Updated on 15 November 2022 – by Dr. Kate
Clogged milk duct – Breastfeeding can be a beautiful period in young mothers’ lives. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding for at least the first six months of the baby’s life. For a mom, it’s the time to form a strong bond with a baby through skin-to-skin contact and care. Yet, even such a wonderful experience comes with some challenges on the way. Breastfeeding rarely goes simple unless women are well-prepared and educated about lactation.
One of the most common breastfeeding concerns is clogged ducts. This condition prevents normal milk flow due to blockages forming for a variety of reasons. Blocked ducts become a rather unpleasant experience that causes painful breastfeeding and can even lead to infections. It’s important to learn more about this condition and ways to prevent it, so women can comfortably breastfeed their babies without any risks or pain.
Table of Contents
Symptoms and Causes
Recognizing duct clogging is rather easy. If a woman has trouble with the hand expression of the breast milk or pumping or has an inconsistent milk supply, she is facing a clogged duct. Such clogs are easy to find by touch, too. They feel like lumps in some areas of the breast. You can also see some skin redness and feel soreness around the clog.
Such a condition can occur anytime a woman doesn’t empty the breast fully, miss a feeding, or wear tight clothes, particularly bras. Sometimes, a baby may prefer nursing on only one breast, which causes clogging problems in another. Sucking issues can also cause an increased backup of milk. There is also a number of risk factors to consider, such as:
- cracked skin on and around nipples
- the history of mastitis
- unbalanced diet.
The Risks of a Breast Infection
When left untreated, a plugged milk duct can lead to an infection called mastitis. You can spot the beginning of the disease by the rising fever. Remember, fever is never a sign of a clogged duct but can often speak of an infection somewhere in the body. But if fever is not the only symptom and you already experience difficulty pumping milk and can feel engorgement somewhere in the breast, mastitis is most likely the reason.
This infection often has flu-like symptoms, such as fever, fatigue, and chills. Yet, women also start feeling discomfort or pain in their breasts. It can cause swelling, burning sensation, and redness on the affected breast.
Overall, 10 – 20% of breastfeeding moms receive a mastitis diagnosis. It requires observation and assistance from a healthcare professional.
How to Treat Clogged Milk Ducts?
Frequent baby nursing or just using the breast pump regularly should be sufficient enough to prevent clogged ducts. However, breastfeeding moms don’t often have the time or opportunity to pump their breasts as many times as they need it. Besides, sometimes blockages just happen, so it’s better to know how to relieve them.
- Start feeding with the affected breast – babies suck the hardest when they start nursing since they are hungrier.
- Massage the breast while feeding to help the milk flow.
- When massaging, start from the affected area and move to the nipple.
- Try massaging while in warm water, like a bath or shower.
- Apply warm compresses to relieve the discomfort and relax the tissue; apply it before feeding for better effect.
- If nothing helps, see a lactation consultant or a healthcare specialist.
Keep in mind that those techniques work for temporary blockages. Yet, after developing mastitis, a woman needs medical treatment. You will require a doctor consultation, intake medications, and pain relievers (if needed). The right medication should stop the infection. Please note that self-treatment is unacceptable in such cases. All the medicines you take should be medically reviewed for safety in breastfeeding.
Clogged milk duct – To Conclude
Most women will experience some issues with their milk flow during breastfeeding. Usually, most issues can be resolved at home with a few simple techniques like a massage. Yet, clogged milk ducts should never be ignored. It’s an unpleasant and risky condition that can lead to a breast infection when left undiagnosed and untreated. Fortunately, this condition is well-studied and easy to cure.