There might be a sudden change in your nursing demand, whether it be your baby sleeping for longer stretches during the night, or you missed a pumping session.
You might come to notice a frustrating and uncomfortable lump on your breast which is caused by these changes and is known as a clogged duct.
High stress or a change in routine can cause a clogged milk duct, so it’s vital to try and remain calm.
If it happens to you, it doesn’t mean you’ve done anything wrong, it can happen to any nursing mom at any point.
Although, you might be more prone to a clogged milk duct if you have an over-supply.
I suffered from clogged milk ducts with two of my children, I tried these tips to alleviate them which left me in absolute bliss with my other three.
It was horrible and so painful that I spent many nights just thinking about what I was going to. Researching what I could do and using these tips is what helped the most.
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What is a clogged milk duct?
This is where an area of your breast where milk flow has been obstructed and it can be caused by going for long periods without emptying your breast, something positioned on the breast or inadequate emptying of the breast.
The lump will present itself as tender, hard and will be often painful around the affected area.
If you’ve begun to notice redness or extreme pain, think clogged duct and a possible infection called Mastitis may be present.
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What is mastitis?
If you have a clogged milk duct, mastitis is an infection that forms at the site which hasn’t been cleared. If you’re unsure whether you’re suffering from just a clogged duct or Mastitis, you’ll experience different symptoms. Symptoms of Mastitis are:
• Flu-like symptoms, such as body aches, high fever, and chills.
• A wedge-shaped warm spot that is red on your breast over the affected area.
If you are suspecting Mastitis, then you should go to the doctor as soon as possible because you will require antibiotic treatment.
Although, if you have a clogged duct as well, you will need to get that cleared for you to heal completely.
What causes a clogged milk duct?
As I mentioned at the beginning, it is more than likely going to be caused by a long period of time when your baby isn’t nursing.
So, it could mean that your baby is sleeping for longer periods at night, or all of a sudden going longer in between feedings in the day time.
Other causes of a clogged milk duct could be missing a pumping session, accidentally skipping a feed on one side or an inadequate pumping session.
If you have put pressure on the boob, it can also cause a clogged milk duct.
Sleeping on your stomach, tight-fitting bras or clothing, or underwire bras are the most common culprits.
How long does a clogged milk duct last?
Basically, until you unclog it.
Sounds like common sense but a clogged milk duct won’t just go away by itself, and most of the time, it’s too painful to bear anyway!
It is definitely something that should be taken seriously every time.
When should I contact my doctor about a clogged milk duct?
It is so important to call your doctor straight away if you’re suffering from mastitis symptoms as well.
They will then call you in for an appointment and evaluate you before giving you a course of antibiotics if necessary.
If you’re worried that you won’t notice when it turns into an infection, don’t worry, you will.
I could tell straight away when I suffered from it because I had body aches, severe chills, and high fever.
Don’t sit around waiting to get medical attention if this happens to you.
The sooner you get it treated, the less likely it will progress into something way more serious!
How to clear a clogged milk duct FAST
1. Nurse, nurse, nurse!
I know there are times when you just wish you could miss a nursing session.
You’re exhausted and completely drained, especially with a clogged duct.
I can’t stress it enough by saying there is no reason whatsoever to stop nursing your baby when you are experiencing a clogged milk duct.
It is essential to continue nursing your baby to help clear it up.
Rather than hand-expressing, your baby’s sucking is much stronger and more effective to get the milk flowing again by triggering let-down.
How to nurse when you have a clogged milk duct?
Begin nursing your baby on the affected breast, because this is when your baby’s suckling will be at its strongest. Keep going until that duct is cleared.
You can also try the dangle feed, which is where you lie your baby down on the floor, placing your breast over their mouth so they can grab it.
The point of this is that gravity will help your baby to get things moving again.
2. Rest and Fluids
If you were ill with the flu, you’d be constantly told to rest and drink plenty of fluids, you should treat a clogged milk duct in the same way.
Due to your immune system working extra hard to fight off the infection, it will help it heal faster if you rest and drink enough.
You should also consider taking Vitamin C supplements to boost your immune system further.
What if I have an older, more mobile baby?
This is a tough one because you’re constantly needed by that baby and they won’t be content in your bedroom as you lie in bed.
The best thing to do if this is the case ask for support from those around you while you rest.
You need to clear your clogged duct before it becomes infected and progresses to mastitis, so I’m sure family and friends will understand.
If like me you don’t have any support system then Boxes of Toys, the TV, books, and even the Ipad can come out.
You just need to do what’s best for you at that time and muddle through.
3. Ice and Heat
How should I ice my clogged milk duct?
When you feel a lump on your breast from a clogged milk duct, it is an inflammatory response to the duct.
Ice will help reduce any swelling and help the duct become less restricted to allow clearing.
I would always ice for 10 minutes in between feedings because it would provide the relief and discomfort I always had around that time.
How can I use moist heat to help a clogged milk duct?
Use a warm compress before each nursing session to help aid your breast for milk flow.
You could also soak your breast in a bowl of water that is warm or in some Epsom salt.
Once you have applied the warm heat to the breast, simply gently massage the sore area before nursing.
Once you have applied heat to your breast, it is best to use a bit of vibration or a combing technique to stimulate milk flow in the area.
If you’re struggling to find something suitable, an electric toothbrush is extremely effective to loosen things up and help to clear the duct.
5. Eliminate restrictive clothing and bras
You know that amazing feeling you get when you take your bra off when you get home from a long day?
Think of that but 10 times better!
If you have breasts that are painful, the last thing you want to be doing is sitting in tight clothing.
It is irritating and won’t help clear it up at all.
You should be wearing a bra that is comfortable and fits properly if you’re a nursing mom.
6. Pain relief, supplements, and medication
Before you take any medication, consult with your doctor or midwife first.
Under my doctors guidance, I took ibuprofen religiously to ensure that my recovery was quick.
I found that it completely reduced inflammation and pain. This, in turn, made nursing more tolerable and comfortable.
7. Take a hot shower or bath
While you’re in there, just give your breast a nice massage under the running water. Doing this will help to loosen your milk and help towards relaxing you.
This is a supplement that you can find at any drug store and taking just 1 capsule 3-4 times a day will help unclog your milk duct.
If I was ever out traveling or not at home, I would always make sure I had one of these bottles of vitamins available.
I ended up buying two, one to keep at home and the other to keep in my purse.
9. The position of both you and baby
If you lay your baby on a flat surface and you lay alongside, it will give your baby access to your breast but keeps you positioned above.
I always used my bed and used pillows to prop myself up and lean my elbows on them, especially because you’ll be in the position for 30-45 minutes depending on how long your baby nurses.
So, you need to make yourself as comfortable as possible.
10. Try raw potato slices
I was told about this method and when I tried it, it worked within the first 24 hours.
All you have to do is slice 6 raw potatoes lengthwise into thin strips.
Place them in a bowl of water and leave them for 20 minutes. Once they have soaked, apply the slice to your affected breast.
It will help to unclog your milk ducts.
Hopefully at least one, if not all of these tips will help you in your painful endeavor.
I completely understand how uncomfortable it is and wouldn’t wish it on anyone.
If you’ve suffered with it before and you’re worried that it will happen again, you can be fully prepared!
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