Are you suffering from a clogged milk duct while breastfeeding? Clogged milk ducts are a common issue faced by breastfeeding women especially those who are new to the process.
Clogged Duct Symptoms
Clogged milk ducts can be identified as a sore lump in the breast, it may cause redness on the breast and can be painful to the touch.
What Happens When You Get A Plugged Duct?
Milk is produced by mammary glands and excreted through ducts that lie close to the nipple. When ducts are clogged, the path for milk to come out is blocked and excessive milk accumulates in the breast in the form of a knot or lump causing the breast to become swollen and irritated. The breast may feel heavy due to the collection of milk and sore as well.
What Causes A Clogged Milk Duct
1. Acute Engorgement
Engorgement is when the breast produces more milk than it can hold, it can also occur due to lack of or reduced breastfeeding.
Other causes of engorgement include infrequent feeding, pain in the nipple causing the mother to stop feeding and insufficient latching and sucking.
If mothers do not feed the baby for long enough or feed for a very limited time chances are the feeding is not completed and there is remaining milk in the breast.
Feeding after very long intervals can also contribute to backed up milk supply and can cause plugged milk ducts. It is a very common issue and can lead to blocked milk ducts quickly.
2. Improper Latching
If the baby does not latch properly the feeding process will be inefficient as the baby will not be able to draw out sufficient milk from the breast. This means leftover milk will accumulate in the breast causing blocked milk ducts.
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3. Feeding On Only One Breast
If only one breast is frequently used to feed, milk will accumulate in the less frequently used breast and clog the milk ducts. This is also a way to ruin your milk supply.
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4. Unnecessary Pressure Exerted On The Breast
The most common cause of pressure on a breast is wearing a bra with an underwire. And the second cause is holding the breast while feeding.
Pressure can also be exerted by improper positioning of the baby while feeding or using a carrier with straps.
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How To Prevent Clogged Milk Ducts
Use A Proper Nursing Position
Nursing while in the wrong position prevents the breast to be entirely drained, switch to a more position that allows the entire breast to be drained and still feels natural and comfortable for both you and the baby.
Feeding the baby regularly and will help prevent engorgement thus preventing clogged milk ducts.
Avoid Putting Pressure On Your Breasts
Avoid wearing bras with underwire and tight clothes. Do not use child carriers or other equipment with straps that apply pressure to your chest.
Be mindful of your sleeping position, sleeping on your back or the baby resting on your breast while sleeping will exert pressure on it.
Massage Your Breast
Massage your breast while feeding and after to help drain it. Draining from a pump is also useful. Massaging will prevent any lumps from forming and it will also relieve pain from possible engorgement.
How To Clear A Clogged Milk Duct
Feed Using The Affected Breast
Feeding using the affected breast will help drain the excess milk and attempt to help the lump reduce in size. The heaviness of the breast will also be reduced.
Take a hot shower or soak the breast in warm water. Compressing using a warm cloth is also an effective technique to deal with the pain.
Apply warmth or using a warm compress before feeding causes the blood supply to the breast to increase and the pores to open up.
Massage And Compress
The most effective massage technique is to apply pressure from the spot of the lump towards the nipple.
The pressure will break the lump and the milk will come out in the form of a thick liquid.
This is a very effective form of blocked milk duct treatment.
Massaging while feeding also drains the milk effectively hence reducing the heaviness and relieving pain.
This is a less common method, but, ultrasound therapy has been found to be a highly effective method for blocked milk duct treatment.
The process is carried out in clinics and has been reported to help decrease in the occurrence of clogged milk ducts and ease in breastfeeding.
Use Cold Packs
Feeding on the affected breast can be painful, but use cold packs to relieve irritation and pain after feeding is very helpful.
The breast can become very sore and sensitive to touch which is why using cold packs can help numb it and relieve sensitivity.
Change Nursing Position
Change to a nursing position that directs the milk outwards from the breast, a technique used is to get on all fours it effectively drains the breast because the milk is directed outwards due to gravity.
Get Sufficient Rest
Resting helps healing in general, clogged milk ducts can cause immense pain and can also lead to a fever, so it is important to take a rest to let your body heal.
Although natural methods mentioned above are very effective and usually preferred by most for blocked milk duct treatment, if the problem persists then the best resort is to consult a physician and get a proper checkup.
Medication can be used for blocked milk duct treatment but only after the situation has been assessed by a physician.
A nutritional supplement that is very effective in preventing the milk ducts from clogging is Lecithin. The dosage is usually set to one tablespoon however it should only be taken if prescribed by a physician.
Other medications including anti-inflammatory medications are great to help deal with the inflammation and soreness caused by the plugged milk duct.
Ibuprofen is a common example of an NSAID. A painkiller alone can also help deal with the pain.
Just To Recap Everything
Symptoms of Blocked Milk Ducts from Breastfeeding
- lump in breast
- pain or tender to the touch around lump or the whole breast
- may cause redness to the skin around lump
Causes of Plugged Milk Ducts While Breastfeeding
- acute engorgement
- improper latching
- only feeding from one breast
- unnecessary pressure on breast
How to Prevent A Clogged Milk Duct When Breastfeeding
- use appropriate nursing positions
- avoid unnecessary pressure
- massage regularly
- feed from both breasts regularly
- wear comfortable and appropriate nursing clothing
Treatment for Clogged Milk Duct While Breastfeeding
- use your pump to help get out all milk from feedings
- feed from affected breast
- apply warmth
- use massage and compress
- use ice packs
- change nursing position
- ultrasound therapy
- get rest
If you have any questions at all, always contact your physician. This information is provided as a resource, not as a substitution for seeking medical help.