After all the night feeding sessions, engorgement, breast pumping, leakage, and more, I am sure You have been introduced to all or most of the pleasures of breastfeeding.
And there you’re feeling a heavy, uncomfortable lump. What’s this thing? You might be experiencing a blocked milk duct. But just don’t freak out — you can easily remove the clog at home and get back to your usual routine soon.
Of course, it’s still likely that the lump will lead to something more severe, like mastitis. Let’s have a look at what you need to keep an eye out on when it comes to the blocked milk duct and what you need to visit the doctor.
Blocked milk ducts, also known as clogged milk ducts or plugged milk ducts, are strong, tender lumps produced in the small milk ducts of the breast. They block the flow of breast milk.
Blocked milk ducts are a typical breastfeeding problem which can cause swelling, redness, and can lead to discomfort in the region of the breast where they form.
Symptoms of a blocked milk duct
Blocked or clogged milk ducts develop when the milk duct in your breast is blocked or otherwise has insufficient drainage. You could feel one if your breast isn’t totally empty after breastfeeding your baby, or if your baby skips feeding, or if you’re under stress — which a lot of new moms are if we are truthful.
Symptoms may develop slowly and normally only involve one breast. You might feel the following:
- A lump in one section of your breast
- Engorgement around the lump
- Pain or swelling close to the lump
- Discomfort that starts after feeding/pumping
- Pain during letdown
- Milk plug/blister (bleb) at the opening of the nipple movement of the lump over time
- It is also normal to see a sudden drop in your supply when you have a clogged or plugged milk duct. You might also see thickened or fatty milk — it might appear like strings or grains.
Causes of blocked Milk Duct
Ses common problems with breastfeeding can lead to a blocked duct. In certain instances, you should overcome these in order to stop potential complications.
- Incorrect breastfeeding latch: If your baby does not latch properly on your breast, they will not be able to get as much milk out of your breast. If breast milk is left behind, the ducts may be blocked.
- Breast engorgement: Breast milk will build up in your breasts and block your milk ducts if you don’t breastfeed your baby regularly, skip feeding, delaying too long between feedings, or adding formula. Breast swelling will also occur as your baby starts to sleep through the night.
- Blebs: Blebs will block the openings of your milk ducts and cause your breast milk to back up and get trapped in the small passageways that allow the milk to flow from where it is produced out of your breast to your nipple.
- Excessive pressure on the breasts: an underwire bra, or one that is too tight, will place pressure on the breast tissue and lead to blocked milk ducts. Your breasts may also be pressurized by the braces of your baby carrier or bulky diaper bag.
- Dehydration and fatigue: lack of rest and not drinking enough water will place you at greater risk of having plugged milk ducts.
- Exercise: Blocked ducts can result from vigorous or strenuous exercise, particularly in the upper body.
- Weaning: If you wean your baby early, it can lead to engorgement of the breast, plugged milk ducts, and mastitis.
- History of mastitis during breastfeeding
- Cracked skin of the breasts
- Insufficient diet
- Stress and Fatigue
Treatment of blocked milk ducts
Continuing breastfeeding will help clear up the barrier. Certain roles and strategies can be useful. Such as;
- When Breastfeeding with Plugged Milk Duct Next, make sure your kid has a proper latch. If you need assistance with your baby’s latch, seek advice from a lactation counsellor, a doctor, or a breastfeeding support network.
- Breastfeeding often — every one or three hours, or on-demand — or keep the breast milk circulating into the ducts. If it’s not too hard, start feeding your infant with the breast where you are experiencing the blocked milk duct first. Your child’s suckling will be more regular at the beginning of the feeding, which could help to clear the blocked milk.
- If the breast is too tender, start feeding on the opposite breast and wait until the letdown reflex is stimulated. Switch to the breast with the plug.
- When you latch your infant to your breast, try to position it so that their nose or chin is in the direction of the blocked duct. In these positions, they could be best able to dislodge the blockage.
