Plugged Ducts, Mastitis, and Thrush
There is help for plugged ducts and breast infections.
Many moms face temporary issues such as plugged ducts, breast infections, and thrush. These challenges can make sticking with breastfeeding hard, especially when putting your baby to your breast may be the last thing you want do. But there are steps you can take to get relief. Your WIC breastfeeding staff can help you get back to breastfeeding comfortably.
Plugged Milk Ducts
Plugged ducts are a common concern in breastfeeding moms. A plugged milk duct feels like a tender, sore lump or knot in the breast. It happens when a milk duct does not drain properly. Pressure builds up behind the plugged duct, and the tissue around it gets irritated. This usually happens in one breast at a time.
Several things can cause plugged ducts:
- Severe engorgement,
- Regularly breastfeeding on only one breast,
- Skipping feedings or not feeding as often as usual, or
- Pressure against the milk ducts. A diaper bag strap or car seat belt pressing across your chest can cause it. So can wearing a bra that is too tight.
Here are a few tips to help you get relief:
- Take a hot shower or apply warm, moist cloths over the plugged duct and the rest of your breast.
- Massage your breast from the plugged duct down to the nipple before and during breastfeeding.
- Breastfeed frequently and use different positions.
- Empty the affected breast first.
- Wear a well-fitting, supportive bra that is not too tight. Consider trying a bra without an underwire.
- Rely on others to help you get extra sleep or relax. This will speed healing. Sometimes a plugged duct is a sign that you are doing too much.
If you have plugged ducts that keep coming back, get help from a WIC breastfeeding expert or a lactation consultant.
Breast Infection, or Mastitis
Mastitis is a breast infection. It may feel sore like a plugged duct. It may happen when you're stressed or have changes in your usual routine. This may be when guests are visiting, during the holidays, or when you're returning to work. It is not always easy to tell the difference between a breast infection and a plugged duct. They have similar symptoms, and both can get better within a day or two.
But the mastitis may also include other signs, like these:
- Flu-like symptoms like fever, chills, body aches, nausea, vomiting, or fatigue.
- Yellowish discharge from the nipple that looks like colostrum.
- Breasts that feel tender, warm, or hot to the touch and appear pink or red.
If you have any signs of mastitis, or if you do not feel better within 24 hours of trying the tips for relief, contact your doctor.
The same tips for plugged ducts may help with mastitis. Apply heat, get plenty of rest, drink lots of fluids, and breastfeed often. In addition, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics.
Thrush is a fungal infection that forms on the nipples or in the breast. This infection is also sometimes called a yeast infection. Thrush may have these signs:
- Sore nipples that last more than a few days, even after your baby has a good latch.
- Sore nipples after several weeks of pain-free breastfeeding.
- Pink, flaky, shiny, itchy, cracked, or blistered nipples.
- Achy breasts or shooting pains deep in the breast during or after feedings.
- White spots on inside of baby's cheeks, tongue, or gums.
If you have concerns of a fungal infection, call both your doctor and your baby's doctor. That way, you both can be correctly diagnosed and treated at the same time. This will help keep you from passing the infection back and forth.