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Breastfeeding (cont.)

Home and Medical Care

Patient Comments

Home 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.

Medical care

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
    • Chills
    • Sweats
    • Fever greater than 101 F
    • Increasing breast tenderness
    • Breast swelling and hardness
    • Redness
  • 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
    • Pain
    • Tenderness
    • 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.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/18/2014
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