Breast milk production along with breastfeeding is an incredibly intricate system, it's amazing how a woman's body is guided by her baby in the production and storing of breast milk. Babies are incredibly efficient at emptying breasts (if we allow them too), however sometimes milk does remain in the ducts causing discomfort, pain while feeding and if not removed has a potential for mastitis to occur.
As a breastfeeding mum, checking your breast daily in the shower or before and after a feed is a great way to keep an eye out for ducts that may be gradually filling and not releasing. Blocked ducts usually appear as hard lumps in the breasts, or wedge-shaped areas, often along with soreness, or an ache, hot skin to touch with redness and swelling on the skin, and pain when feeding at the beginning which eases off as the feed progresses.
The use of heat, either in the shower or as a compress (wheat pack or warm flannel) placed on the breast, relaxes the muscles around the ducts enabling breast milk to exit the breast, along with gentle massage towards the nipple. The combination of heat and massage helps to empty and release the duct reducing discomfort. Breastfeeding regularly (even if painful) and ensuring breasts are emptied each feed are all essential in general breast health, as well as in the management of blocked ducts. A change in breastfeeding position if possible can also be beneficial, allowing your baby to draw the milk from the blocked area.
As all breastfeeding experiences are different and no two mothers and babies are the same it is important to seek help from a lactation consultant or other breastfeeding specialist if you are unsure or if symptoms persist.
Published: 25 July 2011
Source: Breastmates www.breastmates.co.nz