Breastfeeding can be a wonderful experience and a great occasion to bond with your baby, but there are things that can go wrong, like having a blocked milk duct.
And what is it, exactly? Well, it is one of the many difficulties that can appear when we are breastfeeding our baby. Its name may seem quite self-explanatory, but actually, it’s not common that there is something blocking the duct: The problem is usually something else.
If you’re breastfeeding or planning on doing it, you should definitely keep reading the following lines, even if the experience has been a breeze so far. Most breastfeeding problems can be solved with patience and reliable information, and if you decide to bottle feed your baby it should be a decision you make yourself for your own reasons, not one that is made for you. So don’t miss the rest of this article, since you will learn everything you need to know about having a plugged milk duct!
What causes a blocked milk duct?
A blocked milk duct or clogged milk duct actually means that your breast hasn’t been drained properly – it isn’t exactly caused by anything clogging your breast. The ducts of your breast are teeny tiny tubes that are in charge to carry the milk to your nipples, so your baby can eat. The milk is squeezed by the breast muscles. So a blocked milk duct can also imply that the milk is not moving properly somewhere in your breast.
And why does it happen? Well, there are a number of reasons why you could be dealing with a blocked duct in breast, many of them related to incorrect latching or breastfeeding. For instance, you could have a blocked milk duct due to an inadequate draining, caused because your baby is not grabbing the nipple properly, is tongue-tied, or because he’s not eating much and you are temporarily producing too much milk for him. Short feeds (caused, for instance, by breast pain or you going back to work) could also provoke that your breasts aren’t fully drained. Of course, an inflammation or temporary breast problem could also result in a blocked milk duct, as well as stress and tiredness, always enemies of proper breastfeeding.
What are the symptoms of having a blocked milk duct?
There are several things that will tell you if what you’re dealing with is a blocked breast duct. Look for the following:
- You feel a lump in your breast that, besides, it is painful. It hurts more at the beginning of the feed, and it looks smaller after your little one is done eating.
- That lump can move around, disappear or appear again. For instance, you could first feel it around your armpit and then move towards the breast.
- The skin in your breast is reddish and appears irritated.
- There is a little white spot in the nipple area, around 1 mm long – which is what will give the plugged duct away, actually.
Will a blocked milk duct affect my baby?
Yes, a little bit. He or she will probably still get all the nourishment needed and will be able to eat enough, but the milk flow may be slower or poorer. This means your little one may get fussy when eating from the affected breast, but both of you should make an effort: As we will see in detail in the next section, draining your breasts is a must to solve the plugged duct problem!
What can I do if I have a blocked milk duct?
Having a blocked milk duct doesn’t mean that you will need to stop breastfeeding. There are things that you can do to both solve the problem and prevent it:
- Make sure your breasts are emptied after every feed. To solve the current blocked milk duct, give your baby that breast first. If your baby doesn’t finish, pump afterwards to make sure the breast is empty.
- Heat and a massage: Apply warm, wet compresses on the affected area and massage the breast gently, since both things can help with the clog. Besides, both will also relieve the pain as well. If the pain is too much, you can also take a small dose of ibuprofen or paracetamol, but it can’t hurt to check with the doctor first.
- Change breastfeeding positions: Not all the milk ducts are stimulated the same way with the different breastfeeding positions, so if you’re always using the same one, that may be the cause of the problem. Try different ones to make sure all the ducts stay active.
Although a blocked milk duct is typically caused by incorrect breastfeeding and solved with correct one, but there may be other factors involved. Keep your breasts and nipples clean, since hygiene is always important in such a delicate area. Try not to wear tight clothes or bras, since they could make the problem worse.
Should I go to the doctor if I suspect I have a blocked milk duct?
This is not one of the most serious breastfeeding problems, so it should go away fairly quickly. If the situation hasn’t improved in a day or if the pain doesn’t get better even when you massage the breast or try other tips, then yes, you should call the doctor. You may be dealing with something other than a blocked milk duct, like mastitis.
Now that you have all this information, not only can you solve a possible blocked milk duct problem, but also prevent it from happening. It is important that the baby latches on correctly and that your breasts are drained in every feed to prevent it from happening.