Plugged Duct

A Blocked Duct & Breastfeeding

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 due to a mother not draining the breast properly; this usually happens in the early days of breastfeeding, when a mother is still engorged.

Blocked Milk Duct Symptoms

breastfeeding picture, picture perfect, baby drinking breast milk
  • A plugged duct happens progressively, and is usually only found in one breast.
  • It is sometimes felt as a hard lump, that may 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 that has the lump could be painful, especially during a 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. It could indicate a mastitis infection.
  • Milk supply may decrease temporarily.
  • You may see some thick, grainy milk.
  • You may feel some bruising in the area, for about a week after the lump has disappeared.

How to Get Rid of Blocked Milk Ducts

  • Nursing and pumping frequently to drain the breast (Pump 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 increase the 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 afterward, 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.
  • Do not wear tight bras. Tight bras restrict the flow if milk, resulting in blocked milk ducts.
  • 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 is too painful, you can express some milk, or wait for a let-down, before giving your baby the affected breast.
dangle feeding, breast baby, breastfeeding baby, pic of breastfeedingDangle Feeding
  • “Dangle feeding" as seen in the picture, will pull the blocked ducts open, with the help of gravity.
  • If your breast is not completely drained after a feeding, you should try pumping after feedings.
  • 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 allow your baby to drain it.
  • 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.
  • If the plugged duct does not 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.)

Milk Blister Treatment

Causes of Plugged Milk Ducts

Blocked Milk Duct Treatment

Medication needed for blocked ducts

  • For pain relief, a mother can use Ibuprofen or Acetaminophen. The mother 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. 
  • Mothers 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 a mother continues to breastfeed on demand, a blocked breast milk duct will disappear within two days.

Recurrent Plugged Milk Ducts

What about preventing recurrent plugged milk ducts?

The mother can take a daily supplement of Lecithin (1200mg), three times per day to prevent blocked ducts.

NB – Important fact
Do not stop breastfeeding because of a blocked breast duct, this will make it worse, and might even cause mastitis.

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