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Tips that Really Work for Mastitis and Plugged Ducts

How to get rid of plugged ducts and mastitis

Owwwwwwww! Did you know that mastitis affects 1 in every 5 breastfeeding women?

In a breastfeeding journey, there are few things that are as painful and frustrating as plugged ducts. Mastitis takes this pain and multiplies it by 1000.

The good news is that there are some things that you can do to relieve the pressure and get back on your feet. But first, go see your doctor and make sure that you have the right diagnosis and a treatment plan. This advice is intended to help you get relief in conjunction with your physician’s recommendations.

What’s going on in there?

The word mastitis means inflammation of the breast. In both mastitis and plugged ducts, oftentimes the culprit is incomplete emptying of one or both of the breasts during feeding or pumping.

The inflammation happens in the tissue around the ducts and can put pressure on the milk ducts, further blocking them and perpetuating the problem.

One Australian study found that women who have nipple damage, oversupply of milk, latch problems, or use nipple shields are more likely to develop mastitis. Given that these are also associated with incomplete drainage of the breast, they do make sense as related factors.

So here are some tips for dealing with plugged ducts and mastitis:

1. Feed from the affected side

Lactation Consultant Calgary | Breastfeeding Calgary | Vida Health & Wellness

I know, I know. “It huuuuurts! And nothing comes out when I nurse/pump.” Just try. The more milk you can draw out, the better it will feel.

If your baby refuses the plugged side, try offering it when he/she is sleepy. Babies are often more cooperative when they’re about to drift off into a nap or at night.

2. Get a good latch

This is by far the hardest and most important factor in dealing with plugged ducts and mastitis. A good latch can help to drain that area of the breast and prevent it from ever happening again. (10% of women with mastitis experience it more than once.)

I’ll write a separate post on latching soon, but in the meantime, you can see a lactation consultant in your area. They are the experts and have lots of experience, tips, and tricks.

Make sure that your baby’s mouth is WIDE open when you latch. They only do this for half a second (those buggers…) so be ready and patient! Remember: mom’s in charge.

3. Use inflammation management strategies

Remember how mastitis is inflammation of the breast? Similar to engorgement, try applying cold packs to the area, especially after feeding/pumping.

You can also lessen the pain by removing tight fitting bras or getting rid of your bra altogether for a while.

And most importantly, rest! Yes, you. Hand the baby over to someone and get some sleep. E-mail me if you need me to back you up.

4. Make a physiotherapy appointment

Physiotherapy Calgary | Lactation Calgary | Breastfeeding Support Calgary | Vida Health & Wellness

In Australia, some physiotherapists working in women’s health regularly treat plugged ducts and mastitis. In Canada, Vida Health & Wellness is fortunate to be able to offer physiotherapy for these conditions!

We can breast massage to get the swelling and inflammation down, and we offer guidance on positioning and mechanics to help the milk get flowing. It’s amazing to see how quick and effective physiotherapy can be for plugged ducts and mastitis.

5. Check your pump fit

Did you know that most women wear bras that don’t fit properly? Of course you did. We’ve all heard it a thousand times. But did you know that most women don’t know how to fit their pump flange?Best Pump for Breastfeeding | Spectrababy USA S2 | Vida Health & Wellness

You may assume that you have small nipples and therefore need a small flange. Or you may think that your nipples are huge and you purchase the largest flange you can find. In either case, it’s a good idea to check your pump fit with a lactation consultant to make sure that you’re getting the proper “latch” with your pump.

This is especially important for moms who exclusively pump for their babies.

Bottom line

Plugged ducts and mastitis are a horrible but common experience for breastfeeding mothers. The good news is that there are lots of things that can be done apart from taking antibiotics.

Continue to watch this space for a post about latch and another about positioning.

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