The Dreaded…Blocked Duct

Does any mother-to-be even know about these things?? The painful, milk-limiting lumps that form when one of your ducts become blocked. Let me tell you, I became WAY too familiar with them.

The first time I had a blocked duct it didn’t hurt much…at the start. I just noticed that one of my breasts felt a little harder and tender to touch. I knew something was up when I would try to pump and a fraction of an ounce came out (that’s when I started to panic thinking “Oh no!  How am I going to feed two babies with hardly any milk?!”) I then did what we all swear we’ll never do…I Googled it.

Initially after reading I thought I had mastitis. I asked the NICU nurses about it and quickly found out that I had a blocked duct. Whatever it’s called, it’s NO FUN!

I’ve spoken to many mommies who’ve had to go through the painful process of unblocking a duct, and although I’m not a medical professional I thought it might be beneficial to share what worked for me. After all, nearly 20 blocked ducts later I must’ve done something right…or wrong depending on how you look at it.

1. Cold compress: I was told cold, then I was told hot, so I tried both. I would get freezer packs wrapped in a facecloth and let them sit on the blockage or lump. If you think of this logically, cold shrinks things so I figured if something’s blocked, why not shrink it to help it pass?

2. Cool cabbage leaves: I would put these on at any given time (usually after a cold or hot compress). Sometimes I’d fall asleep with them on and wake up in the morning thinking ‘What smells like cabbage?’ lol. Ladies, be prepared to send you husbands, sisters, mothers, anyone who’s available to the store to buy a head of cabbage for you. I don’t know WHY it works, but believe me it does.

3. Hot compress: I would jump in the shower, turn the nozzle to the ‘massage’ setting and let the warm water hit the area for as long as possible (hey, it was a great reason to take an extra long shower). I’d even wet a facecloth with warm water while in the shower and hold it on the blockage. If you think about it, warm water opens your pores, so I figured it could also help to pass a blockage.

4. Find the spot: My doctor told me (as did all of our parents growing up) to not pick at the area. Well, I’m sure many can relate, sometimes you just can’t help it. I noticed a little white dot on my nipple at times when I had a blocked duct. At first I didn’t touch it, then one time I decided to scratch it and see what happened. Low and behold! It came right off and my blocked breast started squirting liquid gold!  Sometimes the blockage is INSIDE your breast, while others (like mine in many cases) are on the outside where the duct meets the nipple producing a white dot. Now PLEASE don’t pick at the area enough to cause an infection, that’s the LAST thing I’m encouraging.

5. Express: While in the shower massage and try to express whatever you can out of your blocked breast. I know, it’s going to be upsetting watching the milk you worked so hard for going down the drain but believe me, it’ll help give you some much needed relief.

6. Be preventative: I noticed that I kept getting blockages on my right side. I then realized, hey, I sleep on my right side. I can’t say scientifically that this is what caused it, but once I put two and two together the number of blockages I had decreased significantly.

At one point I noticed what felt like a little twig by one of my ducts inside my breast! I had no idea what it was until I asked my lactation consultant. She told me that it was likely a milk bleb…what the heck is that?? A milk bleb feels like a little twig in the duct and forms due to blockage upon blockage. Essentially it’s (and I’m not a medical professional) a build up of thickened breast milk inside your duct. My LC told me to start taking Lecithin: soy based pills that can help thin your milk. Once I started started taking them my bleb cleared itself out **gross info warning** and it had the consistency of cottage cheese! Gross! Fortunately the bleb cleared, unfortunately I was left with scar tissue in the area and have been told that it may never go away.

I was fortunate, all of these tips combined helped me overcome more than 20 blocked ducts and not once did it lead to mastitis (which is what can happen if it becomes infected). My doctor wrote me a prescription in case it developed, but luckily, I never had to fill it.

Hopefully none of you reading this EVER has to deal with a dreaded blocked duct, but if you do, my hope is that some or all of these tips will help you get through it.

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