What is a blocked duct?
A plugged duct is formed when some of the milk inside a duct dries up and stops the rest of the milk from flowing, it is mostly caused through mom not draining the breast properly. This usually happens in the early days of breastfeeding when mom is very engorged.
Blocked milk duct symptoms
- A plugged duct happens progressively and is usually only on one breast at a time.
- It is sometimes felt as a hard lump that can be hot and tender.
- A blocked milk duct mostly feels worse before a feeding while the breast is still full, and feels less sore after a breastfeeding session.
- Nursing on the side where the lump is could be painful especially during let down
- It is typically not associated with a fever. If you have a temperature of more than 38,5°C you should contact your doctor…you may have a mastitis infection.
- Milk supply may decrease temporarily
- You may see some thick grainy milk
- You may feel some bruising in the area for a week after the lump has disappeared.
How to get rid of blocked milk ducts
- Nursing and pumping frequently to empty your breast (try emptying your breast at least every two hours) Breastfeeding on demand is best.
- If the breast is too painful to breastfeed you should use an electric breast pump.
- A warm, moist compress will help for better flow of milk, this can be done before you nurse or pump. You can also soak your breasts in warm water with some Epsom salts added. (one handful of Epsoms with every 2L of water) Remember to rinse your breasts afterwards just to remove the saltiness.
- Take a warm shower and hand express your milk while massaging the swollen area from the top of the breast towards the nipple.
- Don’t wear any tight bras, it will just make it worse and can actually be what caused the blocked milk ducts in the first place.
- Using Breast massage for a plugged duct will help get the milk loose before you nurse or pump
- Try nursing on the sore breast first, if it’s too painful you can express some milk or wait for letdown before breastfeeding on the infected breast.
- “Dangle feeding” as seen in the picture can be used in order for gravity to pull the blocked ducts open.
- If your breast is not completely drained after a feeding you should try pumping out the rest.
- Trying different positions while breastfeeding might help the milk flow easier.
- If there is a little white spot or blister on your nipple you can try puncturing it with a sterile needle, then just put baby to the breast so that he can drain the duct.
- You can use a cold compress after feedings for pain relief.
- Make sure you get enough rest
- Drink plenty of fluids and clean water
- Eat well (breastfeeding diet guidelines)
- If the plugged duct doesn’t clear within two days you can try therapeutic ultrasound at your local physiotherapy office. (2 watts/cm2, continuous, for five minutes to the affected area, once daily for two days.)
Causes of plugged milk ducts
- Latching on problems cause that baby won't drain the breast efficiently.
- Tight restricting bras or sleeping on your stomach can also cause blockages. (try to keep pressure to a minimal) Also stay away from heavy arm exercises
- “weaning plugged ducts” can be prevented by weaning gradually
- Distracted babies ~ Try keeping baby busy with a nursing necklace while breastfeeding
- Having twins to breastfeed
- A blocked nipple
- Skipping feeds
Medication needed with blocked ducts “blocked milk duct treatment”
- For pain relief mom can use ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Mom does not need to use an antibiotic if she has blocked ducts.
If you think you might have mastitis (usually recognized with a high temperature and flu like symptoms) you should see your physician and let them know that you are breastfeeding. Usually with mastitis if you are suffering from severe symptoms for longer than one day you will be given Dicloxacillin, flucloxacillin, cloxacillin or amoxycillin-clavulinic acid.
- Moms should take a blocked breast duct seriously and start using the advice above. A plugged duct if not treated can turn into mastitis which can turn into a breast infection “infected milk ducts” and ultimately into an abscess.
Most of the time if mom just continues to breastfeed, a blocked breast milk duct will disappear within two days.
What about preventing recurrent plugged milk ducts?
- Mom can take a daily supplement of Lecithin (1200mg) three times per day.
NB – Important fact
Never stop breastfeeding because of blocked breast ducts, it will just make it worse and might even cause mastitis.
Other pages on "breastfeeding problems" in connection with blocked ducts breastfeeding
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