Breastfeeding is a natural act that provides a host of health benefits to both the mother and the baby. But for some mothers, breastfeeding may not be an easy task. Sometimes pain and lumps develop in the breast, making breastfeeding challenging.
This pain and lumps are caused by clogging in the milk duct. A lot of new moms worry if a clogged milk duct will dry up. We looked into it and this is what we found…
Will A Clogged Milk Duct Eventually Dry Up?
A mother’s breast contains 4-18 milk ducts. Just because a few milk ducts are clogged does not mean that the milk supply dries up. It only results in less supply of milk. Once the clog is cleared (normally in 24-48 hours), you can continue breastfeeding the baby like normal.
If you want to learn more about what a clogged milk duct is, how to fix it, and more, keep reading….
What Is A Clogged Milk Duct?
The breastmilk is produced in the lobules and reaches the nipple in the mother’s breast through thin tubes called milk ducts. There are 4-18 milk ducts in a breast. Sometimes there can be a blockage in any of the milk ducts caused by a build-up of milk. When this happens, the milk cannot come out or comes out in less quantity. This is called a clogged milk duct.
In most cases, a clogged milk duct is harmless and gets cleared within a few days with proper care. But for some mothers, the ducts will not get unclogged easily, resulting in other health problems.
A clogged milk duct usually occurs when you start weaning the baby. In such a situation, it is good to express or pump the milk in less quantity so that your body automatically adjusts and produces less milk.
What Are The Symptoms Of A Clogged Milk Duct?
A person with a clogged milk duct will experience the below symptoms
- Swelling and pain in the breast.
- Breast becomes tender and warm to the touch.
- Fever, chill and body ache.
- Milk that comes out is mixed with blood or pus.
- Nipples get infected or cracked.
If you experience any of the above symptoms, and the baby appears to be fussy after a feed, you can conclude that the milk duct is clogged.
What Are The Causes Of A Clogged Milk Duct?
The main cause for a clogged milk duct is the milk not oozing out properly. Any of the below factors can cause this
- Feeding more in one breast and less on the other.
- Infrequent feeding.
- Poor latching of the baby because of which the milk does not ooze out properly.
- Pressure on the breast that is caused by a too-tight bra.
In addition to this, if you have experienced this condition earlier or have cracked nipple skin, it can cause a clogged milk duct. Poor diet, stress and smoking can also cause clogging of the milk duct. If you are dehydrated, it can change the composition of the breastmilk resulting in clogging.
What Do I Do If My Clogged Milk Duct Won’t Unclog?
You can try out any of the below methods to unclog a clogged milk duct.
- Empty the breast
One main cause for the milk duct getting clogged is not emptying the breast properly. If the baby is not sucking properly, you should try to empty the breast using a breast pump.
Pumping on a clogged breast can be painful. To reduce the pain, you should first start pumping on the unclogged side. This will start the milk let down from the other breast. Then you can slowly pump from the clogged breast.
- Massage the breast
Massaging the clogged area helps to increase the milk let down. You can use your hand to massage the clogged breast slowly. In addition, you can also use a lactation massager that causes vibration in the breast. This vibration can break through the clog resulting in milk let-down.
- Apply warmth
Applying warmth to the clogged area is another way to break through the clog. You can do this in two ways. One way is to use a warm compress or a warm cloth and place it on the clogged breast.
Another way is to take a hot water shower. But make sure that the water is not too hot that it hurts you.
How Long Can A Milk Duct Stay Clogged?
A clogged duct will usually clear within 1-2 days. If it does not get unclogged within this time, you should use any of the above methods to unclog it. Otherwise, it can cause serious health problems like mastitis.
Once the milk duct is unclogged, you can make out the difference by feeling the breast. But the pain will take some more time to clear off.
How To Prevent Clogging Of Breasts?
- Empty the breast completely
The best way to prevent clogging is to empty the breast fully at regular intervals. You can create a feeding schedule and try to stick to the same. If you cannot feed one time by any chance, you should pump out the milk to prevent clogging.
- Use a shield of the right size.
If you are using a breast pump for expressing milk, you should make sure that the flange is of the right size. The pumping becomes inefficient if it is too small or too big, affecting the milk’s proper letdown.
- Use a bra of the right size.
If a bra you use is too tight, it can compress the breast resulting in a clogged milk duct. Thus, you should ensure that the bra you are using is of the right fit, which is neither too tight nor too loose.
A clogged milk duct is very common when you are breastfeeding a baby. Whenever you feel that the baby is not happy after a feed, you should check the breast to ensure no clogging.
In case you notice one, you should massage or apply a warm compress to unclog it and improve the milk supply.
If applying warmth and massaging does not give the desired result, and you experience fever and chill, you should consult a doctor without delay. Untreated clogged milk ducts can result in conditions like mastitis.