Many breastfeeding moms will experience a plugged milk duct at least once. While a plugged milk duct can be quite painful, it is not usually serious, and can be easily treated at home.
Do a symptom check to make sure that you do indeed have a plugged milk duct. Most women will notice a lump or hardened area in the breast, but this may not always be present. The area is usually tender, and may be warm, red, and/or swollen. A plugged milk duct usually feels worse just before nursing and will feel better after nursing. Nursing on that side may be painful, especially when your milk lets down.
A plugged milk duct does not usually come with a fever, but some women do experience a low-grade fever (less than 101.3º). A higher fever may indicate mastitis, which is a breast infection. Mastitis can also be treated at home, but severe cases may require medical intervention. A plugged milk duct can easily become mastitis, so be sure to act quickly in treating the plugged milk duct as soon as symptoms appear.
One of the most effective methods of relieving a plugged milk duct is gentle massage. Massage the area from the chest outward toward the nipple. Gentle pressure is adequate; too much pressure can cause bruising and damage breast tissue. Do this frequently throughout the day to help empty the plugged milk duct.
Warm compresses can help relieve a plugged milk duct. Simply place the compress over the affected area for a few minutes at a time throughout the day. Be sure that the compress is not hot; too much heat can damage breast tissue and increase inflammation.
It is important for any person to stay well-hydrated, and especially so for nursing moms. Be sure to drink at least 10 cups of water per day. Some people need more water in order to function well, so talk to your doctor about the appropriate amount for you. Nursing moms do not need to drink excessive amounts of water, but it is important to drink the amount appropriate for your weight.
Frequent nursing will help drain the plugged milk duct and speed relief. You may want to massage the area during a nursing session to help empty the duct more quickly. Try to empty the affected breast as often as possible to keep the plugged milk duct drained.
A plugged milk duct is usually not cause for concern. Many women find that they have a recurring problem with a plugged milk duct, and they find relief by following the methods outlined in this article. For more information on plugged milk ducts, please see a lactation consultant, or refer to the links at the end of this article.
**This is one of a series of articles about common breastfeeding problems. To see the rest of the series and other articles by this writer, please click on the picture of the baby’s bottom, at the top of the article beside the author’s name. **