Oh the joy of motherhood! Sometimes I wonder in all the time our mothers had to prepare us for it, why are there still so many things we never even heard of. It is as though everything is just smiles and happiness with no obstacles on the road. One of these obstacles I encountered is clogged ducts or Mastitis.
CLOGGED DUCTS DURING BREASTFEEDING
To be clear, breastfeeding was not easy for me. Unlike some moms who in a moment of bliss hold their babies to their breast, baby immediately latching, no effort to mom or baby; my journey was nothing like this.
My first child was a post-term pregnancy. He was helped into life with ventouse suction and in the process swallowed massive amounts of amniotic fluid. All seemed well at first glance. But after his first feed, he started convulsing and throwing up and was immediately taken to ICU. This left me, a first time mom, with no idea of what to do next. All my attention and energy went into my sick baby with no thought to myself. Vaguely, I remember the nurses advising me to milk myself out. But as I had no baby to demand feeds, I often forgot. And when I remembered it was so painful that I did not persist and rather focused on my sick child.
I was overjoyed when my child was released. Then, the reality set in that I was now responsible to feed this child with breasts that was so sore it was pure agony to touch them. Like all good daughters I phoned the source of all wisdom, my mom. She immediately suspected a clogged duct, and advised warm cabbage leaves over my breast till I could see my doctor. Although this did bring some relief, it was not a permanent solution and not a comfortable one either.
CLOGGED MILK DUCT SYMPTOMS
The symptoms of a blocked duct or mastitis are a lump or wedge in the area of the breast where milk flow is then obstructed. It is usually only in one breast, and can be very painful at feeding times. A slight fever might accompany the symptoms; which is a sure sign to visit your doctor.
CLOGGED DUCTS OR MASTITIS TREATMENT
Antibiotics are usually not prescribed for clogged ducts or a mild case of Mastitis. A pain killer with an anti-inflammatory can be very useful. There is not much more your GP can do for you, and generally this condition does not get a lot of sympathy. Nobody seems to consider that you just gave birth, still feeling sore, hovering on the verge of baby blues, and your hormones and emotions are out of control. Take a deep breath, you will get through this.
Some practical advice I can give you from mom to mom is to really be proactive. You will have to milk the infected breast as often as you possibly can, at least every two hours. It is safe to let your baby drink from it, although some babies refuse the infected breast as the milk taste slightly different. Before you feed or pump out, keep the breast warm. You can do this by taking a disposable diaper (you should have plenty of these) and filling it with warm water. After emptying the diaper and squeezing out access water you place it over the breast. It will keep the heat for longer than a hot cloth. Something else you can try to relieve the pain before feeding is to soak the affected breast in hot water with Epson salts. Just remember to rinse the breast thoroughly before feeding. Massaging of the lump will also help the condition pass, and cold compressions between feeds might help the swelling and pain.
Lastly you should really speak to your doctor about antibiotics if there is blood or pus present in the milk or you have red streaking over the breast. Any obvious signs of infection need medical advice for the safety of you and your baby.