When the milk flow of your breast has been obstructed in a certain place, you get a clogged milk duct. This can be painful, make pumping or breastfeeding slow and difficult, and it can lead to more serious issues. Mastitis—inflammation of the breast tissue—is a common result of a clogged milk duct, but can certainly be prevented. Clogged milk ducts are pretty common, and can be caused by something as simple as missing a pumping session or not emptying your breasts fully. There are a lot of little things that can cause this to happen, but they can be prevented.
How to Tell if You Have a Clogged Milk Duct
Generally, you’ll be able to tell if a milk duct is clogged because you’ll feel a hard, painful lump in the affected breast. The area around this lump will be red, warm and extra sensitive, but you should feel some relief after breastfeeding. Milk production and flow will slow down from the affected breast. Once you notice these things, try to treat the clogged milk duct as soon as possible to prevent it from worsening. If you have additional flu-like symptoms like fever or aching, you may have mastitis and should talk to your doctor.
How to Treat Them
Clogged milk ducts are incredibly common, so you’re not alone. Some of the easiest and most immediate cures involve the way you pump or breastfeed. You’ll want to stick to a consistent schedule as closely as you can, and you should try to empty the affected breast as completely as possible. Pumping can be painful when you have a clogged duct, especially before and during letdown. A warm compress like a washcloth or heating pad can help your milk flow and ease discomfort. Breast compressions on your affected side or using a lactation massager can help break up the block while pumping.
How to Prevent Clogged Milk Ducts
It’s always a good idea to pump or breastfeed on a schedule when you can, and to empty completely to avoid blocking your ducts. Of course, if you’re trying to decrease your milk supply, you won’t want to empty all the way. Still stick to a schedule, and try to gradually decrease the amount you’re releasing so you body has plenty of time to catch up.
Make sure you’re wearing the right size bra, the right size breast shields and try to avoid sleeping on your chest. If you’re prone to clogged ducts, many women have had success with taking lecithin to help with milk production and flow.
If you want more information, contact Regional Medical Center or make an appointment today.