Nursing is a natural process.
But just because something is regarded as natural doesn’t mean it can’t also be painful and challenging!
A plugged milk duct is one of the unpleasant situations you could suffer if you are nursing your child.
Are you unsure of the symptoms of a clogged duct or how to resolve it?
Are you considering using a needle to try and numb the sore area?
Let us describe what a blocked milk duct is, safe at-home treatments for it, and when it would be wise to contact your healthcare practitioner before you decide to take matters into your own hands.
✅ It can be tempting to try to fix the problem on your own when it comes to blocked milk ducts. But that might result in infections and other issues.
✅ Keep your breast completely empty of breast milk and clean before grabbing a needle or attempting to pop any milk blisters.
✅ Make sure to call your doctor if you see any indications of infection or if things don’t start to get better within a few days.
✅ If required, they can pop the blister and give treatment.
✅ As you manage clogged ducts, milk blisters, or any other hiccups in your natural (though definitely not entirely pain-free) nursing adventure, it can be useful to see a lactation consultant or a local breastfeeding support group.
How to spot an obstructed milk duct
You should confirm whether the symptoms you’re having are actually caused by a clogged duct before thinking about therapy choices. When a duct in the breast is obstructed or otherwise unable to drain properly, it is said to have a clogged milk duct. Typical causes include:
- ignoring a feed
- unable to completely empty a breast during a feed
- under extreme stress
The following are signs of a blocked milk duct:
- an internal breast lump (that may move over time)
- swelling, discomfort, or engorgement around the lump
- pain that seems to go worse as you let down and get better when you feed or pump
- “blebs” or milk blisters at the nipple’s opening
Is a milk blister the same as a blocked milk duct?
You might be familiar with the terms “milk blister” and “bleb,” but you might not know what they mean. A milk bleb is often caused by a shallow or weak latch, which causes the baby’s mouth to put too much pressure on a particular area of the breast.
A milk blister develops when skin covers a milk duct and is typically more painful and dangerous than a milk bleb. A milk blister may result from various factors, such as:
- problems with a newborn’s suction, tongue movement, or latch
- an excessive amount of milk production or pressure on a breast area
- thrush, a yeast infection that affects the mouth (when this is the cause, it’s typical to encounter more than one blister)
A milk blister is not the same as a clogged duct, but it could be connected to one or even cause one. (A tiny amount of milk frequently forms behind the blister, but this does not always result in a clogged duct. Frequently, milk blisters don’t cause plugged ducts!)
Is it safe to use a needle to “pop” a milk blister or plugged milk duct?
Simply stated: No. Infection can result from popping a milk blister, and the danger is significantly greater if you do it yourself.
Try some of the ways of expression we’ll cover below for the greatest outcomes, and if you experience signs of an infection or severe pain that makes breastfeeding difficult, consult a doctor for more assistance.
Try alternative approaches first
If a milk blister is present:
- For several minutes before nursing, apply a warm compress to the nipple. (The heat may aid in the duct’s opening.)
- Next, let the infant take a breastfeed while the milk blister is still on.
- Use techniques like putting olive oil on a cotton ball inside your bra, dabbing vinegar on your breast pad or bathing your breast in water mixed with Epsom salt several times a day to keep your nipple area moist between feeds.
- When feeding, make sure to pressure the region behind the nipple to try to express any obstruction that might be accumulating. Frequent breastfeeding can also help with this to keep the breasts supple.
If your milk duct is blocked:
- To try to release as much milk as you can during feedings, massage your breasts. Approach the blocked area from the exterior of the breast. (Bonus points if you perform this in a hot, steamy shower.)
- Because babies typically suck more vigorously at the start of a feeding session, provide the damaged breast first. To encourage your baby’s mouth to press against various areas of your breast, think about experimenting with different breastfeeding positions.
- Feed your infant frequently to maintain the softest, most empty breasts possible.
- Keep your clothes loose; you could even temporarily go braless.
- Ready to give anything a shot? To help dislodge a clogged duct, some people have placed the flat section of an electric toothbrush against the obstruction.
Why you should visit your doctor
If breastfeeding has grown so unpleasant it feels hard to continue, you should contact your healthcare professional. Milk accumulation in the breast will not help clogged ducts, so it’s critical to let the milk out.
Infection-related symptoms, such as fever or red lumps in the breast, should also be reported to your healthcare professional because they may indicate more severe illnesses like mastitis that may call for antibiotics.
If you have plugged ducts or milk blisters, you may want to contact a lactation consultant in addition to your physician.
- decreasing your milk production
- making breastfeeding incredibly uncomfortable
- getting the infant to favor the bottle
They can assist in resuming your breastfeeding experience.
The procedures your doctor will use to “pop” the blister or duct
Although it’s not advisable, if your doctor decides that popping the blister is the best course of action, you can anticipate them to:
- Thoroughly wash the area with soap and water, then pat it dry.
- Lift the blister’s edge with a sterile needle. (You’ll observe that they won’t employ a piercing action at the blister’s edge; instead, they’ll raise the blister up. Additionally, they won’t push in because doing so could encourage bacteria to spread deeper and increase the risk of infection.)
- You could use tweezers and tiny, sharp scissors to trim away any additional loose blister skin.
- Use soap and water to wash the area once more. Additionally, they’ll probably advise you to cover the region with antibiotic ointment after nursing sessions.