Breastfeeding with Blocked Ducts & Mastitis

Caucasian mother breast feeding baby boy
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Breastfeeding is pretty straightforward for most moms and babies, but sometimes, you will have minor issues that arise. Some of the most common stumbling blocks are blocked ducts and mastitis.

Blocked Ducts

Blocked ducts are caused when milk is not removed from a milk duct. The good news is that this typically will take care of itself within a day or two. Though there are things that you can do to help make it happen more quickly.

This includes:

  • Applying warmth to the affected area. This can be a warm compress, a rice sock, or even warm water in the shower, directly hitting the area of your breast.
  • You can massage the area to help the blocked duct clear itself. Some moms find doing this while the baby is nursing is easier.
  • Some lactation consultants recommend that you have the baby feed from that breast so that the chin of the baby points towards the duct that is clogged, this often helps drain it more effectively. This is easier with older babies but can be done with little ones with help.

It is important to remember that the worst thing that you can do for a clogged duct is to stop nursing. This will only make the situation worse. Remember, keep feeding the baby! If for some reason the baby is not nursing, bring out your pump or try hand expression.

There are also other treatments available from your practitioner if the above doesn't work after two days.

This can include a therapeutic ultrasound or even Lecithin. Dr. Newman recommends this as one capsule three or four times a day (1200 mg).

Mastitis

Mastitis is a bacterial infection in the breast.  It can happen with or without blocked ducts. The biggest difference between blocked ducts and mastitis is the intensity of the symptoms.

Mastitis is often accompanied with pain, fever, chills, etc. Some mothers may think that they have the flu. The breast may also be hot and swollen. Mastitis also needs treatment with antibiotics. This is usually prescribed by the mother's practitioner.

"I felt like I had the worst flu ever," said Elise, a mother of three. "I had never had mastitis and couldn't believe that it was a breast infection. It felt so similar to the flu. Thankfully my lactation consultant helped me talk to my doctor and get the antibiotics needed. She also helped me figure out how to take over the counter pain medication."

Again, continuing to breastfeed is the best option when you have mastitis. You can take antibiotics while breastfeeding, as well as pain medication.

One thing to consider is why you have a blocked duct or mastitis. Many times it may be due to the fact that your baby doesn't have a good latch. It is well worth seeing a lactation consultant to watch you and baby nurse together. This may help prevent future problems with breastfeeding.

Sources:

Bonyata, K. Lecithin treatment for recurrent plugged ducts. http://kellymom.com/nutrition/vitamins/lecithin/.

Mohrbacher, N. (2010). Breastfeeding answers made simple a guide for helping mothers. Hale Publishing.

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