It is not uncommon for new parents to be unfamiliar with common issues and ailments that breastfeeding mothers may face. While these conditions vary in severity, they are all worthy of your attention and being aware of them ahead of time can prevent a more serious problem from developing. So today, we are discussing the issue of a plugged duct, how to determine if you have one, and what you can do to treat it.
What is a Plugged Duct?
A plugged duct occurs when part of the duct system in the breast tissue becomes obstructed, and milk is prevented from flowing through that duct. It is typically caused by inadequate milk removal or engorgement of the breast due to oversupply or infrequent emptying of the breast, but there are also other possible causes that are less common. The blockage or obstruction can happen anywhere in the duct system, but if it is a nipple pore that is blocked, it is referred to as a “milk blister.” As you might imagine, one of the consequences of this condition is a reduction in milk supply but don’t panic because this reduction is only temporary and should be easily correctable. One of the major concerns of having a plugged duct is that it can lead to the more serious condition of Mastitis.
Signs and Symptoms
You may notice a hard lump near the plugged duct that may be red, swollen, hot to the touch, or tender. These are some of the more commonly reported symptoms associated with this issue. Your breasts may also hurt extremely bad before feeding with some relief being provided after the nursing session is complete. It is also common for a low-grade fever (less than 101.3 degrees F) to be present until the issue is cleared up.
While it is usually not necessary to seek out medical attention for a plugged duct, it is crucial that you not stop or decrease feedings as this can lead to additional complications that would require a trip to the doctor. Make sure you are drinking plenty of fluids and getting lots of rest. You may also be able to utilize gentle massage of the affected area or the use of a warm compress to help find relief.