How to Deal with Clogged Milk Ducts

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How to Deal with Clogged Milk Ducts

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How to Deal with Clogged Milk Ducts.

When you nurse your baby, your breast milk travels to your nipples through a network of milk ducts.

These ducts can sometimes get plugged, obstructing the flow of milk and causing hard lumps to form in your breasts.

If you think you have a clogged milk duct, don’t worry! You can continue to nurse your baby while taking steps to unplug it.

Recognizing the Signs of a Clogged Milk Duct

Note any lumps that form in your breasts.

If you are breastfeeding and notice a hard lump in your breast, especially if it feels tender to the touch, you may have a plugged milk duct.

Look for a wedge-shaped red area.

The breast with the lump may also have a wedge-shaped area of redness, swelling, or engorgement.

It may feel hot, uncomfortable, or painful.

Pay attention to pain during nursing.

If you have a clogged milk duct, your breast may hurt when you nurse your baby on that side, especially at first, as your milk lets down.

You may notice that the pain decreases or even disappears immediately after nursing.

Watch for a fever.

Many women do not experience a fever with a plugged milk duct, but some do.

In addition, a fever can be a sign that infection is present or that you are developing mastitis.

If you develop a fever or feel like you have the flu, call your doctor.

Identifying the Causes of a Clogged Milk Duct

Know that clogged milk ducts can signify feeding problems.

The primary cause of plugged milk ducts is that your breasts are not getting drained regularly and completely.

This can happen for a number of reasons, including feeding problems.

If your baby isn’t latching correctly, isn’t breastfeeding frequently enough, or isn’t draining your breasts, you may develop clogs.

There’s no reason to worry unnecessarily about one clogged milk duct, but it may be a good idea to follow up with a lactation specialist or your baby’s pediatrician, just to ensure that your baby is healthy, thriving, and feeding correctly.

Make sure your pump is powerful enough.

If you pump your milk, make sure that you are using one powerful enough to drain your breasts completely.

Otherwise, milk sits in the ducts, potentially causing clogs.

You should invest in a high quality pump.

You should get a hospital grade double electric pump.

Many insurance plans will cover pumps like this.

Consult your health insurance to see if you can get one for a reduced price.

Consider your clothing.

If you are wearing a nursing bra that fits incorrectly and compresses your chest, you may be trapping milk inside your ducts, which can lead to clogs.

Understand the role of illness.

When you are sick, your routine is disrupted.

You may sleep more, and you may not pump as frequently or feed your baby as often. Plugged milk ducts sometimes result from this changes.

Similarly, if your baby is sick he or she will likely have a diminished appetite.

When your baby feeds less (even for just a small period of a few days) it can leave too much milk in your breasts leading to clogged ducts.

Know that weaning abruptly can lead to plugged milk ducts.

If you stop breastfeeding altogether (as opposed to tapering off gradually), you risk developing clogs.

If you do, for whatever reason, decide to stop breastfeeding suddenly, you can pump milk from your breasts in the days that follow (in gradually diminishing amounts) in order to allow your breasts to naturally taper their milk production.

Treating a Clogged Milk Duct

Continue nursing. You may feel pain or discomfort when you nurse from the breast with the clogged duct, but continuing to do so is the best solution to the problem.

Try to empty the affected breast completely, which will likely ease your symptoms.

Start with the affected breast.

If you can, start breastfeeding with the affected breast.

This helps ensure that the breast will be emptied completely.

In addition, babies tend to suck strongest at first, when they are hungriest.

The force your baby exerts when sucking may help dislodge the clog.

Vary your feeding positions.

By positioning your baby at your breast in different ways, you help ensure that all the milk ducts get drained.

Some experts recommend, in particular, positioning your baby so that his or her chin is pointed to the sore spot.

You may have to lie down or a different hold than usual to accomplish this task, but it may help dislodge the clog.

Pump if necessary.

If your baby is not emptying your breast, use a breast pump to express the remaining milk.

Expressing the milk by hand will also work. The key is to drain your breast completely.

Massage the area.

Be gentle but firm, and massage from the outside of the breast toward the nipple.

This may help unclog your ducts and push the milk through.

Apply warm compresses before nursing.

Heat can help open your ducts to let milk through.

Try placing warm, moist compresses on your breast for a few minutes before you nurse your baby.

Alternatively, you can take a warm bath or shower.

You can also fill up a large bowl with warm water and soak the affected breast in it.

When the water starts to become milky, use gentle massage to help unclog the duct.

Experiment with heating pads and cold packs.

Some women find that heating pads ease the discomfort of clogged milk ducts; others swear by cold therapy packs.

Either is fine.

Experiment to see which helps you the most.

Ask your doctor about pain medication.

Most doctors think ibuprofen and other over-the-counter pain medications are safe for women to take while breastfeeding.

You can minimize your discomfort by taking the recommended dose every four hours.

Preventing Future Problems

Nurse your baby regularly.

Unless you are purposely weaning, the best way to avoid clogged milk ducts is not to let milk accumulate in your breast for too long.

Feed your baby frequently.

Pump excess milk.

If you miss any feedings or if your baby is not emptying your breasts completely, pump the excess milk, either by hand or with a breast pump.

Wear a soft, well-fitted nursing bra. Underwire may compress your milk ducts, as will a poorly-fitted nursing bra.

Shop around for a comfortable style that works for you.

Avoid sleeping on your stomach. Lying on your stomach for extended periods of time can also compress your milk ducts.

Try taking lecithin.

Some studies suggest that lecithin – either a tablespoon of the oral granular kind or a 1200 milligram capsule, three or four times a day – may help prevent plugged milk ducts.

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