Common Concerns While Breastfeeding - What is That Knot in My Breast?

Welcome to our newest blog series…. Common Concerns While Breastfeeding.  These aren’t the complicated, ‘come-to-my-house-immediately’ phone calls I receive.  Rather, these are the questions that come from clients and friends in the middle of the night, by text or by email, that don’t necessarily warrant a lactation consultation.  They can often be easily resolved with a few simple tricks.  So, I would like to share those tricks with you!

 Ever woken up from a deep sleep to find that an area of your breast is tender, a little red, and pretty uncomfortable?  Upon further investigation, there may be a lump where the pain is radiating from?  How did this happen?  Should you be concerned?  In most cases, there is little need for concern.  Most likely, it is a pesky plugged duct that, with a little TLC, will go away on its own within 24-48 hours.

What is a plugged duct?

A plugged duct is an area in your breast where your milk has hit a road block. The milk has gotten stuck in a particular area and cannot get out.  An area of your breast may feel engorged and warm to the touch.  The area might feel more uncomfortable before feeding and during a let-down than after the feeding.  You also will not have a high temperature.

What causes a plugged duct?

A plugged duct is caused by milk stasis (milk not moving out of the breast.) There are many reasons that a mom might get a plugged duct.

  • Poor latch – definitely see a lactation consultant for this issue
  • Your little one slept longer at night than usual
  • Skipped feedings
  •  Pressure from an underwire bra
  • Inflammation
  • Low immunity (caused by lack of sleep, stress as a new mom, stress of going back to work, etc. – Can you imagine that????)

 How can I get rid of this plugged duct?

  • Take care of yourself and your immune system – rest, drink lots of water, eat immunity-supporting foods
  • Breastfeed frequently and effectively from the affected breast.
  • Use breast compressions while breastfeeding to help remove the blockage, if not too painful.
  • Try nursing leaning over your baby (called dangle feeding) so that gravity will help remove the blockage.
  • Use warm compresses in between feedings.  I recommend warm castor oil compresses wrapped around the affected breast for 20 minutes at a time. 
  • Take a warm shower and lean forward.  Use very gentle massage, as deep massage can cause more inflammation.

 What if I keep getting plugged ducts?

  • Definitely meet with a lactation consultant, as there is a reason why these plugged ducts keep occurring and you will want to resolve those underlying issues.
  • Take daily lecithin.  Lecithin is a food supplement that may decrease the viscosity (stickiness) of your breast milk.  It is inexpensive and can be found at natural food store.  While it is often made out of soy, you can also find non-protein based lecithin.  The dose is 1200mg, 4 times a day.
  • Consider having therapeutic ultrasound.  Jack Newman describes this process very well on his web site.

As always, here are a few resource that I love and trust.  Check them out for more detailed information.

Breast Feeding Inc

Kelly mom – Plugged Ducts vs Mastitis

Next week: Common Concerns While Breastfeeding – Help!  I’m Engorged!