Breastfeeding my third child brought a whole new set of challenges and adventures, even in areas I was sure that I’d gotten a handle on with my middle child. Before Jessica was two weeks old, I experienced my first plugged (clogged/blocked) milk duct. Though I’d heard about plugged milk ducts and read about the appropriate treatment options to unclog the duct, it wasn’t until I experienced it first hand that I knew what they were talking about. Do you have a plugged milk duct? Here’s how you can tell and what you can do.
What is a plugged milk duct?
A plugged milk duct is the result of an inflammation of the milk duct, which doesn’t allow the milk to drain adequately during breastfeeding. According to Dr. Sears, the pain will come and go with a clogged milk duct and you can feel the lump where the duct is plugged. I found that my plugged milk duct hurt worse when I was engorged or if it had been a long time since I last nursed.
A blocked milk duct is not the same as mastitis, an infection of the breast which may require antibiotic treatment.
What causes a plugged milk duct?
My clogged milk duct was caused by my failure to adequately and regularly nurse on one side, because I had a cracked and bleeding nipple. Kellymom notes that other causes of a blocked milk duct may be a long stretch without nursing, failure to empty the breast at a nursing symptom, or a breast infection.
What are the symptoms of a plugged milk duct?
The symptoms I experienced were a noticeable red lump on my breast, breast tenderness, and a dull ache that came and went. I didn’t feel ill, which would have indicated mastitis. My lactation consultant was easily able to diagnosis my blocked duct when I told her of the lump and the tenderness.
How can I treat a plugged milk duct?
There are many ways to treat a clogged duct. Be sure to empty your breast as completely as possible. I occasionally had to nurse on the side that was not blocked until I experienced letdown (which was painful with a clogged milk duct) and then switch sides. Do not let yourself become engorged. I took ibuprofen for the pain until the duct cleared up, alternated heat (before feeding) and cold (between nursing sessions) and massaged the lump while breastfeeding and between nursing sessions.
In my case, the lump cleared up about 48 hours after I first noticed symptoms, but it was about a week before the pain was completely gone from the blocked milk duct.
Ask Dr Sears; Plugged Milk Duct; http://www.askdrsears.com/html/2/t022100.asp
Kellymom; Plugged ducts and mastitis; http://www.kellymom.com/bf/concerns/mom/mastitis.html