What are the Causes and Signs of Blocked Milk Ducts?
When your breast is not drained sufficiently, the milk will accumulate behind the ducts and this will cause some uncomfortable clogging, which will lead to a possible lump (size of a pea, or larger) from the concentration of pressure. There are a few causes that may lead to a blocked milk duct, like when your child isn’t latched properly to your breast, wearing clothes or bras that wrap too tightly around your breast or even scarring from prior surgery.
Also if not cleared, this could cause mastitis – an infection that occurs from inflammation of the breast tissue. Mastitis requires immediate attention as it will form abscess – a build-up of pus. You can tell if your breast has an abscess when it feels tender and looks swollen, and will need to be drained by a specialist, followed by antibiotics to treat it.
Though a breastfeeding mother’s health is not affected by the clogged milk duct, it will reduce the flow of breast milk, hence affecting the baby’s feed. You will also have to deal with the discomfort and pain surrounding the area of the lump – not forgetting to mention that it can also move over time. Another side effect of a clogged milk duct is the texture of the milk when expressed – looking thickened or fatty, like strings or grains. On the other hand, Mastitis may cause you to have a fever of 38.3 celsius or more, chills and body aches.
How to Treat a Blocked Milk Duct and Mastitis?
As concerning as this may be, there is no need to panic as these are easily treatable if the right actions are taken without being prolonged for too long. Effective treatment for a blocked milk duct is as simple as massaging it, starting from the outer side of your breast and working your way to the clogged area, using your fingers to apply more pressure as you get closer. A pro tip is to do it while taking a warm shower, as heat will help to Emulsify the milk
You will also be advised to continue breastfeeding your child, starting with the affected breast, to give it more attention. A child usually applies more sucking pressure on the first breast offered (maybe because of hunger) and this will help with draining the milk duct to avoid clogging. If you are aware of where the clog is located, try positioning your child during breastfeeding, in such a way that your child will reach the area that is clogged first.
To treat mastitis, you will need to visit to see your doctor. You would be prescribed medication that needs to be finished in 10 days, following instructions by your doctor. Remember to keep tabs on your condition and give your doctor updates on your symptoms once you have completed the medication. If your symptoms continue, you may be required to take an ultrasound, mammogram or biopsy – in hopes that you do not potentially have inflammatory breast cancer.