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Breast Care While Nursing

How Do Milk Ducts Get Plugged and How Do I Fix It?

It is not uncommon for breastfeeding women to experience a plugged milk duct. These cause lumps in your breast and they can be quite painful. Plugged ducts occur when an area of the milk ducts in the breasts becomes blocked and milk won't flow through as well. If this is left untreated, it can lead to an infection.
 
There are some easy tips to follow to unplug a blocked duct. If you find one of these lumps, apply a warm compress and gently massage the area when your baby is nursing. Once your baby pauses in nursing, gently squeeze your breast. This can help to unplug the duct.
 
Also, one of the common causes of plugged milk ducts occurs when you don't completely empty your breasts while breastfeeding. You can avoid this by making sure your breasts are completely empty after feedings. You can do this by pumping, which will not only empty your breasts completely, but will also give you some extra milk you can store for later use (see The Whys and Hows of Expressing Breast Milk and How to Store Breast Milk for more information).
 
It can also help to take warm showers or lie in a warm bath and soak your breasts between feedings. While soaking your breasts, try massaging the area of the lump gently to help unplug the duct.
 
Frequently nursing your baby can also help clear the lump from the duct. However, if your breast becomes red, hot, swollen, and painful, you may be developing an infection. If you also develop a fever, contact your healthcare provider right away. In addition, you can help prevent plugged milk ducts by not wearing underwire bras or tight clothing over your breasts.
 
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