I struggled with multiple clogged ducts during the year I breastfed my daughter, and more recently now with my son. And they are NOT FUN! Luckily, I become pretty in tune to spotting the start of one and learned a few techniques to control it fast!
A plugged or clogged milk duct occurs when breastmilk remains in the breast after nursing or pumping, causing the tissue around the duct to become irritated and inflamed, ultimately causing a blockage of the duct. The blockage causes a small, hard lump in the breast tissues that is painful and red to the touch. Clogged ducts are not uncommon in a newly breastfeeding mom, especially one who is producing milk faster than is being expressed.
Clogged ducts occur when milk remains in the breast. A few reason why this could happen include:
The best thing you can do to avoid a clogged duct is to nurse or pump every 2-3 hours, fully emptying your breasts. If baby ‘s feeding has decreased, you may need to empty your breasts after a nursing session with a pump.
If you’re transitioning to sleeping through the night or weaning your baby, go very slowly, decreasing the amount expressed 1-2 ounces at a time until your body has readjusted.
Do not abruptly drop a pump or wean your baby. For more information on how to wean your baby, see my past post.
If you suspect a clogged duct, there are a few immediate actions you can take. The goal is to release the clogged duct as quickly as possible, obviously to relieve the pain, but also to prevent it from turning into mastitis – stagnant milk from the blockage the becomes infection. Mastitis is extremely painful, presenting with a large red rash and a fever, and most commonly treated with antibiotics.
Wearing a bra or clothes are too tight can cause milk flow restricting leading to a plugged duct. There are tons of great nursing bras out there. My favorite happens to be the *Bravada Nursing Brand!
When nursing, start with the infected side first until it’s fully emptied. Change baby’s position to help ensure all ducts are drained.
Massage the sore area in a motion towards armpit to help work out the duct. A *Milk Duct Massager can help work out chronic clogged ducts.
Use hot pads before nursing/pumping and use cold pads in-between sessions to ease pain.
Some evidence supports the use of *lecithin supplements to reduce the frequency of plugged ducts.
It’s important to take extra good care of yourself during this time. Eat nutritious, wholesome foods, drink plenty of water and take an extra nap or two! I’m serious – don’t skimp on this part.
A clogged duct will not hurt you baby and continued nursing or pumping is encouraged. If the duct does not appear to clear within 24 hours, pain worsens, or other symptoms occur such as a fever, make sure to consult your doctor or lactation consultant.
If you’re struggling at all with low milk supply, make sure to read up on ways to increase your milk supply in a previous post!
*This post contains links to Amazon.com. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.