Blocked milk ducts can be really annoying and quite painful. At the same time, it is important to know the difference between a milk duck blockage and mastitis as there are different ways to treat them and find relief.
A blocked duct can occur at any time and to any new mum. But, unfortunately, some mums seem to be more prone to them than others. Once a blockage of milk forms in the duct, the milk then banks up, forming a lump.
Signs and Symptoms of a Blocked Milk Duct
Here are a few of the signs that you may be dealing with a blocked milk duct.
- A hard area or lump on your breast.
- A reddened area on your breast.
- Localised pain, which may be worse before a feed when your breasts are feeling at their fullest.
- The blocked area, which may feel smaller or less painful after a feed.
- An area of soreness without feeling a lump or blockage.
- A white spot or bleb on your nipple.
Treatment for Removing a Milk Blockage
If you think that you may have a blocked milk duct, here are a few things that you can try.
- Start treatment as soon as you notice the blockage.
- Rest as much as you can.
- Aim to breastfeed or express as frequently as you can – ideally 8-12 x in 24 hours. Try and keep the affected breast as drained as possible.
- Drink plenty of fluids and eat nutritious food.
- Apply warmth to the affected breast before feeding or expressing. Try a warm heat pack or face washer
- Massage your breast in a warm shower or try to hand express whilst under the warm water.
- Breastfeed or express from the affected breast first at each feed. If this is too painful, breastfeed off of the non-affected side for a short while first. This will help the affected breast’s milk to start flowing. Then put baby back on the affected breast once more. As the milk has already been stimulated to flow it should make the breastfeeding on this side feel easier.
- Gently but firmly massage the lump towards your nipple during the feed.
- If you are finding that it is hard to get the milk flowing, try hand expressing before feeds.
- If, after a breastfeed, you can still feel the lump, express until the breast feels well drained.
- Using a cold pack after a breastfeed or express may be soothing and reduce some of the inflammation.
- An anti-inflammatory such as ibuprofen is safe and recommended for pain relief. If you are unable to take this type of medication take paracetamol as directed on the box.
These techniques should relieve the blockage. If you do not see any improvements and are starting to feel unwell you may be developing mastitis (link to mastitis blog once it is up).
It is important to start treatment as soon as possible and speak with your lactation consultant, maternal child health nurse or GP.
For community support:
Australian Breastfeeding Association – ABA helpline
1800 686 2 686 (1800 mum 2 mum)
The Maternal & Child Health Line
Available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week – 13 22 29
Maternal and Child Health Nurse Local Centers
Contact your local council
Lactation consultants at local hospital
Some hospitals have their own breastfeeding clinics. Phone your local hospital for an appointment
Private Lactation consultants
What was the most wonderful part of breastfeeding for you? What did you find challenging? How would you describe your breastfeeding experience so far? Let’s have a chat here or on our Medela Australia Facebook page.