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Breastfeeding And Plugged Ducts
What is a plugged duct?
A plugged duct is a milk duct in your breast that is blocked. Milk ducts carry breast milk from the glands (small sacs) where it is made down to your nipple. When a duct is blocked, the flow of milk from the duct to your nipple may decrease or stop. Milk may build up and cause a tender lump to form in your breast.
What increases my risk for a plugged duct?
- Incomplete breast emptying may increase your risk. Some examples include hurrying through breastfeeding sessions or switching breasts too early. Missed feedings may also cause milk to build up and lead to a plugged duct.
- Pressure on your breasts may come from tight tops, tight bras, or underwire bras. This pressure may pinch your milk ducts and trap milk inside your breasts.
- Engorgement may develop if your breasts are very full. The increased milk presses on your milk ducts. This makes it difficult for the milk to move through the milk ducts. Your breasts become swollen and painful.
- Past problems with plugged ducts may also increase your risk.
What are the signs and symptoms of a plugged duct?
- Tender breast lump that grows slowly and usually forms on one side of your breast
- Pink or red skin over the tender area
- Increased warmth in your breast
- Small, white bump on your nipple
- Pain in your nipple or shooting pains in your breast
How is a plugged duct treated?
The best treatment for a plugged duct is to empty your breast completely during breastfeeding.
- Breastfeed often from the breast that has the plugged duct. Feed your baby from the side that has the plugged duct first. Frequent breastfeeding may remove the blockage in your milk duct.
- Position your baby to help empty milk from the plugged duct. Hold your baby so that his nose is pointing toward the area of your breast with the plugged duct. This helps drain breast milk from the plugged duct.
- Massage your breast before and during breastfeeding. You may also do this while you take a hot shower or bath. Massage your breast with firm pressure from the area just behind the lump to the nipple.
- Express milk after you breastfeed. Use a breast pump or your hand to drain extra milk after your baby is done feeding. You can also express milk if your breasts are too full for your baby to latch on.
- Apply warmth to your breasts before you breastfeed. Put a warm, wet cloth on your breasts, or take a warm shower or bath. You can also lean over a sink or basin of warm water and place your breasts in it. This may help remove the blockage and increase your milk flow.
- Ask your caregiver about medicines. Ibuprofen and acetaminophen are common over-the-counter medicines that help decrease pain and swelling. Follow your caregiver's directions on how to take them.
What are the risks of a plugged duct?
A plugged duct may lead to a breast infection called mastitis. An abscess (pus pocket) may form in the same area as the plugged duct. A plugged duct may make breastfeeding painful.
What can I do to help prevent a plugged duct?
- Breastfeed often. Breastfeed your baby 8 to 12 times each day or any time he shows signs of being hungry. Signs include looking more awake and being more active. He may also put his hands in his mouth or act like he is sucking. You may need to wake your baby to breastfeed more often, or use a pump if your baby cannot empty your breasts.
- Breastfeed long enough to allow your baby to empty your breast. Your baby will show you when he is full. He may turn his head away from the breast or give you other signs that he is full.
- Remove pressure from your breasts. Try not to sleep on your stomach, because the pressure on your breasts may increase your risk for a plugged duct. Do not wear tight bras or clothing that places pressure on your breasts.
Where can I find more information?
- La Leche League International
957 North Plum Grove Road
Schaumburg , IL 60173
Phone: 1- 847 - 519-7730
Phone: 1- 800 - 525-3243
Web Address: http://www.lalecheleague.org
When should I contact my caregiver?
Contact your caregiver if:
- You have a fever and chills.
- Your body aches.
- Your breast is red, very swollen or hard, painful, and feels warm or hot.
- You have a new tender lump in the same area that you have had a lump before.
- You have nipple soreness or cracked or bleeding nipples.
- You have pus or blood draining from one or both of your nipples or mixed in with your milk.
- Your signs and symptoms do not get better within 24 hours.
- You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.
Care AgreementYou have the right to help plan how you are going to feed your baby. To help with this plan, you must learn as much as you can about breastfeeding. Ask your caregiver questions about breastfeeding. Talk with your caregiver about the best way to feed your baby.The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.
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