If you’re in the throes of breastfeeding, you may find yourself dealing with a plugged duct. Plugged ducts are very common among breastfeeding moms, especially if your baby is not latching well or if you’ve recently decreased feedings because you’ve gone back to work.
When you have a plugged duct, milk cannot flow through that part of your breast and causes a blockage. It can happen anywhere in your milk ducts or even on the nipple itself (called a milk blister). Usually, you’ll notice that the area around the plugged duct is sore, hot, red, and there will probably be a hard lump. The pain is often worse right before or at the beginning of a feeding.
A plugged duct can lead to mastitis, which is an inflammation of the breast, if it’s not dealt with quickly. When you have mastitis, it feels very similar to the flu – common symptoms are high fever, body aches and chills. Your breast will feel the same as a plugged duct, but the pain may be more intense.
An average of 1 in 5 American women get mastitis while breastfeeding.
The best way to avoid mastitis is to try to clear the plugged duct as quickly as possible, and a simple way to do that is to nurse and nurse often. The more you empty the affected breast, the better your chances of clearing the blockage. It’s also very important to drink lots of fluids, eat well and rest. If you end up with mastitis, you’ll need to stay in bed and get help with those house chores!
Here are some other tips for clearing the plugged duct:
- Gently massage the lump right before and during feedings.
- Use a warm compress or take a hot shower while you massage your breast.
- Nurse more frequently and empty any remaining milk with a breast pump.
- Use a cold compress in between feedings for pain.
Usually plugged ducts and mastitis don’t require any antibiotic treatment, but if the symptoms do not improve within a 24-hour period, contact your obstetrician right away.
Breastfeeding problems are very common, so please don’t hesitate to call and talk with one of our Gainesville or Lake City doctors or nurses about any breastfeeding-related issues or questions. We have a dedicated maternity team that is dedicated to providing you with great care during pregnancy and afterward!