Dealing With Blocked Milk Ducts

November 8, 2010

When a woman gives birth her breasts begin to produce milk. The milk is stored in ducts or channels and it is through these ducts or channels that the nourishment for her baby flows. Sometimes milk builds up in these ducts in the form of a blockage which you'll notice as a hard lump in your breasts. The plugged milk duct becomes inflamed and sore and may be itchy. Women with blocked milk ducts sometimes also feel tired, run down and feverish like they would with a cold or flu. These conditions worsen if the infection worsened.

Cause of Blocked Milk Ducts

Breast milk ducts become blocked when the milk hasn't drained completely. There are many reasons for this including suffering from some sort of illness like a cold, stress, tight bras, awkward sleeping, a seatbelt pushes against a breast for an extended period of time, or stress. Sometimes incorrect breastfeeding techniques can cause a blocked channel. Occasionally excessive pump use has also been associated with duct blockages.

Are Blocked Milk Ducts Bad for the Baby?

A blocked milk duct will not harm your baby, but it could make you sick if the blockage isn't fixed and becomes worse turning into a condition called mastitis. The side with the blockage might have a lower or slower milk flow which can frustrate your baby and make him or her fussy when feeding from that breast.

There's no need to worry about the bacteria in the blockage from harming your baby because human milk has natural antibacterial properties that can fight off modest amounts of bacteria so your baby won't get sick.

Preventing and Treating Blocked Ducts

If you have a blocked duct, massage the sore area beginning at the top of your breast and working your way to the nipple. This can loosen the blockage by forcing the milk down. Applying warm compresses before you do this will help the milk flow. You can also do this in the shower with your breasts sprayed with warm water. Allow the extra milk to leak from your breasts.

Get enough rest or as much as you possibly can. This can be difficult especially if there are other children to care for. But it's important to get as much sleep as possible since lack of sleep can be a contributing factor to stress levels which can cause your milk to not flow.

Frequent breastfeeding reduces the chance of milk building up in the breast ducts. Try to avoid long stretches between feedings. If you can't nurse, pump instead. Make sure your bra fits correctly and doesn't bind your breasts increasing the chance of a blockage. Sometimes varying the feeding position of your baby can direct suction on the blocked duct and help release it. If weaning, do so slowly so your body gets used to producing less milk.

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