Breastfeeding does not come without its challenges. At some point you may notice areas of your breast that seem firm and possibly painful. There may even be a milk blister on your nipple. Unfortunately, chances are that you will have some plugged ducts during your breastfeeding journey. A plugged duct is caused by breastmilk that sits in the breast and thickens. Knowing how to handle clogs before they potentially become mastitis is very important. Because mastitis is an infection, it is harder to resolve and requires a doctor’s visit to receive antibiotics.
One of the best ways to release a clog is to apply moist heat to the area, then breastfeed using the dangle position with your baby’s chin pointed toward the clog. You may have to do this for a few feeds, but many mothers swear by this action. Another option that may be helpful is to use vibration, like that of an electric toothbrush, to massage the clog and help break it up. Avoid wearing tight clothing as that can exacerbate plugged milk ducts.
If your clog isn’t releasing and you feel like you have the flu or your breast is warm and starts developing red streaks, your plugged duct may have brought on mastitis. Mastitis is an infection of the breast tissue, commonly caused by a blocked milk duct or also by bacteria entering the breast. Contact your care provider to schedule a visit if you think you have mastitis. Most people will feel better after just a couple days of taking antibiotics.
Breastfeeding is not easy! However, knowing about the potential issues that may occur can help you know what to do if a problem arises. Getting the support of a lactation counselor can be very helpful as well. If breastfeeding is what you want to do, then you can get through it!