So many people think that just because nursing a baby is natural that it should come naturally or that it should be easy. Thankfully for many moms this is absolutely true but for the rest of us nursing is hard work. Even after taking a breast feeding class and hearing all the advice and tips from mom friends I had a rough go at it. Once Teddy figured out how to actually do it, which in itself took a while, I had plugged ducts almost every other week for the first 6-9 months.
I learned a lot about different things to try and do that helped me and I’ve been wanting to share my two cents on how to survive nursing and especially what to do about plugged ducts. If you know any new mamas you or anyone expecting a new baby soon pass this a long. People don’t always like to talk about this stuff but it’s great info to have on hand in the unfortunate case that you or your friends find themselves in these situations. Please note that I am NOT a professional. Please consult your health care provider when considering any medical issues or taking any medicines or supplements. These are just the things that worked for me and I hope that sharing my experiences will help others who find themselves in the same predicament.
Drink Plenty of Water
First things first. Make sure you’re drinking a ton of water. Feeding a baby takes a lot of liquid and even in your likely sleep deprived state you need to make sure to stay hydrated. A friend gave me the tip to drink water the whole time the baby nursed and that helped me to remember.
Lanolin (or Olive Oil)
When you first start nursing your poor nipples might get cracked and dried and basically freak out at their new treatment. I was so grateful to have brought a tube of lanolin to the hospital with me. Once home I kept some in my purse and on my nightstand. Use it generously at first and eventually you won’t need it. But there is no reason to endure unnecessary pain.
If You Have Supply Issues Try Fenugreek or make Lactation Cookies
I know not everyone has supply issues but I did. I think my boobs made JUST ENOUGH but really not anything more. I never had great success pumping but when I felt like I needed to boost my supply I found the herbal supplement fenugreek or a batch of these delicious lactation cookies really helped. The cookies by the way are totally fine for the whole family to eat. I actually had to hide them from my hubby because they were so yummy.
Pay Attention to Your Body and Catch Plugged Ducts Early
If you don’t know what a plugged duct feels like it starts with feeling a small hard area in the breast. If it doesn’t get unplugged it can get bigger and more of the breast can feel hard. I recommend the second you start feeling like there is a plug to drop every thing and tend to it like it’s your full time job. After I had experienced a few plugged ducts I started to noticed that Teddy would be weird about nursing and then I’d pay attention to how my breast that he was nursing on felt like and I would realize that indeed it felt like there might be a plug. The sooner you catch it the better.
Take Something For the Pain
Plugged ducts can be so painful. For the longest time I tried not to take anything but really it’s a lot harder to take care of a baby and try to unplug the duct if you’re distracted by pain. To be on the safe side you can take a vetted pain reliever like healthy mama® Shake That Ache which is an acetaminophen pain killer that is specifically formulated for pregnant and nursing moms. It’s nice to have an option that you know is safe and that has been researched and tested for when you’re pregnant and nursing. I found the healthy mama® stuff at Walmart right next to the prenatal vitamins. I love how there is this new category of products specifically designed for nursing and pregnant moms so we don’t have to go on a scavenger hunt to find what we can actually take and use!
Be Mindful About Sleeping Position and Pressure
I could not sleep on my tummy (or really even my side) with out getting a plugged duct. It really sucked because I am a tummy sleeper. But I quickly learned that just that amount of weight was enough to cause a plugged duct. I also once got one after letting Teddy sleep on my chest one night where he was being particularly needy.
This will sound crazy but I’m telling you that if you are like me you’ll try anything and this actually worked for me. The basic idea is to let gravity help so you want your nipples pointed down. What worked easiest for me was to get on my hands and knees put the baby under me with a pile of pillows for me to rest my head on (so I didn’t have to balance like that with all the weight in my arms) and let the baby nurse like that. So many times this is what ended up really unplugging the duct. Usually after trying some of the other stuff first to loosen it up. Sometimes I was just too tired to fully dangle feed but if I put the baby next to me instead of on my lap leaned over more it had a similar effect.
Make yourself some 5 minute hot packs and apply heat to your affected area. Remember your ducts run under your armpit too not just in the normal breast area you think of. I tried to do this before I nursed so that when Teddy sucked it would flow better and hopefully pull the plug out.
Use an Electric Toothbrush to Break Up the Plug
This is my favorite trick. It’s so ridiculously crazy though. Take an electric tooth brush and hold the back or the base to the plugged area. Move it around and let the vibrations break up the plug. You won’t feel it when it breaking the plug up but the vibrations can break the plug into smaller pieces. So when you do this and combo it with breast feeding or pressing your breast in the shower it works great. DON’T USE THE BRISTLE SIDE. You might be desperate to feel like something is happening. All you’ll get is a rug burn on your boob. Ask me how I know. But really when done propery this works. My favorite way to do this is start with the hot pack. After using that for 15 minutes then do the tooth brush then get into the tub and try and press the sucker out and then if it still isn’t out dangle feed. Usually that order would do the trick for me.
There is something about the hot moisture that helps. What you do is get in the shower run the hot water on the affected area. Some times I’d do a bath first to soak it and then pressing towards the nipple try to press the plug out. You want to press hard. It might be painful but it can really help. Sometimes it hurt so much I thought I was going to bruise myself. Do it over and over from different angles but always moving towards the nipple since you want to press the plug out. You might notice hardened white stuff start to come out before it unplugs. You can try and pull it out or keep pressing but hopefully you’ll feel the wonderful release when the plug comes out and your milk can flow properly again.
Keep Your Energy Up
Make sure to get as much sleep as you can. But when you have a nursing little one that isn’t always easy. Plus if you have a plugged duct that longer you wait the worse it gets and the higher chances that it will turn into mastitis. So if you find yourself in zombie mode you might want to try healthy mama® Boost It Up which is an electrolyte filled supplement drink great for pregnant women and nursing moms. It’s tested for safety and can give you the energy you need to fight the plugged duct.
Finally I found that taking lecithin every day really helped to stop my plugged ducts. What lecithin does is thin out the milk. Nothing noticeable but it makes it less viscous inside I guess. Once I added it to my daily routine my instances of plugs went way down. And then when I did have them they were minor and were easy to unplug quickly with the tricks I’ve shared above.
Good luck. I really feel those of you who find yourself here in the middle of the night looking for some relief. I hope some of these tips work for you. And just know it will pass. Now when I first sense a plug coming on I start with the hot packs. I leave them on until they don’t seem warm any more (15 to 20 minutes). Then I use the toothbrush vibrations to break up the duct (about 5-10 minutes). I next jump into the bath and try and press the duct free with hot water. If this doesn’t work I dangle feed. For me I had to time things perfect since it really worked the best for me to do this order hot pack – tooth brush – shower – dangle feed. But sometimes I’d do hot pack – tooth brush – hot pack dangle feed. You’ll have to find out what works for your body but in my experiences your baby is your biggest tool. Nurse as often as you can.
Did you deal with nursing troubles or plugged ducts? Do you have any other tips people can try?
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