Blocked Milk Ducts When Breastfeeding – What to Do?
I’ve experienced blocked milk ducts twice now and it’s quite uncomfortable and painful and can lead to mastitis if you don’t resolve it quickly. The first time it happened was a few days after I’d stopped breastfeeding my first baby and the second time was this past weekend. I don’t know why it happened this second time as I’d been feeding my baby as usual — sometimes it just happens!
Imagine your breast is like an orange — divided into segments. These segments are the milk-making glands and from them, there are ducts which are narrow tubes that carry the milk to your nipple. If a gland is not drained properly during a feed, it can become blocked and that usually leads to a tender lump in your breast.
So what can you do when you find yourself with blocked milk ducts?
- Try to get your baby to help clear the duct by letting him or her feed frequently from the affected breast. Don’t ignore the other breast completely though!
- Try different breastfeeding positions to see if that helps get the duct clear.
- Heat can help encourage the flow so try having a hot bath or shower or use a hot water bottle on your breast.
- Don’t wear any tight clothing and don’t wear a bra until your symptoms go away as tight clothes can have a negative effect on milk flow.
- Massage can help but try to be gentle. Try using some oil (like the Weleda Nursing Oil (also available from Amazon.co.uk) for example or any that you might have in) and massaging downwards towards the nipple. I used a massage ball like this one after manual massage didn’t work for me and it really helped reach the area that I couldn’t get to with my hands. Massaging your breast while your baby feeds from it can also help.
When I experienced this the first time, the lump was quite hard and large. I cleared it by massaging and squeezing the lump and I could actually hear it pop when it happened. Then a bit of milk came out and that was it. The second time was this weekend and I did all the things above and it cleared gradually over a couple of days. The next thing I was going to try was using my electric breast pump to see if that could clear it but that wasn’t necessary this time.
If you are worried or have any other symptoms that might indicate mastitis (see the NHS website), make sure you contact your GP.