Clogged Milk Duct
Milk ducts may clog if the breast isn't draining adequately while breastfeeding or pumping.

When you are breastfeeding, you might have a sore breast or discover a little lump on your breast that hurts when you touch it. This lump might be the result of a blocked milk duct, which can develop if there is:

  • a sudden shift in the feeding schedule,
  • insufficient draining of the breast,
  • inadequate rotation of nursing positions, or
  • wearing extremely tight clothing or bras.

What are the symptoms of a clogged milk duct?

The signs of a blocked milk duct may differ for various women although they typically include:

  • A tender, small, but firm breast bump; these lumps frequently feel warm to touch or appear red and are located close to the skin
  • Decreased milk production or supply
  • Your milk isn't emptying properly or you feel breast fullness
  • Milk that is stringy or thick
  • During or after feeding or pumping, there may be a pain, swelling, or soreness

You might have mastitis (a breast infection) if you show signs of plugged milk ducts in addition to flu-like symptoms. Mastitis can be dangerous.

Your obstetrician-gynecologist may prescribe medication to treat it if you experience any of the following:

  • Breasts that are warm to touch and red all over, rather than just in one area
  • Fever, exhaustion
  • Feeling queasy (tendency to vomit)
  • Bleeding or pus in your breast milk
  • Yellow nipple discharge

What is a clogged milk duct?

Milk ducts are the tubes that transport milk from the breast to the area around the nipple.

The milk ducts may clog if the duct isn't draining adequately (or frequently enough) while nursing or pumping. The tissue becomes inflamed because of the pressure behind the obstruction, and it feels as though a (painful and tender) little marble has been stuck right within your breast.

A new mother can be caught off guard by this, but don't freak out. Although it hurts, the clogged milk duct is a common side effect of breastfeeding, and there are several things you may do to unclog it.

What are the causes of clogged milk ducts?

A plugged milk duct often develops when the milk flow is obstructed, which results in milk building up in the breast.

Apart from this, there are several causes of clogged ducts, including:

  • Skipped or delayed feedings are caused by the mother's return to work, the baby's unexpected ability to sleep through the night, an abrupt weaning, teething, or excessive pacifier use
  • Pressure on the milk ducts brought on by a tight bra or piece of clothing, a backpack or diaper bag strap, or lying on your stomach
  • Engorgement or insufficient milk removal brought on by a poor latch, a tired or distracted infant, insufficiently planned feedings, the use of a nipple shield, or abrupt weaning
  • Inflammation brought on by nipple injury or infection
  • Using a substandard breast pump
  • Infant not sucking properly
  • Pressing on the breast by mother's fingers for an extended period in one location

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What can be done?

As a clogged duct might cause a breast infection, it needs to be treated right away. Continue nursing while taking care to drain the breast as much as possible with each feeding. This is the best initial treatment for a plugged duct. If you quit nursing abruptly, your breasts will likely enlarge, which could exacerbate the disease and cause an infection.

Here are some tips to be followed before, during, and after feeding to avoid clogged milk ducts.

Before feedings

  • To aid your milk "let-down" shortly before a feeding, use a warm, moist compress for no more than three to five minutes.
  • Use a light massage motion from the plugged area toward the nipple of the breast.
  • While standing in a warm shower, massage the affected breast.
  • To aid in boosting milk flow, loosen your bra and other restrictive apparel.

During feedings

  • Feed your infant first from the breast that is affected.
  • Check to see if your baby has a strong, deep latch. To confirm a successful latch, if at all feasible, request the opinion of a lactation expert.
  • When breastfeeding or using a breast pump, gently push or massage the breast approaching the nipple from the blocked region.
  • To ensure a more thorough feeding, shift your infant's position each time so that milk ducts are being emptied.

After feedings

  • After feedings, apply cold packs to the breasts for 20 minutes, putting a piece of fabric between the skin and the cold pack.
  • Frequently breastfeed or pump at least once every two to three hours, and empty the breasts to avoid additional difficulties.
  • If your infant is unable to empty your breast, be sure to hand express or pump the milk after feeding to ensure that all the milk is gone.
  • Get adequate sleep.
  • Gradually wean your baby when you're ready.

When to seek help

Contact your healthcare professional if the lump does not disappear within a few days. Additionally, you should get in touch with your healthcare practitioner right away if you feel sick or experience a fever or chills or if the region around the lump starts to look red. This can indicate that you have mastitis and should consider taking antibiotics.

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Medically Reviewed on 10/5/2022
References
Image Source: iStock image

https://www.lancastergeneralhealth.org/health-hub-home/motherhood/fourth-trimester/everything-you-need-to-know-about-clogged-milk-ducts

https://wicbreastfeeding.fns.usda.gov/plugged-ducts-mastitis-and-thrush

https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/breastfeeding/Pages/Clogged-Milk-Ducts.aspx

https://www.llli.org/breastfeeding-info/mastitis/