More Relief tips
- Before each meal, apply heat to the blocked region to assist with the letdown reflex and the flow of the breast milk into your ducts. Tenderly rub the affected region when applying heat and when you’re breastfeeding your baby.
- See the doctor or lactation specialist for guidance on how to use complementary breast massage and use it at home to better avoid and manage plugged milk ducts.
- Using a hand expression or breast pump to extract additional breast milk after you breastfeed your infant can help clear the blockage. It is necessary to drain the breast of breast milk as much as you can. Have enough rest, and keep yourself hydrated.
- Ask the doctor if you should take a lecithin supplement. Lecithin is a dietary supplement that is healthy to take when you are breastfeeding. It is claimed to overcome and prevent the blocking of milk ducts. A normal dosage is one tablespoon of granulated or liquid lecithin or one capsule (1200 mg) three or four times a day.
- Chiropractic ultrasound treatment may also help to alleviate the effects of plugged milk ducts.
Prevention of blocked milk duct
- To protect milk ducts from clogging in the first place, breastfeed your baby often.
- To protect the breast milk circulating into the breasts to avoid it from getting back in the ducts, you need to remove it consistently and often. Do not miss a feeding or wait too long between feeding.
- Adjust breastfeeding positions for each feeding to encourage your baby to drain the various areas of your breast.
- Avoid uncomfortable clothes and breastfeeding bras that are too close or underwire and do not sleep on your stomach. They will all place weight on your breasts. It’s necessary to keep hydrated, too.
- When it’s time to wean your infant, go ahead but do it gradually. You can need to express small quantities of milk between feeds to alleviate engorgement. But don’t say too much, or you’re going to indicate to your body that it can begin to make milk.
How can it get more serious?
Here’s the big bummer: if you don’t do something, the clog isn’t going to repair itself. Instead, it may lead to an inflammation called mastitis.
Take note that fever is not a condition that you would feel with a blocked milk duct. If you experience discomfort and other symptoms that are followed by fever, you may have an infection.
Symptoms of mastitis can appear abruptly and include:
- 101 ° F (38.3 ° C) or above fever
- Indications of flu (chills and body aches)
- The warmth, swelling, and tenderness of the breast.
- Breast lump or breast tissue thickening
- Burning pain and/or irritation when breastfeeding/pumping
- Redness of the infected skin (maybe wedge-shaped)
- Mastitis affects up to 1 in 10 breastfeeding mothers, so you are far from alone. If you’ve had it before, you’re more likely to get it again. Untreated mastitis can lead to a collection of pus — abscess — that needs surgical drainage.
But what if you are not breastfeeding mother?
Most of the details you’ll read about blocked milk ducts is about breastfeeding mothers, and few details talk about mastitis. Although you can often get these conditions — or the like — even if you’re not breastfeeding an infant.
Periductal mastitis is mastitis that develops without breastfeeding. This disease is rare. Cause and usually affects women in their reproductive years. Symptoms are similar to lactation mastitis and can be caused by factors like smoking, bacterial infection, broken nipple tissue, and mammary fistula.
Mammary duct ectasia is a disease that mainly affects women between the ages of 45 and 55. The milk duct widens, thickens the duct walls and fills them with fluid that can become deep and sticky. Eventually, this can lead to discharge, discomfort and tenderness, and periductal mastitis.
Mastitis can also affect men in extremely rare cases. Granulomatous mastitis, for example, is a chronic type of mastitis that affects both men and women. Its signs are close to those of breast cancer, including hard mass (abscess) in the breast and swelling.
When you need to contact the doctor
Usually, when treated promptly, the blocked milk duct starts to get smaller or dissolve after a few days. Untreated, it may get worse and lead to more severe complications, such as mastitis or abscess of the breast. Contact your doctor if you have:
- In three days, the lump doesn’t go anywhere.
- The lump is rising.
- The region is red, and the scale is growing.
- You’re developing a fever.
- Why Do My Nipples Hurt?; Healthline
- How to Identify and Clear a Clogged Milk Duct; Healthline
- Treating and Preventing Plugged Milk Ducts; Verywellfamily