A blocked milk duct is a problem that can arise for any nursing mother; whether you are a new mother or one who nursed before with an older child. It is an uncomfortable situation that if left untreated can develop into a breast infection. This article will offer some suggestions to help prevent the condition and to minimize a potential blockage.
A milk duct becomes blocked when an excess amount of milk accumulates in the breast. Excess amounts can build-up when proper drainage has not been achieved. This may occur because the baby did not have a good feeding or your last pumping was not adequate. The following are tips to prevent this build-up and to minimize the risk of it developing into an infection.
Maintain Schedule: Try to stay on track with your nursing schedule. As an example, if you typically nurse or pump every four hours, try to have your next feeding as close to that as possible. But let’s say that you went out for the afternoon, got home later than planned and you realize that it has been six hours since your last feeding/pumping. This prolonged time between feedings will mean that you have more milk in your breasts than usual and you may experience breast engorgement. This excess milk could potentially get trapped in one of your milk ducts and pose a problem. So to avoid this from happening, stick to your schedule as much as possible. But don’t panic if you get off schedule. Just try to nurse, or pump, as soon as you can so that you can relieve the build-up and prevent a clogged milk duct from developing. If you are at the point of weaning and looking to start expanding the time between feedings, just be sure to increase the span very gradually so that you don’t experience a problem.
Proper Feedings/Pumping: Another way that milk may build up is if your baby didn’t nurse as much as usual on the last feeding. Or, maybe you are pumping exclusively and a hectic schedule forced you to rush during your last pumping and you didn’t empty the breast completely. You may not initially realize that your feeding wasn’t as good as usual, but over time you will feel that your breasts are engorged and full of milk. To fix this problem you should try reducing the time between your next feeding/pumping so that you can try to relieve the excess milk and pressure that has built up. For example, if you typically nurse every four hours, try to have your next feeding in two or three hours (even sooner if needed). If the baby is still not feeding well and this feeding didn’t empty your breasts, then you should try to pump or manually express the milk.
Rest: While this may be easier said than done for a busy mother, getting run down and not getting enough sleep can increase your risks of developing a problem. While lack of sleep alone will not cause you to get a clogged milk duct; if combined with a prolonged time between feedings or an inadequate feeding, it can aggravate the situation and increase your risk of having problems.
Fluids: Nursing and pumping takes a look of work. Your body is doing a lot to keep up with the demands of your baby and drinking lots of fluids is critical to help produce the proper amount of milk and to keep your body working properly. So be sure to drink plenty of water, milk and other nutritious drinks while nursing.
If you follow the steps outlined above you should be able to minimize the risk of developing a blocked milk duct. If you start feeling ill, have breast tenderness, pain in your breast or start running a fever, you should contact your doctor immediately as you may be developing a breast infection and you need to receive proper care as quickly as possible.