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If I had an enemy, one of the worst things I could wish on them would be plugged ducts and mastitis. Most nursing mamas have been there before and know exactly what I’m talking about. If you don’t know, you can check out this article here. In the 6 years I’ve been nursing a baby, I’ve compiled a list of tricks that I pull out whenever I feel a plug coming on. It’s like my plugged duct first aid kit.
What works for me may not work for you, but when you’re in pain, you’re anxious for relief and will try anything, am I right? These are a few things that have helped me get relief from a plugged duct and prevent it from turning into mastitis.
Plugged duct first aid:
- Nurse: nurse on the affected side as much as possible. Getting the milk flowing and out of the plug is what ultimately cures the issue.
- Hot water: some people like to put a wet (clean) diaper full of hot water around the area that’s affected, others like to take a bath. My go-to is a hot shower. I turn the water as hot as I can stand it and let it run over the plug. Once the heat has eased the pain a bit, I go to work and do the next item on the list. It may take more than one shower to get rid of the plug. Even if you have to put baby in a swing outside the shower, it’s worth it to avoid mastitis.
- Massage: it hurts like hell, but you have to massage the plug out. Use your thumbs and get into the plug, working it toward the nipple. Sometimes you can feel it moving and sometimes you will be working at it for a while. The goal is to have moved the plug before you get out of the shower. Sometimes you will see stringy milk coming out while you massage. This is good!
- Vibration: something that vibrates also does wonders while you massage. I’ve used an electric toothbrush (to my husband’s horror. It was his and I was desperate. It’s just a boob, right?), and more recently a vibrating head massager (this one to be exact). It helps when your fingers get tired and also helps move the plug faster, in my experience.
- Tea tree oil: after the hot shower, I apply tea tree oil directly onto the area where the plugged duct is. If the plug is near the nipple, I wouldn’t do this, because I wouldn’t want baby to ingest it. My plugs tend to occur near the base of my boobs, so I feel that’s far enough away from baby’s mouth to be safe. Always go with your own gut. If you’re not comfortable using essential oils, you can skip this step. I didn’t use it for my first two babies, but I have found that it really makes a difference.
- Rest: probably the hardest thing to accomplish of this list, it’s also one of the most important. Often mastitis happens when we get too tired and can be our body’s way of telling us to slow down.
A few more things to remember:
- If you start to feel flu-ish and start running a fever, it’s time to call your dr. Mastitis is a mean illness and not to be messed with. Thankfully, once you start on antibiotics it clears up fast.
- Your breast might feel painful even once the plug is gone. This is normal, especially if you’ve been working hard at massaging the plug out. If you can feel the plug is gone, don’t worry about the tenderness. It will be gone in a day or so.
- Be careful with what bra you’re wearing. An underwire bra is often the cause of a plugged duct. Best stick with wireless bras that fit snugly but not too tight.
- If you can pinpoint the cause of the plug, you can try to avoid it next time. Sometimes there’s not an obvious cause, but other times you can figure out what happened. I’ve gotten them from wearing a purse where the strap put pressure on the wrong area. They’ve also occurred after being punched in the boob (accidentally) by my toddler.
I hope you have found something helpful in my list. If something else has worked in the past for you, would you share? I’m always happy to learn a new trick!