A clogged milk duct is just one of the many unmentioned experiences that occur when you have a baby. New nursing moms have it tough. As if having a baby wasn’t overwhelming enough, you now have to deal with the discomfort of a plugged milk duct.
What Is a Plugged Milk Duct?
Sharp pains, tenderness, lumps, and hard spots can develop where obstruction occurs within the milk duct. White spots on the nipple may also appear as milk gets trapped under skin growing skin over a milk duct causing a milk blister.
Milk ducts also called lactiferous ducts carry milk from the lobes/lobules in the breast to the nipple where milk is released. Milk is made in the lobules, which are milk producing glands.
For most women, a clogged milk duct occurs only a hand full of times while nursing. For unfortunate nursing moms, plugged ducts become a chronic problem during breastfeeding. Blocked lactiferous ducts can happen anytime while nursing. But, occur most often in first few weeks of the nursing experience.
Prolonged untreated duct plugs may lead to mastitis. Mastitis is an inflammation of breast tissue. Red, tender breast tissue as well as fevers and flu-like symptoms can accompany mastitis.
Dealing with a Blocked Milk Duct…
- Check your baby. Changes in your baby’s sleeping patterns, recent illnesses, or added environmental stressors can cause your baby to not suckle properly, which leads to blockages. Missed feedings can also throw a wrench in proper nutrition.
- Check yourself. No doubt about it. Moms are busy. But, a rushed feeding can lead to improper nursing technique and latching. I know it’s tough. Yet, getting extra rest encourages good bonding with your baby. Cuddling also produces hormones in moms that encourages milk letting. So, sleep soundly and remember to take care of yourself.
- Assess your body positioning. Improper body positioning during breastfeeding can cause clogged milk duct problems. When nursing change to a different position if feels more comfortable and gives better milk flow. Gravity and your baby’s suckling action can help to unblock plugged milk ducts.
- Heat helps. A warm compress can be your best friend when it comes to soothing sore, tender breasts. Use a moistened wash cloth or a hot water bottle to ease pain. Massaging the area of blockage along with applying heat goes a long way in dislodging painful plugs.
- Try herbal remedies. Mild calming herbs like fenugreek boost milk production and keep clogging at bay. Increasing your water and protein intake also helps to reduce duct plugging. How about using potato? No, don’t eat it. Apply a potato poultice to sore breasts. Just grate raw potato and put it on the affected area.
- Use supplements. One the best supplements for a clogged milk duct is lecithin. Lecithin is a natural emulsifier in the body. It helps thin out breast milk while still in the body. Lecithin can be found at any health food store. But, be sure to discuss with your doctor prior to using any supplements.
- Express, express, express. It’s best to let your milk flow every few hours. Allowing breast milk to stay in the breasts too long is a great way to get a blocked duct. When dealing with a plugged duct, do not wean your baby just yet. This will just prolong your agony.
- Get a proper fitting bra. An occlusive, tight fitting bra is one the hidden causes of a clogged milk duct. If you can, get a bra fitting done so that you can choose the right undergarment. One that is not too tight or too loose. Overly tight bras can compress the milk ducts and obstruct the flow of milk. This is particularly an issue for women with naturally small milk ducts.
- Take pain medications. Ibuprofen is an anti-inflammatory medication that can help to reduce the pain and swelling associated with block ducts. Don’t worry. Ibuprofen is one the preferred pain medication used in breastfeeding women. In breast milk, only trivial amounts of the drug is passed onto nursing babies.
- See your doctor. If your clogged duct does not resolve on its own, visit your physician. They can use a large needle to remove plugged milk from a duct. There have been reports of women who’ve done “self surgery” to help remedy minor blocked ducts. However, this is not recommended for severe cases of blocked ducts. Leave this to your doctor.