In this article
Blocked Milk DuctsCauses of Blocked Milk Ducts and MastitisReasons & effects : Blocked milk ductsRemedies for Blocked Milk DuctsWhen to Seek Expert Help
Once you deliver your baby, it is not only crucial to take proper care of your baby, but also to pay attention to your own health. Out of the many challenges that you may face, blocked milk ducts can be a crucial one. It may lead to pain and swollen breasts. You can find here a brief explanation on blocked milk ducts and mastitis, and the different ways to ease this discomfort.
Blocked Milk Ducts
Each breast is made up of an intricate network of ducts that act as carriers of milk from the tissues in your breast to the nipple. Your baby will latch on to your nipples milk and blocked ducts can be a problem for easy milk supply to your baby. There are two kinds of blockages: one implying an early stage of mastitis and the other is an actual blocked duct, also known as true blocked duct. Both exhibit similar symptoms but the causes can vary. Lump formation is a major symptom in both types of mastitis along with symptoms like swollen, painful and red patchy breasts.
Causes of Blocked Milk Ducts and Mastitis
There are times when your baby feeds and fails to drain all the milk stored in your breasts. This retention of milk, also known as milk stasis, can result in inflammation or blockage of milk ducts. It commonly occurs during the initial months of breastfeeding, when the new mother is getting used to nursing the baby. Secondly, in case your milk production is faster than the rate at which the baby consumes, the left milk gets pressurized to enter the breast tissue and may cause swelling. The affected area can become lumpy, red and cause pain.
Another condition is where the excess milk enters your bloodstream, making you feel unwell, and increasing your body temperature. This is a major symptom of Mastitis. A flu-like feeling sets in as your body mistakes the breast milk running in your bloodstream to be foreign particles, and your inbuilt immune system will try to combat it.
True Blocked Milk Ducts
This is a rare condition compared to mastitis, and takes place after months or weeks of breastfeeding. The breasts get swelled up and a white spot can be seen at the tip of the nipple. This is nothing but the accumulated dead skin cells, which may be blocking the opening of the nipple and thereby causing obstruction in the free-flow of milk.
Reasons & effects : Blocked milk ducts
Blocked milk ducts do not affect your baby. The affected breast may exhibit low milk flow, or it may taste a bit different due to the inflammation or soreness, but it won’t affect the baby. The baby may initially feel a little irritated on being fed but he will soon get used to it.
There are certain cases when a baby refuses to latch due to blocked milk ducts. There are other reasons for a baby not latching on. Your baby may refuse to latch due to breast engorgement, a runny nose, teething problem and so on. In such a situation, try to press the milk before letting the baby to latch on as it will soften the area for the baby, making it easier for him to feed.
The baby may also refuse to latch due to a change in the taste of your breast milk. If he is uncomfortable only on the affected breast, the chances are that the sodium level in your milk has increased due to mastitis, and it may taste salty. If your baby is unsettled on both the breasts, it may be because of the taste of medicines taken by the new mom. To minimize the taste of medicines, you can try to pump at an interval of every 3 hours to feed the baby.
Do not try to bottle feed your baby when he refuses to latch, as it tends to complicate things further by causing ‘nipple confusion’. You can offer the baby milk with the use of sterilized medicine dropper, eye dropper, medicine cup etc.
Remedies for Blocked Milk Ducts
- Apply warmcompress on your breasts and take hot water showers.Make sure your infant is latched on properly.
- Gently massage the lumpy area during breastfeeding towards the direction of your nipple.
- Try different feeding positions like placing your baby under the arm instead of putting him across your body. Trying different methods will also allow the little one to latch on in a better manner.
- Offer the infant your affected breast first and then the other one.
- If your milk ducts are not properly cleared after the baby has breastfed, then gently pump the breasts later on.You can use a breast pump to draw milk out of your breasts. An electric pump may be a better option than a manual pump. You can use the pump for as many times as you want in a day. Ideally, you should pump both the breasts twice, or until the milk flow from the breast slows down considerably.
When to Seek Expert Help
In case these remedies do not work out, consult an expert and try to find the true source of the problem. Most women go for vitamin C supplements for plugged milk ducts or mastitis. Additionally, it is suggested that you increase your intake of liquids, and also lower the amount of saturated fats in your diet.
For women who are on antibiotics and are facing recurrent mastitis, it is better to take a lower dose of antibiotics for at least 2-3 months in consultation with your doctor. For women who opt for this method, it is advisable to have an antifungal medication to supplement the diet and reduce the risk of thrush (a fungal infection).