Written By: Cleo Gib & adapted by Jerica Mosello
Whether you are a new mom or a mother of four, nursing your baby is quite the adventure. Each child is so different in the way that they latch, how often they eat, and how much they eat. Eventually you and your baby fall into a rhythm. Whether you are using a breast pump or strictly nursing, you eventually figure things out. What happens, however, when nursing suddenly becomes painful? Sometimes, clogged milk ducts can occur. Though it's painful, it’s usually nothing to worry about. However, it does require some immediate action so that it doesn’t develop into a more serious condition.
What Causes a Clogged Duct?
Sometimes your body produces more milk than is expelled. Whether you are nursing or pumping, if your breast isn’t emptied fully every time, milk can stay in the duct and get backed up. This causes the tissue around your ducts to become swollen, which can in turn press on the duct and cause a painful blockage. This is often caused by your baby failing to latch on properly during feeding. If your baby is sick or not feeding as often, this can cause an issue as well. Weaning, bras that don’t fit correctly, stress, surgeries, and illnesses can also be reasons why your feedings aren’t expelling the amount of milk they should be. If you are pumping and experiencing a plugged duct, you might not have a breast pump powerful enough to empty all of the necessary milk.
What Does a Clogged Duct Feel Like?
It’s impossible to ignore a clogged duct. You will feel pressure and discomfort in the area of the breast where there is an issue. In some cases, the pain can be intense. It’s also not uncommon to notice some redness near the site. If you feel a small, sore lump that’s hard to the touch, that’s a fairly common symptom of a clogged duct. Sometimes, these symptoms are temporarily relieved after nursing but then return afterwards.
How to Treat a Plugged Duct
The most important thing to treat this painful condition is to continue feeding as normal. While it might be painful, emptying the breast of milk will help with inflammation and to unclog the duct. Be sure to start nursing on the side with the clog first. This will give you some relief and help the breast to heal more quickly. Use warm compresses before nursing. Then, massage the affected area gently. It may hurt, but it can help to loosen things up. You also can try to change your nursing positions. This can help to ease the pain. Be sure to get extra rest during this time. If you can, keep your baby in bed with you and nurse frequently. Taking it easy will not only help you to feel better, but it will give you some special time to bond with that sweet baby. Also, grab that Hakaa! Many a mom will attest that filling the Hakaa with warm water and Epsom Salt will help to draw out the clog. Finally, the ever-hilarious dangle feed. Use gravity to your advantage! Lay baby down on their back and dangle feed your little one and let gravity draw out that milk.
When It Is Gone
You’ll know your clogged duct is better when the swelling and pain have subsided. There may still be a bit of discomfort or a lump for a few days, but that’s nothing to be alarmed about. Be sure to drink a lot of water and eat healthy foods. Ensuring that your baby is emptying your breast at each feeding is a great way to prevent a clogged duct from happening again in the future. Whether you are using a breast pump in Seattle or strictly nursing your baby, clogged ducts hurt. If you find that your condition doesn’t improve within a few days, contact your trusted medical professional. Left untreated, a clogged duct can turn into mastitis; which is a whole other painful subject.
Is This Mastitis?
How do we know when we've moved on from a clogged duct to mastitis? Are you feeling like you have the flu? Feverish? Are you just generally feeling under the weather? CALL YOUR OB. Get on top of it fast. You could be in the ER getting IV Antibiotics before you know it.