Plugged Milk Ducts

It won't always be smooth sailing when you're breastfeeding, despite the benefits. Sometimes, for various reasons, you milk ducts can get plugged. This can result in a sore lump forming under your areola and possibly some redness on your breast going towards your chest. A breast with a plugged duct may also be accompanied by pain, but the feeling will come and go. Left untreated, a plugged duct can lead to other health issues.

What Are the Symptoms?
Symptoms of a plugged duct include a hard lump in your breast.  If your swollen breast is accompanied by a fever, you probably have mastitis.  Unresolved plugged ducts will lead to mastitis, so it’s important to take care of a plugged duct as soon as you notice it. 

Why It Happens
Possible causes of a plugged duct include:

  • Constrictive bra; if your bra is tight or if the underwire is constrictive, put it at the back of your closet for the time being 
  • Milk stasis, or when your milk stays in the ducts 
  • Improper latch on
  • Restrictive clothing

What Can I Do?
Remember, proper latch on on is key!  If the baby isn’t feeding in the right way, it could be causing improper issuance of breast milk.  This could be due to improper feeding positions. This is usually the cause of a plugged duct, so correct the problem. 

You should also nurse often on the affected breast as this will prevent engorgement and help the milk flow through those plugged ducts.  Your baby may be a bit fussy since the flow of milk is reduced.  Just start her off on the other breast to get the let-down going. 

Another way to help move the milk around in the affected breast is through a gentle, circular massage. 

You can also try a saline soak.  Immerse your breast in a basin of warm water.  Put a teaspoon of salt for each cup of water in the basin.  You may want to try expressing or breastfeeding your milk after this.  A warm compress can also be very soothing.  You can do this in between feeds or even while you are nursing. 

Lastly, rest is very important when you have a plugged duct. 

Plugged Ducts Lead to Mastitis
It’s very important to treat a plugged duct.  If you leave a plugged duct untreated, milk will build up behind the duct and cause an inflammation called mastitis.  Mastitis is accompanied by a fever and that red, sore spot on your breast, if untreated, can get bigger. 

Having troubles breastfeeding? Visit our Breastfeeding forum to get the help you need.

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