Home and Medical Care
For clogged milk ducts
- You may notice small, red, tender lumps within the breast caused by milk ducts (tubes) that have become clogged (blocked with dried milk or other material).
- The best treatment is to increase flow to open these blocked ducts.
- Increase breastfeeding frequency and offer the affected breast first.
- Pump the breast after breastfeeding if the baby is not emptying the breast.
- Keep pressure off the duct. Make sure your bra is not putting pressure on the duct.
- Do not wean baby at this time, or pain and complications may increase.
- Apply moist heat to the affected area to increase blood flow and healing. (When applying heat, be careful not to burn yourself or the baby. Try 10-20 minute sessions two to four times per day for one to three days. Applying a warm water bottle over a warm, wet washcloth is one method to apply heat.) A warm shower and massaging the area will allow resolution of this problem.
- Sometimes the baby will refuse the affected breast because the milk develops a sour taste. Pump the breast and empty it as well as possible. Continue to offer that breast to the baby until baby breastfeeds again.
For sore nipples
- Expose sore or cracked nipples to the air as much as possible.
- Use a hair dryer on a low setting to dry nipples after breastfeeding.
- Wash only with water, never with soap, alcohol, benzoin, or premoistened towelettes.
- Unmedicated lanolin may help if nipple cracking is severe, but petroleum-based ointments and other cosmetic preparations should not be used.
Breast inflammation (mastitis, possibly caused by infection)
- Seek medical care for symptoms or signs of breast infection.
- If you are breastfeeding and experience any of the following, call your health-care provider:
- Increasing pain in the breast
- Fever greater than 101 F
- Increasing breast tenderness
- Breast swelling and hardness
- Continue to breastfeed. Breastfeeding helps to empty the breast and prevent clogged milk ducts.
- Rest or get in bed at first sign of infection.
- Breastfeed and pump the affected breast as much as possible.
- Pump the breast to express milk on that side.
- Apply moist heat for 10-20 minutes at a time at least four times per day. Heat increases blood flow to the area, aiding in fighting infection. A warm shower with water on the affected breast may help facilitate healing.
- Watch for additional signs of a localized infection called a breast abscess.
- The baby may not want to breastfeed on the affected side, so pump until the baby accepts the breast again.
- A delay in treating mastitis could lead to a more severe infection and possible breast abscess. If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, go to a hospital’s emergency department.
- A localized swelling that generally increases in size
- Possibly warmth and redness if close enough to the skin surface
- Fever greater than 101 F (may be associated with shaking chills alternating with sweating)
- Breast abscess (pocket of infection)
- Surgical drainage may be indicated.
- Breastfeeding with the affected breast is generally stopped.
- A breast pump should be used regularly to empty the breast until breastfeeding can be restarted or symptoms could worsen.
Allahyar Jazayeri, MD, PhD
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