Blocked milk ducts occur quite commonly in mothers who breastfeed their babies. The milk ducts extend from the cells that produce milk to the nipples. When a milk duct gets plugged, a tender lump develops under the areola. There could be redness around the area of the lump that is likely to extend to the chest wall.
A blocked milk duct can lead to bouts of pain. Usually this condition does not lead to any other feelings of illness. But if treatment is not administered early, the duct can become infected and lead to mastitis. Mastitis is generally caused by Staph bacteria, but can also occur due to Strep when it develops in both breasts. A breast abscess may also develop.
Symptoms for Blocked Milk Duct
The most prominent sign of a blocked milk duct is a small hardened area in the breast. The area may feel sore when touched and may cause pain and tenderness. Redness may also be noticed in some cases and the lump may feel warm or swollen. Usually, the discomfort eases after nursing. However, nursing on the affected side may also sometimes be painful. A blocked milk duct generally tends to occur on just one breast at a time and tends to harden progressively.
Due to the blockage, milk supply may reduce temporarily. Some women notice the appearance of some amount of thicker milk that is grainy in texture. There may be some amount of bruising even after the lump goes away. A blocked milk duct generally does not cause a fever, but if this does occur it is essential to consult a doctor. Symptoms such as feverishness, aching and overall illness could be indicative of infection and hence should not be ignored.
Causes for Blocked Milk Duct
There can be various causes of a blocked milk duct. They are most likely to occur because the breasts are not drained of milk regularly. This may happen if the baby is not able to latch on to the nipple properly or is not consuming enough of milk. An oversupply of milk or having to nurse twins is known to increase the risk of milk duct blockage as well.
Women who use pumps that are not adequately powerful may also develop a plugged milk duct. Incomplete drainage of the breasts may also occur when the baby is weaned abruptly or when the duct is damaged or strained. Compression of the duct is likely to occur if the nursing bra does not fit properly or due to sleeping continuously on the stomach. Vigorous arm exercises could be another cause of duct blockage.
These factors can cause the milk to buildup in the duct. Sometimes mothers may reduce nursing when they are affected with illness. This can also make the milk ducts prone to blockage. Another cause of this condition could be stress, which reduces the production of oxytocin in the body. This is the hormone that stimulates the release of milk from the breasts. Women who have undergone surgical procedures such as a breast biopsy may also experience blockage of the milk ducts.
Blocked Milk Duct home remedies and natural cures, Questions and answers
Remedies for Blocked Milk Duct
Frequent nursing is the best way to get rid of a blockage in the milk ducts. Even if the blocked duct causes pain while nursing, it is important to continue, as complete emptying of the breast will alleviate discomfort and also decrease the inflammation. If the pain is not too severe, it is advisable to begin nursing on the affected side. This is because the sucking action of babies is strongest in the beginning and this can help to remove the blockage. In case nursing is not enough to drain the affected breast, a breast pump may be used. Pumping out the rest of the milk after an incomplete feeding is helpful in reducing the risk of blockage.
The soreness and pain caused by a blocked milk duct can be greatly eased through a regular massage of the area. Begin by massaging the area outside the breast and then move towards the nipple. Castor oil may be used to massage the affected area. Remember to also massage the area around the nipple and the side of the breast as well. It also helps to place warm compresses such as a heating pad on the affected side before nursing. Soaking the breasts in warm water to which Epsom salts have been added is also a good way to treat milk duct blockages.
The affected breast may be covered with a warm towel in order to retain the heat and once it is sufficiently warm it may be massaged. This can be done just before nursing. Cold packs are also known to help. This helps to open the plugged duct, thereby reducing swelling and discomfort. Another way to obtain relief is to change the nursing position. You can switch from your usual position to a cradle or reclined position. This will help to drain all the ducts. Many women find that the discomfort is considerably alleviated when they hold the baby to the breast, with the chin pointing at the affected spot. Once the baby latches on and begins nursing in this position, the suction is aimed directly at the clogged duct and this will encourage drainage. Doctors may sometimes prescribe medications to reduce pain and inflammation. It is important to consult a doctor before taking any type of medication while breastfeeding.
Adequate rest is also very essential when faced with a blocked milk duct as it helps in healing and recovery. The pressure on the affected side can be reduced by sleeping on your side or back. In order to prevent future occurrences of blocked ducts it is advisable to nurse frequently and avoid going for long stretches in between feedings. Also ensure that nursing bras fit comfortably. They should be made of cotton as synthetic fibers can aggravate the condition. Avoid wearing bras that have underwires as these can exert strain on the milk ducts.
Blocked Milk Duct : Home Remedies suggested by users
Diet for Blocked Milk Duct
To prevent infection and inflammation, the daily diet must consist of nutritious foods. It is also important to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water every day. A healthy intake of vitamin C helps to prevent blockage of the milk ducts. It also helps in quick healing if there is an infection. Certain herbs are known to be beneficial in alleviating the problem of plugged milk ducts. Extracts of Echinacea and lecithin are examples of such herbs. These may be consumed in the form of tea. They promote unclogging of the milk ducts and also help reduce pain. Mild exercise such as walking is also beneficial in reducing discomfort.
Suggestion for Blocked Milk Duct
Weaning should not be done too early and should also take place in a gradual manner. This will help to prevent blockages of the milk ducts.