When a mother starts breastfeeding, so there are many breast-related problems, which they face, and one of them is a blocked milk duct.
First, know that – Breasts contain a series of ducts that carry milk from the mammary glands to the nipples.
Whenever the milk duct is blocked, then the drainage of milk does not get proper. due to which milk will start collecting there gradually.
In that area of the breast, women will feel like a lump (1), this condition is called blocked milk duct, which can cause Mastitis.
A blocked milk duct something also called a “plugged or clogged” milk duct.
According to the research it was estimated that two-thirds of breastfeeding women experience blocked ducts (2).
It is a painful situation, linked with breast engorgement, which may lead to tender breasts, blushed color, affected area feeling hot, pain, and fever.
There are myriad possible reasons why the breast milk duct is blocked are including:
- Wearing a too-tight bra or sports bra can damage the milk duct
- If a breastfeeding woman does not thoroughly drain, which can collect milk and block the duct.
- Feedings that are too infrequent
- Not positioning the nursing baby properly on the breast
- Supplementing nursing with bottle-feeding
- If you using a pump, then the breast is not getting proper pub
Other reasons such as:
- Excessive exercise: Excessive exercise, especially in the upper body
- Dehydration: Not drinking enough fluid puts a mother at high risk of developing blocked milk ducts.
NOTE: A blocked milk duct can lead to nipple bleb, and both of these can cause mastitis.
However, there are some women, which are more likely to have it, including:
- If women sleep on their stomach
- Certain infant behaviors while breastfeeding such as – tugging, pulling, or twisting of the nipple.
- If breastfeeding women do sleep more on one side
- Carrying heavy things forward (on chest) such as – Infant, heavy purses, or diaper bags
NOTE: Sometimes, it can result in noninfectious mastitis (an inflammation of the breast that may be due to blocked ducts).
Mothers can also experience blocked ducts without severe breast engorgement or mastitis (3).
Its symptoms can slowly and gradually affect only one breast. its symptoms include:
- Fever or feeling hot in the breast affect area is the most common symptom in it
- A lump in the affected breast area
- Pain or pain during letdown
- A swollen or tender lump in the breast
- Discomfort during feeding
- The baby may become fussy when feeding from the affected area
- Slower milk flow
- A small white dot on the nipple called a milk bleb
NOTE: A report showed that some women experienced 3 episodes of blocked ducts with their first child (4).
However, she also experienced an episode of blocked ducts with her second child as well.
How To Treat It?
Most blocked ducts resolve within 1–2 days, with or without treatment.
The most effective treatment against blocked milk ducts is – To empty the affected breasts by frequent breastfeeding or pumping.
Massage is one of the best ways to treat it.
Starting at the top of the breast, apply pressure with your finger as you work your way up to the plug. Also while taking shower, it may also help to massage.
There are many other home remedies that can help in getting rid of blocked breast ducts are:
- While feeding the baby latching the baby and ensuring a correct position (5)
- Wear loose clothes that do not bind the breast.
- Apply warm compresses: Take a clean cloth, soak in hot water, and compress it into the breast.
- Use herbal tea as warm compresses
- Some women also use acupuncture
- Gua-sha (6)
- Proteolytic enzymes (an enzyme that breaks down protein)
The doctor may prescribe you some medicines, which are given for a 10-day period.
Also, doctors may recommend Pain medication typically over-the-counter medications such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
In this, gentle ultrasound waves send, which can generate a mild heat towards the breast tissue providing a “massage-like” effect to the blocked area of the breast tissue.
During the research, 23 out of 25 women reported a resolution of their symptoms (pain and a breast lump) in treatment with the therapeutic Ultrasound.
Five-step systematic therapy
A case study claim that five-step systematic therapy (FSST) can manage plugged breast ducts and mastitis in breastfeeding women.
Which can relieve pain, reduce breast swelling, and duration limit, Also plugged ducts or mastitis degrees are different (7).
There are some other tips that help in getting rid of blocked plugs.
- Continue breastfeeding to the affected area, which increases the chance of removing the plug and also continues draining the breast frequently.
- You can soak your breasts in warm Epsom salt baths for 10–20 minutes.
- Avoid tight bras or tight cloths
- When the baby consumes milk make sure to press the breast from top to bottom.
- Changing the breastfeeding position is also helpful, like moving around.
- Resting as much as possible
- Stay hydrated, especially in both pregnancy and breastfeeding
- Massage with oil, such as coconut oil.
Its complications may lead to making breastfeeding more difficult, which can endanger the proper nutrition of the child.
This can lead to anxiety, irritability, and frustration in both mother and the baby.
Sometimes a woman may choose to stop breastfeeding, but it can make the problem worse.
When To Talk To The Doctor?
When blocked breast duct or lumps does not go away within 3 to 4 days, and if you notice a significant increase in your symptoms, talk to your doctor.
Talk to your doctor if the:
- Lumps grow more
- High Pain and fever
- Red is an increase in size
If medical use, such as ultrasound, a biopsy can cause inflammation, in some situations it may also lead to breast cancer.
It usually resolves within 1 to 2 days, without treatment, or with treatment, but sometimes if you notice any discomfort, talk to your doctor.
The most effective treatment against blocked milk ducts is to empty the affected breasts by frequent breastfeeding or pumping.
Avoid wearing tight-fitting bras and clothes, which can damage the milk duct.