Blocked Milk Ducts
A clogged mild duct is an obstruction in the pathway that brings milk from your breast to your baby. It can occur at any point in the milk ductal system.
Ducts become blocked when milk fails to drain completely or if the duct becomes compressed or damaged.
They are more common when your milk is first coming in or when you are dropping feeds due to weaning.
Some other reasons may include an improper latch, using a pump that is not powerful enough, wearing a nursing bra that does not fit well, or from sleeping on your stomach.
It can even occur after a long car journey if the seat belt is pushing against the breast. Left untreated, a blocked duct can develop into a full-blown breast infection known as mastitis, so it is important to be aware of the symptoms.
Signs of a Blocked Duct
Small Lump in Breast
A blocked milk duct is typically recognized by a small lump in your breast. These lumps can vary in size – sometimes they are as small as a pea or pebble, while other times they can be very large. Because a clog can occur at any point in your milk ductal system, some women find them in odd places – such as in their arm pits!
If you have a lump that doesn’t resolve in a few days, be sure to work with your doctor. It may be nothing more than a stubborn clog, but it’s important to follow up on.
Slower Milk Flow on One Side
If you’re noticing your milk flow being much smaller on one of your breasts, that breast might have a clogged duct.
A Milk Bleb
A milk bleb is a small white, pink, or light yellow spot on your nipple. This little spot might be causing you pain, especially while you’re breastfeeding. It is probably a small blocked duct at your nipple tip caused by a small amount of milk or overgrown skin.
Pulled Muscle Feeling
Sometimes you won’t even feel an actual lump in the breast – it may. just feel like you have a pulled or sore muscle. This can be the start of a clog, or it can be a smaller obstruction that just isn’t palpable.
Therapeutic ultrasound generates deep heat, which can aid in breaking up hardened milk that is blocking the milk duct. This is very effective if used in combination with warm compresses and massage. It can also help with the pain caused by the blockage.
Timely treatment is of the essence for a blocked milk duct. If left untreated, it may create an infection – known as mastitis.
Physiotherapy treatment is often effective; however, your physiotherapist will assess for any signs of infection that would indicate mastitis.
If an infection is suspected, it is recommended that you see your doctor immediately for consultation. Signs of mastitis may include breast tenderness, breast pain, breast redness or rash, malaise, or fever.
What to Expect at Your Visit
Your assessment will commence with your breastfeeding history followed by an examination of the affected breast.
I will assess and provide treatment that may include education on breastfeeding positions, postural education, myofascial release, scapular stabilization exercises, stretching, and ultrasound.
You will be provided with home exercises and techniques to help alleviate your symptoms.