Today we will discuss plugged ducts! While breastfeeding, occasionally the milk flow becomes obstructed in one of the milk ducts. This is referred to as a plugged duct.
The nipple pore may be blocked by a milk blister (also known as a bleb) or the blockage can be further up in the breast. The symptoms can include a hard lump, or small area of engorgement, it may be hot, tender, swollen or red. Plugged ducts usually affect one side and nursing may be painful, especially during letdown. You may also notice a decrease in milk supply or pumping output from the affected breast temporarily.
Causes of plugged ducts include: pressure or pinching of the breast during sleep or from wearing a tight bra/clothing, engorgement, oversupply, inadequate milk removal and infrequent or skipped feedings or other reasons.
The good news is that plugged ducts are temporary and can usually be resolved without the need of additional assistance. The most important thing is to continue nursing and emptying the breast. Extra and frequent nursing increases milk drainage and is necessary to resolve the blockage. Do not stop nursing as this increases your risks of further complications.
Drink plenty of fluids and get lots of rest. Heat and massage can also help. Before nursing, use warm compresses, take a hot shower or soak in a warm bath while gently but firmly massaging the affected area from the outside of the breast towards the direction of the nipple. Continue the daily regimen of: heat, massage and breastfeeding on the affected breast until the plugged duct is gone.
From personal experience, I have had many plugged ducts throughout my five years of breastfeeding. With these simple tools, I was thankfully able to resolve them on my own each time.
Be sure to loosen or remove your bra and tight clothing and, if necessary, try sleeping on your back so as not to pinch or squeeze your breast during sleep. Nurse your baby in varying positions instead of the same position every time to aid in fully emptying the breast.
To resolve pain, you may try using cold compresses in between feedings or taking an anti-inflammatory such as ibuprofen.
Our team of certified lactation counselors are always available to provide additional support as needed. If you are unable to resolve the issue or have more severe symptoms such as a high fever (over 101.3), or something just doesn’t feel right, be sure to consult your doctor.