One of the problems that breastfeeding moms may face at least once is clogged milk ducts, a painful and uncomfortable condition. The plugged milk ducts also cause a sudden feeling of soreness in the nipples. But how do milk ducts get clogged in the first place.
What Are Clogged Milk Ducts?
A clogged or plugged milk duct is a condition where the milk ducts become inflamed due to insufficient drainage of milk from the breast. Milk ducts are small channels underneath the areola, the dark area around the nipple. The milk produced in the milk lobules moves through the ducts, also called lactiferous ducts, to the breast nipple from where the baby feeds. If the milk does not drain out of the nipple in time, the ducts grow inflamed and swollen leading to clogged milk ducts.
Retention of milk in the ducts can happen due to several reasons.
What Causes Clogged Milk Ducts?
Clogged milk ducts could develop due to the one or more of the following factors:
Weaning your baby suddenly: You must wean your baby gradually over a period of days or weeks depending on the age of the baby and how often you feed. Abrupt weaning can cause accumulation of milk in the breast, increasing the chances of clogged milk ducts.
Change in feeding schedule: Drastic changes in the feeding schedule can also lead to plugged ducts. So if you have been breastfeeding the baby five times a day and suddenly reduce it to only two feeds a day, then your breasts won’t get drained sufficiently. Too much gap between two breastfeeding sessions can also increase the risk of blocked milk ducts.
Favoring one breast: Always empty one breast before moving to the other to feed the baby. Favoring one breast all the time, for whatever reason, can increase the risk of a clogged milk duct in the other.
Tight clothing: A tight bra can create constant pressure on the breast, which can narrow down the milk ducts and make them more prone to blockage.
Injury to the breast: Sometimes a heavy blow or impact to the breast may damage a milk duct, making it prone to blockage.