Aches and pains while breastfeeding is the bane of every nursing Mum’s existence, but the most common reason for discomfort would be due to blocked milk ducts. Fortunately for most Mums, there are many ways they can ease or even unclog milk ducts on their own before seeking medical help.
Do ensure that you’re wearing a nursing bra that fits well and has proper support. And do not in any way try to “pop” the clogged duct like a blister or pimple!
Breastfeed baby or express out the milk
The most obvious reason why milk ducts get clogged is because of delayed or irregular feeds or pumping sessions, so much so that the milk build-up clogs the ducts. A simple fix would be to drain the milk as soon as possible by getting Baby to latch, or pumping the milk out. If you’re outside with no access to a pump – hand expressing does the trick! Some women, also bring out Hegen’s manual pump for quick relief. You can keep breastmilk out in room temperature for about 3hrs before a feed.
Use a warm compress and massage
Applying a warm compress over affected areas of your breasts with a gentle massage (working in a circle from under the armpits and around the breasts, moving closer towards the nipple) before feeding or expression can help to alleviate pain and also soften and unclog the swollen milk ducts. Often times, mothers start out applying warm compresses diligently before every feed or pumping session but might cut it out of their ritual so as to save time. This could inadvertently lead to clogged ducts. TIP: Fill a Hegen 11oz bottle with warm water and roll over breast downward toward the nipple.
Apply ice-packs or cold compress in between sessions
Been feeding and pumping to no avail? If your breasts still feel swollen and tight even after baby feeds or pumping the milk out, try applying a cold compress or ice packs on to the affected area for about 20 minutes. Avoid overstimulating the affected areas with long hot showers with the spray directed to your breasts.
Put cabbage leaves in your bra
Cabbage leaves are a popular remedy for plugged ducts and have shown to offer relief from engorgement; it is said that the sulfur acts in a manner to draw the flow of blood outwards, thus decreasing engorgement. Simply select a suitable size of leaf to cover your breast (large enough to cover the nipple) and place it against your breast, in your bra. Leave it on for about 20 minutes and discard, replacing with a fresh one if necessary. As soon as your swollen ducts subside, remove the leaf. Prolonged use of cabbage leaf compresses is said to decrease milk supply over time. Do not use on cracked or broken skin.
Change feeding positions
If you normally feed Baby sitting up or lying down, try a different position. Make sure the baby’s chin and nose is directed towards the engorged area so as to drain the plugged duct as much as possible.
As you’re working through this situation, do monitor other aspects of your health and well-being. Most cases of engorgement tend to resolve naturally within a day or two. But if your breasts start to redden with mastitis symptoms, or if you start to feel unwell or have an incessant fever beyond the two days, it would be time to seek medical help with your lactation specialist or doctor. You may be asked to consider taking an anti-inflammatory medication to ease your symptoms.
PHOTO: Unsplash/Jan Kopriva