Bowman (formerly Katy Says)- Understanding the natural movements happening in pregnant women, babies' movement development and breastfeeding.

  • Episode 72: Breastfeeding Ecology, Part 1

  • Episode 77: Breastfeeding Ecology, Part 2

  • Episode 51- Babies and Movement, Part 1

  • Episode 52- Babies and Movement, Part 2

  • Episode 35- Diastasis Recti—The Book!

  • Episode 11- Diastasis Recti

Modern Mamas Podcast - Mindful motherhood, supporting mamas who seek to improve their health and that of their children
Rewild yourself Podcast

  • Orgasmic Birth: Dancing Babies into the World - Debra Pascali-Bonaro #165

  • Miscarriage, Menstruation & Mindful Mothering - Chloe Parsons #144

  • Human Milk is the Human Norm - Jennifer Grayson #134

  • The Ecstatic Hormonal High of Childbearing - Sarah Buckley #35

The Fourth Trimester Summit - Lots of great interviews to help you prepare for postpartum

Pain-coping practices and visualizations by Pam England - I particularly enjoyed listening to the tale of Inanna’s Descent, a mythical story of a woman humbling herself before this rite of passage.

Hypnobirthing Rainbow Relaxation Meditation Audio Tracks - a birth affirmations soundtrack and a meditation soundtrack that I listened to whilst getting acupuncture or taking a midday rest


Go Diaper Free - Resources for Elimination Communication (pottying an infant from birth)
Janet Lansbury - RIE resource for respectful parenting
Wim Hof- I practiced the Wim Hof breathing Method in preparation for labor
Kelly Mom- Valuable Breastfeeding resource
Period of P.U.R.P.L.E.Crying- Understanding why it's normal for babies to cry, especially in the early months

Conscious Baby with Eliza Parker- Understanding baby-led movement milestones and aware parenting

Inspirational Quotes

Giving birth may be the single most athletic event of your life, train for it.
— Birthfit
I do not care what kind of birth you have... a home birth, scheduled cesarean, epidural hospital birth, or if you birth alone in the woods next to a baby deer. I care that you had options, that you were supported in your choices and that you were respected.
— January Harshe
We have a secret in our culture, and it’s not that birth is painful. It’s that women are strong.
— Laura Stavoe Harm
Birth is not only about making babies.

Birth is about making mothers —

strong competent and capable mothers

who trust themselves and know their inner strength.
— Barbara Katz Rotherman
The more difficulties one sees in the world the more perfect one becomes. The more you plough and dig the ground the more fertile it becomes. The more you cut the branches of a tree the higher and stronger it grows. The more you put the gold in the fire the purer it becomes.... That is why, in all times, the Prophets of God have had tribulations and difficulties to withstand. The more often the captain of a ship is in the tempest and difficult sailing the greater his knowledge becomes. Therefore I am happy that you have had great tribulations and difficulties.... Strange it is that I love you and still I am happy that you have sorrows.
— Abdu’l-Bahá
The great importance attached to the mother’s role derives from the fact that she is the first educator of the child. Her attitude, her prayers, even what she eats and her physical condition have a great influence on the child when it is still in womb. When the child is born, it is she who has been endowed by God with the milk which is the first food designed for it, and it is intended that, if possible, she should be with the baby to train and nurture it in its earliest days and months.
— Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 626

Idin's Birth Story

I found that listening to other people's birth stories was so helpful in preparing me for what to expect when my time came. For me, the more detail there was the better. So here is mine. I hope it provides some insights to those of you preparing for your own birth experience or who simply wish to get a glimpse of what a birth without interventions can really be like. Just a reminder that this is my story and that every birth is unique with its own set of challenges. Birth is amazing however it happens.

The Prelabor

On Monday, 11 December 2017 I had suspected that I was experiencing “prelabor”. The previous night I had been experiencing what felt like mild menstrual cramps throughout the evening and night, but woke up feeling just fine. Being 11 days past my original due date (and 5 days past my more accurate due date, based on time of ovulation), I knew Idin would be making his entrance very soon. My body was feeling more and more ready each day: I could feel him sitting lower in my pelvis and was experiencing more sacral laxity after long walks, though I was generally still very comfortable and energetic.

