When breastfeeding your child, one of the unpleasant things you may encounter is a clogged milk duct popping. Breastfeeding is natural. Moreover just because it’s known natural doesn’t mean it cannot be painful and difficult! Before thinking and deciding to take something into your hands, I will explain what a clogged milk duct is, treatment methods for it that are safe to try at home, and when it’s a good idea to reach out to your doctor.
HOW TO RECOGNIZE A CLOGGED MILK DUCT
Before you consider treatment, you’ll want to determine if what you’re experiencing really is a clogged duct. A clogged milk duct is when a duct in the breast becomes blocked or is sometimes unable to drain well.
Common causes of clogged milk duct popping include:
- Not fully emptying a breast during a feed.
- Being under extreme stress
- Skipping a feed.
Symptoms of a clogged milk duct include:
- Engorgement, pain, or swelling around the lump.
- A lump in the breast(that may move over time).
- Milk blisters or “blebs” at the opening of the nipple.
Discomfort that tends to increase during letdown and decrease after letdown and decrease after feeding/pumping.
Is a clogged milk duct the same thing as a milk blister? You may have heard of the term “milk blister” or “bleb” before, but don’t know what they are made of. A milk bleb is always related to poor or shallow latch and the baby’s mouth applying excess pressure on a part of the breast as a result.
A milk blister, which usually is more serious and painful than a milk bleb, is due to skin that grows over a milk duct. Some potential causes of a milk blister include:
- Excess milk supply or pressure on a part of the breast.
- Issues with a baby’s latch, tongue movement, or suction.
- Thrush, which is a yeast infection in the mouth (when this is always the cause, it’s common to experience multiple blisters instead of just one).
A milk blister is always different than a clogged duct; however, it may also be associated to or lead to a clogged duct. A small amount of milk will definitely develop on the blister, but a milk blister doesn’t necessarily clog a duct. Many milk blisters never result in clogged ducts.
RELATED: DOES POWDERED MILK HAVE LACTOSE
IS IT SAFE TO POP A CLOGGED MILK DUCT OR MILK BLISTER WITH A NEEDLE?
The answer is : No. Popping a milk blister can lead to infection, and the risk is much higher if you do it yourself.
- It’s recommended to use some of the expression method I will discuss below and see a doctor for additional help if there are signs of an infection or you find yourself in excruciating pain that always prevent breastfeeding.
- Before breastfeeding, you need to place a warm compress over the nipple for several minutes. (The heat can help open up the duct). Then, have the baby feed off the breast with the milk blister first.
- Keep your nipple moist between feeds by doing something like placing olive oil on a cotton ball inside your bra, applying vinegar to your breast pad, or soaking your breast in water mixed with Epsom salt several times a day.
- Make sure you compress the area near the nipple during feeds to try to express any blockage that might be building up.
- Breastfeeding occasionally to keep breasts soft can also help with this! If you have a clogged milk duct.
- Always massage your breasts during feeding sessions to try to get as much milk as possible out.
- Start at the outside of the breast and work toward the plugged area.
- Another way for doing this is in a shower or warm and steamy environment.
- Use the affected breast first as babies tend to suck more strongly during the beginning of a feeding session.
- Also trying some variety of breastfeeding positions to encourage your baby’s mouth to apply pressure to different parts of your breasts.
- Feeding your baby occasionally to keep breasts as soft and empty as possible.
- Some people have held the flat part of an electric toothbrush against their blocked duct, so the vibrations may help removing it.
SEEING YOUR DOCTOR FOR CLOGGED MILK DUCK POPPING
You should see your doctor if breastfeeding has been so uncomfortable and it feels impossible to continue. Clogged ducts doesn’t improve with milk building up in the breast, so it’s important to get the milk out.
You should also let your doctor know if you have or experience signs of infection (including fever or red lumps in the breast) as these can also signs of a very serious conditions like mastitis, which will definitely require antibiotics.
Seeing your doctor, you may wish to speak with a lactation heath consultant if clogged ducts or milk blisters are:
REDUCING YOUR MILK SUPPLY
This can make breastfeeding extremely painful. If advisable to lead baby to prefer the bottle which can help to get your breastfeeding journey back on track.
You shouldn’t try to pop the blister yourself, but if your doctor determines it’s the best course of action, you can expect them to:
- Wash the area well with soap and water, patting it dry after.
- Use a sterilized needle to lift the edge of the blister.
- You will always notice that they will use what we call a lifting motion at the edge of the blister instead of always using a piercing motion.
- These also won’t push inwards, as that cannot cause bacteria to affect you deeper and lead to a greater chance of infecting you.
- You need to always remove any extra loose blister skin with tweezers.
- Wash the area again with soap and water.
- These will also likely tell you how apply antibiotic ointment to the area after breastfeeding sessions.
THE BOTTOM LINE
When it always comes to treating clogged milk ducts, it can be someone tempting things to into your own hands. Before reaching a needle or always trying to pop any milk blisters, start by keeping your breast fully drained of breast milk and clean.
If you always notice any sign of infection or things that don’t improve after a few days, make sure you see your doctor. They can prescribe medications and pop the blister if necessary.
What you always need to knows and keep in mind is that a lactation consultant is always helpful as you turned clogged ducts, milk blisters, or any other bumps in your natural (but probably not completely pain-free) breastfeeding journey.