Today’s little success: A thirty minute nap! Woo! I felt so refreshed and was more productive than I had been in days. I even halfway cleaned the house. Sleep is way underrated.
Today’s small defeat: I have a clogged milk duct. Boo. It is the second one I have ever had, and it is just as unpleasant as the first time, with the exception of not freaking out this time. It is also in the exact same spot, and it was only two months ago that I had the first one.
Since this is a pretty common problem among breastfeeding mothers, I thought I might go over what it looks like and how to fix it.
What is a clogged (or plugged) milk duct?
A clogged milk duct is where the flow of milk from the duct is obstructed and unable to reach the nipple. So far, I first notice it when my breast is very tender and a little painful when Monkey Man feeds. Since he has been biting my nipple upon latching on lately, I at first thought my nipple was painful from that. But, since the pain remained after a night, I decided to have a feel around and see if a milk duct was clogged. And yep, it was. For me, when I squish around the affected boob, I can feel a hard grape-sized lump with a corresponding inflamed tube leading towards my nipple. It hurts more at the beginning of a feed than after, and has a very peculiar feeling of pain while feeding. A clogged duct can be caused by engorgement by not emptying the breast as frequently as usual or extra pressure such as under wire bras or sleeping on the stomach.
How do you treat a clogged milk duct?
What has worked for me, so far, is keeping a hot compress on the affected boob as much as possible, and particularly right before a feeding. I use diapers since they hold the heat longer than a towel – wet the diaper with water as hot as you can stand it without burning and squeeze some of the excess water out, being careful not to damage the diaper. They stay hot for about thirty minutes. I massage and hand express as much as possible, and even stand under a hot, high pressure shower (protecting the nipple as much as I can). That helps to loosen the clog before the next feed, where Monkey Man can suck it out. On kellymom.com, there are great tips and explanations for handling clogged milk ducts. But the most important step to fixing a clogged duct is to keep the breast as empty as possible while not neglecting the other one. It also helps to have strong suction. Monkey Man has the strongest suction of any person or anything else (such as a pump) that exists in my house, so I try to have him eat frequently and longer. It is easier to persuade him to do this if I go shirtless for the day, since out of sight equals out of mind for him. It is also important to get rest. And I find taking ibuprofen helps reduce the inflammation, making the clog come out a little easier. As the clogged duct resolves, you might see “stringy” milk come out, which is the clog, and is safe for a baby to eat.
If clogged milk ducts are not corrected promptly, they may turn into mastitis, which often requires a doctor’s visit and sometimes requires antibiotics. It is also more painful to have mastitis, so it is important to take clogged ducts seriously. On the bright side, clogged milk ducts are usually corrected within 24-48 hours.
I hope everyone (including myself and my sister, who is currently experiencing sleep troubles with her little one, too) have a beautiful night’s rest tonight! Sweet dreams y’all!