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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Breastfeeding Issue: Plugged Ducts

I'm currently breastfeeding my third baby. I will be the FIRST one to say that breastfeeding is not easy. I have experienced pretty much every possible breastfeeding issue. I understand why so many people do give up with it, but am thankful I've always fought through the tough parts because it truly is SO worth it!!!


Probably one of the worst things you can experience as a breast-feeding mother is mastitis. It's horrrrrrible and is something you want to avoid at all costs! With my first baby I didn't know about mastitis. I didn't know what signs to look for and I didn't know that it could have been preventable if I'd seen the symptoms. Recently I started having symptoms that mastitis could be on it's way and I was able to stop it from happening!

The main thing that leads to mastitis is plugged milk ducts. How do you know when you have a clogged duct? Your breast will have a hard spot (or spots). They may be tender to the touch. They may also be red. The goal needs to be to unclog the duct(s), and FAST.

The answer to pretty much ANY nursing issue is to nurse more :) It's often the very last thing you want to do while in pain...but it'll help clear things up more than anything else! It is also important to be drinking plenty of water, eating a healthy variety of foods, and  getting REST (easier said than done, right?)

If you have a plugged duct always start each nursing session on that side. Be sure to massage the area like crazy while your baby eats. It may not be very comfortable but it will help get that milk flowing and hopefully release the clogged area. 

Once you are done nursing then it's also best to pump right away. Again massage the area while pumping. Pumping after nursing helps makes sure you are getting fully emptied and will help make sure the clogged issue doesn't get worse.

In between feedings a good trick I learned is to fill a bowl with hot water and epsom salt. You can dip your breast in the water and massage the area. The salt and water combo helps to get milk flowing and release any areas where it's clogged. 

Another thing to do between feedings is to apply moist heat to the area. If you have a heating pad then put it on the highest setting. Use a wet wash cloth against your chest (on the area that's clogged if possible) and apply the heating pad on top of the cloth. Do it for 10-20 min at a time and, again, massage like a crazy woman :) Also taking a warm shower and letting the hot water hit your chest helps to break up the duct and helps ease the pain!

Prior to nursing I recommend heating up Booby Tubes and putting them on your breasts. I would go heat mine up a few minutes before getting Tess up from her nap. By the time I woke her and changed her diaper they had done their job. The warm heat from them will help let down occur quicker and help ease the pain. 

Taking IBProphen will also help with any discomfort during the time period of having a clogged duct. It is also important to be sure to wear loose fitting clothing. If your bra is too tight (what I think caused my issue) then it will only make things worse. Also make sure to sleep on your back. Sleeping on your stomach while nursing can also cause issues, including clogged ducts. 

It took me a full day of focusing all my energy on my plugged duct to get it resolved. IF you don't feel better and instead start to feel worse then you may have developed mastitis. If you have ANY fever then call your OB right away. They can prescribe meds over the phone. It's very important to get the meds right away to help mastitis clear up as quickly as possible. Rest and nursing are both essential in the healing process and neither are very possible without the medication you need!

Hopefully these tips will help prevent you from getting mastitis in the first place! I had plugged ducts in one breast and worked a whole day on them and were able to clear them up and then I got plugged ducts in the other breast the next day haha! Thankfully I was able to get them all unclogged without experiencing mastitis! 

Another great resource for what to do when you have plugged ducts is this article from Kelly Mom! 
Have you ever experienced plugged ducts? Any tips I didn't think of that help?

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