Sunday, August 5, 2012

World Breastfeeding Week: Dealing With Clogged Ducts or Mastitis

A common problem experienced by breastfeeding moms is a clogged duct. A clogged duct is exactly as it sounds - a milk duct that becomes clogged. This occurs due to milk stasis, or not moving milk from the breast and is most often caused from not completely emptying the breast at each feeding or pumping session. As you can imagine, clogged ducts can be painful. 

The easiest way to correct the problem is to just continue to nurse or pump. Though it is painful, it helps get the milk moving which keeps the duct from clogging. Since a baby's suck is most powerful in the alignment of their nose to chin, it is beneficial to position baby in such a way that their nose points towards the clogged duct. This may take some experimentation with breastfeeding positions. Coupled with warm compresses and hand expression at the area during nursing, the clogged duct should be resolved in no time! 

Unfortunately, there are times when this does not happen and the clogged duct becomes infected. This infection of the milk duct is called mastitis and it is one of the most awful things I have ever experienced. When you have mastitis you feel like you got run over by a truck while having the flu. In fact, I originally thought I had the flu and then got mastitis on top of it after sleeping all day and not nursing/pumping. But in reality, I had mastitis all along. You may notice some pain up by your armpits and redness on your breast. You can get mastitis in one or both breasts at the same time. Generally, you will need to be treated with an antibiotic to really clear it up but, though it is excruciatingly painful, again the best thing you can do to take care of the mastitis is to continue to nurse or pump while you are healing. It is often suggested to take a day in bed with baby and just nurse them the entire day. This allows you the frequent nursing and also the rest you will need to help with the mastitis. 

Like most issues with breastfeeding, the answer is simple. Offer your breast to your baby. Smile. Take a deep breath. And just carry on! 

Have you ever had a clogged duct or mastitis? What did you do to deal with them? 

{Disclaimer: This post is not intended as medical advice or as breastfeeding counseling. For professional help with breastfeeding, please contact a lactation consultant in your area or speak with a physician or trusted health care worker}

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