Excited about another positive sign that we were getting closer, I made day-of acupuncture and chiropractic appointments in preparation for the big day. I already had a visit scheduled with the midwife to discuss options for continuing to plan a home birth should my pregnancy extend beyond 42 weeks. At this visit, she found that my cervix was 1 cm dilated and 20% effaced and Idin’s head was at +1 station (at the level of the pubic bone), which is low and a good sign.

The Labor

As the sun made its way down the horizon, I slowly felt the return of a constant uterine cramping with a little higher intensity than the previous night, though again with no apparent pattern. I headed to bed around 22:00 knowing I may be having a long night. To help myself fall asleep, I began saying hypnobirthing affirmations to myself in a loop and in minutes I was fast asleep.

“I trust my body to know what to do, and I follow its lead”
“My body and my baby work together in harmony”
“ I set all fear aside and look forward to the birth of my baby with joy and happiness”


At midnight on 12 December 2017, I woke to a sudden intensity in my body and knew that this was going to be the night. At 00:04, I began timing the contractions, calmly observing how they would rise and fall. After 30 minutes of timing, I thought to myself that I must be timing the contractions incorrectly because they seemed to be too close together for early labor: 2 to 3 minutes apart and about 1 minute long, the typical frequency and duration one would see in active labor. I quickly noticed that remaining still increased the intensity so I got out of bed.

At 00:46, I called the Midwife, Dr. Alisha Wilkes. She told me to give her a call back if: my water breaks, I have a bloody show, or the intensity of the contractions increase significantly. Immediately after, I called the Birth Doula, Lisa Shire, to inform her that my labor has begun and that I may need her soon. After ending my calls, I woke Mark up to let him know it was game time. He remained present with me through each contraction. In the initial hours of labor, with each contraction came a much needed trip to the bathroom to evacuate my bowels. Though it was relieving, it was quite uncomfortable to experience contractions on the toilet. As each contraction came and went, I would slowly rock, sway and breathe calmly, usually either on my hands and knees or leaning against the bed, birth ball or the wall.

After about another hour, I asked Mark to call the doula because contractions were increasing in intensity quite quickly. As the doula was on her way, Mark called the midwife and she agreed it was time to come. Thinking that it might be a good idea to eat something, Mark heated up some bone broth for me. In minutes, I became nauseous and threw it back up. The doula arrived at 03:00. and immediately began supporting me and helping Mark to support me. She used a “double-hip squeeze” through several contractions and guided Mark to use touch relaxation to help me calm the muscles in my forehead and shoulders. Around the time the midwife had arrived, The doula hooked up a T.E.N.S. unit to my low-back to help relieve some of the low back tension and distract my muscle sensations.

Throughout the whole night I was hydrating with a ginger lemon labor-ade that I had made earlier, it was my main source of fuel and hydration as keeping food down was a challenge. This stage of labor passed so quickly and smoothly as I just felt in the zone, moving through each contraction. Instead of using techniques to distract myself from the pain, I just put my focus and attention right with it; breathing and moving was enough.

Mark supporting my belly as I sway through a contraction.

Mark supporting my belly as I sway through a contraction.

As 5:00 approached, I felt I was probably progressed enough to transition to the tub. The midwife performed my first vaginal exam of the night and found that my cervix was 7-8 cm dilated and 90% effaced and Idin’s head was still at +1 station. Throughout labor, the midwife would check my vitals (blood pressure, heart rate and temperature) and Idin's heart rate to make sure both mama and baby are stable. For about the next 3 hours, Mark and I were in the tub for what I perceived as my “rest period”. Though I was still experiencing contractions about 3 minutes apart and about 2 minutes long, I found it much more relaxing to slowly breathe through them in the tub while Mark was pouring warm water over my contracting belly.

Mark pouring warm water over my belly during contractions.

Mark pouring warm water over my belly during contractions.

At this time, I was able to keep down a piece of gluten-free toast with honey and half of a mint chocolate RX bar. While in the tub, I reflected with Mark how our birth experience was going so far and was surprised that labor wasn’t feeling more challenging than it was. I felt that I was able to cope with the contractions very easily and didn’t end up using most of the pain coping techniques we had practiced. In retrospect, we think my contractions were so long because of all the raspberry leaf tea I drank throughout my pregnancy. God knows!

