Pregnant women who choose to feed their newborn babies may face a lot of difficulties. It can vary from feeding sessions that last all night, engorgement, breast pumps, leaking, and more. When it comes to the joys of breastfeeding your kid, you may be thinking you heard it all. Then, sometimes a firm, very painful bump appears. A clogged milk duct could be the very cause of this. But do not panic as soon as you face this, as most of these clogs can be cleared at home, and you can get back to your normal, day-to-day routine quickly.
What you also need to keep in mind is that there is always the chance that the lump may be developing into something much more serious, such as mastitis.
Breastfeeding and pumping might be quite uncomfortable when you first start to feed your baby, but the discomfort usually starts to fade away as your body regulates the production and your baby starts to get a proper latch. Unfortunately, even after you have been completely accustomed to breastfeeding, the pain can resurface. Often, this manifests itself in the form of clogged ducts because of poor drainage. These can form as your baby’s milk supply fluctuates or as he or she sleeps for longer lengths of time during nighttime. When weaning, clogged ducts are also prevalent. Let us look at what symptoms to check for if you have a clogged milk duct and when you should see your doctor.
How to determine whether you have Mastitis or a Clogged Milk Duct?
Before you get ready to treat a clogged milk duct, make sure you are not suffering from mastitis, which may necessitate a more aggressive treatment strategy. Mastitis is characterized by a wide range of symptoms in addition to a simple plug. Many of these symptoms are a lot more like the flu. Fever and general exhaustion are particularly common in this.
A clogged duct is most likely to be blamed if your symptoms are restricted to breast soreness, edema, or tenderness. This less serious ailment can be and is frequently treated in the comfort of your home. Your plugged milk duct, on the other hand, could lead to mastitis if not treated promptly.
Symptoms appear gradually and usually affect only one breast. You might have the following symptoms engorgement surrounding the lump, pain or swelling near the lump, discomfort that goes away after feeding/pumping, pain during letdown, milk plug/blister (bleb) at the opening of your nipple, or some movement of the lump over time.
When you have a clog, you tend to notice a temporary drop in your milk supply. When you express your milk, you may detect strings or grains of thickened or fatty milk.
What can be done to know if it is more serious?
Now, here is the worst part: The clog is very much unlikely to clear itself if you do nothing about it. Instead, it could also develop into a mastitis infection. It is important to understand that a plugged milk duct does not cause fever. You may seem to have an infection if you have discomfort and other symptoms along with a temperature.
Mastitis symptoms can appear suddenly and can include:
- 101°F (38.3°C) fever or a worsening of flu-like symptoms (chills and body aches)
- whole breast warmth, swelling, and tenderness
- breast lump or thicker breast tissue
- a burning feeling and/or discomfort while nursing/pumping redness on the affected skin (maybe wedge-shaped)
Mastitis is known to affect one out of every ten breastfeeding moms, so what you need to know is that you are not alone. You are also more likely to acquire it again if you have had it once before. Untreated mastitis can lead to an abscess, an accumulation of pus that may need surgical drainage.
What causes your milk duct to clog?
A clogged milk duct can be caused by a variety of factors. As you already know, something that keeps your breast from getting drained completely is usually the main cause of having a clogged milk duct. This might be anything. It can differ from a too-tight sports bra putting pressure on your breasts to irregular feedings.
The way you feed your baby could induce clogged ducts and mastitis. If your baby tends to prefer one breast over the other, the less frequently used breast has a higher chance of developing clogs. Other factors that may cause a milk duct clog include latching and sucking difficulty.
There are also some other risk factors that can increase your chances of developing clogged ducts and mastitis. They are:
- Whilst nursing, having a history of mastitis
- Insufficient nutrition
- Cracked skin on the nipples
- Weariness and stress.
Clogged Milk Ducts: Do-It-Yourself Solutions
After you have successfully ruled out mastitis if you have had it, take steps to avoid a clog from forming in the future. Clogged ducts can easily be relieved with a variety of inexpensive, and at-home remedies. You could be able to see major improvements in as short as 24 hours if you make an active effort to clear the clog. Listed below are some of the most effective therapies for clogged milk ducts.
1. On the Clogged Side, Nurse More Frequently
Although nursing on the one side with the clogged duct can be very much unpleasant, it is one of the most effective ways to empty your breast and restore normal milk flow. Nurse on demand according to your baby, or at least once every few hours, if possible. Anyway, make sure you start with the clogged side but do not forget about the opposite side, as this will raise the chances of more obstructions.
You can also pump more often if nursing is not an option. Because nursing is more efficient than pumping, moms who exclusively pump may need to empty their breasts more frequently than those who nurse or use a combination of the two procedures. Some of the mothers who pump have found success with a technique known as dangle pumping, which involves leaning forward while pumping to let gravity help push the clog out.
Whether you nurse or pump, using a warm compress to the afflicted area before letting it down may be quite beneficial. This will start the milk flow and may make the initial few minutes of nursing or pumping with a clog go more smoothly.
2. Massage the Affected Breast
Breast Massage is a go-to treatment for a lot of mothers who commonly suffer from clogged ducts since it has provided them with both short- and long-term comfort. Even when new mothers are not struggling with clogs, breast massage can help to alleviate their pain.
Massaging can be quite unsettling at first. So, slowly work your way towards the clog, starting on the outer edge of the breast. The most efficient technique is usually kneading. Apply firm pressure to it while intentionally seeking a hurts so wonderful experience if you can withstand a little more discomfort. This may be a bit painful at first, but it can swiftly dislodge clogs. Placing your thumb or fingers exactly behind the clog and pressing towards the nipple is another excellent approach. It may be beneficial to soak in a warm tub or shower while massaging.
While hand massage is very much useful, many moms believe that specifically made lactation massagers are more effective than it. These massagers can be used not only before and after your nursing but also while pumping to induce faster let down and more thorough emptying of the breast.
3. You can take Ibuprofen
While breastfeeding, ibuprofen is safe to use and may assist you to alleviate inflammation and discomfort. Acetaminophen is safe to consume while breastfeeding and can be used to treat a plugged duct.
When should you see a doctor?
After you have successfully cleared the blockage or treated mastitis, redness or bruising on the breast may remain for around a week or longer. Make an appointment with your doctor if you have any concerns or if you believe your clog or infection is not healing properly. In some circumstances, you may tend to require more antibiotics or assistance, such as abscess drainage.
If your symptoms still seem to persist, mammography, an ultrasound, or a biopsy may be recommended to rule out inflammatory breast cancer. Swelling and redness are some common symptoms of this rare kind of cancer, which can be mistaken for mastitis.
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