Motherhood is the culmination of many joys! The careful pregnancy, the endless wait, the well wishes… Amidst all these joys there are many problems too that creep up every now and then to kill the joy of being a mother. Clogged milk ducts are a very common problem faced by women who are breastfeeding and lactating.
While the condition in itself is a harmless one, leaving it untreated can lead to a host of other problems that could require medical and surgical intervention.
What are clogged milk ducts?
Clogged milk ducts are blockages that happen in the milk ducts of a lactating woman. Clogging of milk ducts result in milk getting accumulated inside without having an outlet to be relieved. This will result in bacterial infection and can cause an abscess if left untreated. The first symptom of a clogged duct is a lump that is present inside the breast. The blocking of milk ducts can cause great difficulties while you are breastfeeding. Pain inside the breasts, accompanied by fever, chills and general discomfort follow soon. Clogging and resultant symptoms can advance at a high pace and can result in severe bacterial infection if not treated on time.
What are the Reasons for clogged milk ducts?
Several factors can result in a clogged milk duct. The most common of them all is the fact that many mothers do not understand the importance of proper feeding positions while breastfeeding their babies. Lack of awareness and a slack attitude towards seeking prompt treatment and relieving the symptoms worsen the clogging resulting in severe mastitis and abscesses. Clogging can also be the result of mothers skipping frequent feeds or feeding the babies half leaving the rest of the milk inside the ducts. These practises result in milk ducts getting blocked with milk that was not removed completely.
Another reason for clogging is the use of breast pumps. Many working mothers resort to this method while they cannot take leave to be at home. Using a faulty breast pump or going through a faulty procedure of pumping milk can cause the ducts to clog and result in complications.
Wearing tight clothes and ill fitting bras can lead to blockages in the milk ducts. Lactating breasts require good air circulation to remain healthy. Compressing them inside very tight clothes will result in the crucial milk ducts getting closed and milk getting accumulated without release. A closed duct will mean that milk will not get removed even when the baby suckles.
How can clogged milk ducts be cured and prevented?
While severe cases of clogging will result in the formation of an abscess due to bacterial infection, mild to moderate cases of clogging can very well be treated at home without taking help from a health care provider.
Continuous breastfeeding for clogged milk ducts
Many women who are unaware of the condition would stop breastfeeding altogether fearing that the infection could be transferred to the baby. This is a serious mistake and can result in the rapid advancement of symptoms. Breast feeding must be continued at any cost while having a clogged duct This will not only relieve the symptoms, but may also result in complete recovery in some cases. While breastfeeding, make sure that you massage the sore area thoroughly to unplug the clogs.
Massaging clogged milk ducts
If you feel a lump inside your breast, you must immediately try to express the clogged milk to prevent infection. There are many ways by which you can do this. Massaging the area that is sore will allow the clogs to be relieved. You must massage before you breastfeed. A better method is to massage while you breastfeed the baby. This will result in clogs getting removed and milk getting released simultaneously. In order to avoid clog formation, it is advised to massage the breasts every time you breastfeed. Massaging must be from the top to the bottom of the breasts. When you massage, all the milk ducts release the milk completely.
Warm Compress for clogged milk ducts
Before breast feeding, you can apply a cloth dipped in warm to hot water on the affected area. This will result in the softening of the breast tissues and pave way for better draining of milk ducts. Warm compressors help in relieving clogged ducts in most cases. It can be applied several times a day in order to prevent advancement and relief of symptoms.
Correct nursing position for clogged milk ducts
A clogged milk duct could have been triggered by incorrect nursing positions in the first place. So all mothers must find a nursing position that suits them as soon as they start breast feeding. Trying a number of positions will help you analyse how best the milk is getting sucked, your baby’s convenience, whether you still feel full after a nursing session etc. By analysing all these you will be able to pin point the best nursing positions that are good for the baby as well as you. Getting the right nursing posture will avoid clog formation and complete draining of milk.
Avoiding tight lingerie for relieving clogged milk ducts
Breastfeeding is the time when mothers have to use lingerie that is not too tight around their breasts. Tight lingerie, especially bras will clog milk ducts as there is no air circulation and blood circulation. One must ensure correct fitting bras that are loose enough to allow air circulation. You could opt for dresses with soft padding in the front which will allow you to forgo bras and allow your breasts to be free. Using clean cotton clothes and changing them as frequently as you deem necessary are essential practices that a lactating mother must cultivate.
Personal hygiene is also important while you breastfeed your baby. Taking bath at least once a day is a practice you must stick to for the health of your baby and you. A diet rich in vitamin C is good if you have clogged pores. Vitamin C can prevent as well as relieve clogging of milk ducts. If you experience persistent symptoms that do not subside even after hot compressors and massaging, make sure that you plan a visit to the physicist to rule out complications.