After a while in the tub, I realized that I was probably fully dilated and should be ready to push anytime soon. The doula suggested getting out of the tub. As soon as I stood up, I felt an instant urge to have a bowel movement. She reminded me that I probably had no stool left to eliminate and that the urge I was feeling was likely the urge to push Idin out. I proceeded to move through a variety of positions, all the while developing a better understanding of what it meant “to push”. The biggest challenge was trying to push with the intensity of the contractions. Everyone on the birth team seemed continuously surprised that my contractions were lasting for so long. When Alisha would suggest that I rest when the contractions are over, I would often tell her that I was still having a contraction, so we would keep pushing.

One position that was helpful during the pushing phase was a squat position where I supported my body weight by hanging between Mark’s legs. We stayed in this position for an hour or so. There’s no way I would’ve been able to handle it had I not done so much weightlifting during my pregnancy. After about 3 hours of pushing I had the “bloody show” and soon was dripping blood all over the chucks pads. Soon after, my water broke as I was pushing on hands and knees. 



The final position I entered into to push Idin out took place on the bed. Because Idin’s head was so big, it had remained at +1 station stuck behind my pubic bone for the duration of labor. Lying on my back with my knees pulled all the way up and my neck flexed (thanks to Mark’s assistance), I worked to push him out for about 30 minutes.



After a time check, the midwife informed me that because I had been pushing for 4 hours, that is usually the time where they determine the baby’s head is too big to be pushed out vaginally. However, because both Idin’s and my vitals looked good, that we could safely push for another 30 minutes then reassess the situation. The possibility of needing to transfer to the hospital because his head was potentially too big was just the motivation that I needed to get him out.

The Birth

Within about 5 minutes, I harnessed all of the strength that I had and pushed his head passed my pubic bone and out of my body. Just like a weightlifter yells when lifting a PR, I yelled, the loudest I’ve ever yelled, because this was the most force that has ever passed through my body. This most miraculous event resulted in the most beautiful boy coming out of my body. The midwife assisted with his delivery and I instantly grabbed Idin and pulled him to my chest, relieved to finally have him in my arms. All of us were surprised to have such a clean, well-developed baby. Everyone pointed out his strong-looking shoulders and his full head of hair. After almost 14 hours of labor, my dream had finally come true.

Our sweet boy Idin, born 8 lb. 10 oz and measuring 21 inches.

Our sweet boy Idin, born 8 lb. 10 oz and measuring 21 inches.

The Afterbirth

He soon crawled toward my breast with his slippery body, struggling to bring his head with him. Slowly, he found his own way and began suckling, with a bit of a lazy latch but I can’t blame him, he just worked hard to make it into this world. The boy just wants his food!

Our little family of three

Our little family of three

After about 10 minutes, the umbilical cord stopped pulsing, nourishing Idin with all of his blood. Mark cut the cord and soon after the placenta followed. We saved the placenta to dehydrate and consume later.

For 3 hours after the birth, the birth team cared for us. The doula heated up some thanksgiving leftovers I had stored in the freezer and I ate such a delicious meal to refuel from the workout of a lifetime. The midwife had sutured a tear on my perineum and completed Idin’s physical exam, after we had some time to connect.

I stood up to take a shower and I was shocked by how I felt. It was as if I had just returned from a trip to the moon, relearning where my body is in space and how to walk again. I was 18 lb lighter in an instant. The most surprising part about the immediate afterbirth was the difficulty I had breathing. It felt like my diaphragm was being tugged downward and like I had just been punched in the abdomen. It was quite a challenge to breathe!

After we were all cleaned, fed, and had our physical exams done, our little family of three slept together in our bed for the next 5 hours in a state of euphoria. Though I'm publishing this at 8 weeks postpartum, I still don't feel like any of that euphoria has worn off, I hope it doesn't!

Though in my mental approach to birth I tried to remain as detached from any outcome as possible, I'm so grateful that everything went as smoothly as it could have and exactly how I would have wanted it. We had the best possible birth team and I can never thank my husband Mark enough for his unwavering support throughout pregnancy, birth and postpartum.