Breast milk is produced in the breast and flows through the milk ducts out of the nipple. When the milk fails to drain out from the milk ducts in adequate amounts, it causes inflammation and soreness in the breasts. This condition is referred to as a clogged milk duct. The area where the duct is located becomes hard and tender to touch. In some women, soreness is accompanied by redness as well. It is similar to engorgement; however, only in one isolated spot on the breast. If this condition is not treated in time, it may cause an infection.
There are many causes that may lead to this condition. Wearing a too constricting or underwire bra, which does not fit well may put pressure on the milk duct/s. Skipping or incomplete feeding, or increased amount of stress may also give rise to this condition. Sleep on the stomach for a very long time may also exert pressure on the milk ducts. However, at times, the clogged milk ducts may occur without any apparent reason too.
There are simple home remedies which are often successful in curing plugged milk ducts. The most important remedy is to continue breastfeeding even though it is painful.
- Breastfeed your child frequently.
- After every session of breastfeeding, use a breast pump to ensure that the breast has been completely drained out. You may also express the remaining milk with your hands.
- Always start feeding your baby with the breast that is clogged.
- Massage the affected area frequently and firmly to open a plugged milk duct. Massage from your armpits down towards the nipple.
- Try and vary the nursing position.
- Take a warm shower, or apply warm compresses or moist hot packs on the breast before breastfeeding. The heat helps open the milk duct and also enables better milk drainage.
- Do not perform any kind of upper arm exercises.
- Do not sleep on your stomach. Sleep on your back or on your sides.
- Take ample rest to deal with this condition. If possible, try to get a baby-sitter for your child so that you may get some time to rest.
There are many benefits of breastfeeding. Therefore, do not stop breastfeeding your child even if you experience plugged milk ducts.
It is advisable to check your breast every 2-3 weeks for any lumps during pregnancy. In case, you notice any swelling, gently massage the breast. Apply warm compresses to help alleviate the condition. You may stop wearing an underwire bra since it may put pressure on the breast and give rise to clogged milk ducts. If the condition does not subside or you are not sure about the lumps, consult your doctor.
Blocked milk ducts after weaning is a result of abrupt end of breastfeeding. If you are planning to wean, it should be done gradually over a period of time. When you start weaning, cut out one feed a day and then slowly decrease the number of feeds.
If the aforementioned home remedies do not provide any relief, and you have a fever for more than 24 hours or there is sudden onset of chills, you should consult your health care professional. Also, visit your health care professional immediately if you notice that the nipple/s has an infection, and there is blood and/or pus oozing out.
Disclaimer: This AptParenting article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.