On my third day postpartum I started noticing that my breasts were becoming engorged. This made me happy because at the hospital they were worried that I was not going to have adequate milk supply due to my breast reduction surgery when I was younger. By day 4 my breasts were starting to become quite painful and both of my armpits were getting swollen as well. At first, I worried that it was swollen lymph nodes due to toxins from the hospital. By evening I found that it was super uncomfortable to lay down in bed on my sides because of the pressure on my breasts. Laying on my back was the best option but even that was pretty painful due to the weight of them. They both felt huge and rock hard and when I felt around them it felt like little rocks were inside of them.
When I went to my appointment at the midwife to check up on how things were going I showed her the problem I was having. She told me that I was backed up with milk and that I needed to empty them out as soon as possible or it could lead to rotten milk, which would cause mastitis which was a very serious condition. She asked if I had a breast pump that I could use to help me empty them out more quickly since Asher was not doing it quickly enough. I told her that I did but that I didn’t want to use them at the time because they are automatic and were quite painful to use with my tender breasts due to breastfeeding Asher for long periods of time. She said that I might want to try using a manual breast pump until they healed to help empty out my breasts. She brought out a Medela handheld manual breast pump for me to try and I pumped with them out for about five minutes on each breast right there at her office. She told me that I still had lots of colostrum which is a lot thicker and that could be part of the reason that they were getting backed up along with Asher possibly not having a good latch. We worked on how to get a good latch with him and she gave me the breast pump to take home for the week until I had a chance to order my own. Once I was home I looked up more ways to help relieve the backed up milk ducts. (Btw, a great way to prevent your nipples & areola from getting sorer from breast pumping is to put coconut oil on them before pumping. This helps reduce the friction against the sides of the flange.)
Below are more ways that I found to help the situation, which worked for me. Getting into a hot shower is a wonderful and free way to help unclog the ducts and provide some relief. If your nipples are sore you may want to cover them with your hand or you will find it is quite painful having the water hit them. Giving yourself a massage with your hands while in the shower is also a great way to get the milk unclogged and flowing. You could also do hand expression while in the shower, but I opted not to do this because I didn’t want to waste any of my colostrum.
Sometimes it was difficult for me to find time to get a shower when Asher was hungry and crying in the middle of the night so I used a purchase that I made while I was pregnant and actually forgot about. Those are the Earth Mama Booby Tubes, which are nursing packs filled with rice that you can either microwave or freeze depending on your needs. I microwaved mine for about 45 seconds and then placed them in my nursing bra for 5 to 10 minutes while comforting Asher until we could do our feeding. I would also use it in between feedings and after heating my breasts up, I would use a hand massager to help break up the clogged ducts. Alternatively, you can also free the booby tubes and then place them on your breasts to help relieve pain.
Here are two handheld massager‘s that I found on Amazon that had great reviews and testimonials. One of them is a manual massage roller which you roll on your breasts. The other one is a rechargeable battery operated massager that vibrates and has different modes. I used the vibrating one before breastfeeding sessions and found that it really helped to reduce my engorged breasts and armpits. I stored the manual roller massager in my shower and used it while taking showers. I found that it really helped to bring on my let down and that when I got out of the shower I needed to hurry up and either breast-feed or pump!
Another thing that I found while researching clogged ducts and mastitis was that there were studies on lecithin that showed it help to thin out breastmilk, which helps to unclog milk ducts. I have used lecithin in the past as a binder for nut milk and decided to get non-GMO soy lecithin granules as I liked the taste of them and how creamy they are. If you are against using soy products, then you may want to use sunflower lecithin. Personally, I don’t like the way that it tastes but a lot of people do so give it a try and see what you think. I used 1 tablespoon per day in a smoothie and found that it really helped in combination with everything that I was doing. I’d say it took about three or four days for my breasts and armpits to return to normal. My oh my, what a relief that was! It was like night and day! Finally I could lay down without feeling like my boobs were about to burst from being so engorged!
Hopefully my experience and tips will help you to relieve your backed up milk or prevent it if you haven’t had it happen yet. I’ve read that it can also happen if you wait longer than six hours to breast-feed or if you try to wean your baby from breastfeeding by stopping cold turkey. So, those are a couple more things to keep in mind to help prevent clogged milk ducts and mastitis. Have you suffered from clogged milk ducts or mastitis? What worked to give you relief? Let me know if you have any tips or questions in the comments below! Happy nursing to you and your baby! ☺️
*** Btw, this is post is for women. My husband wanted me to tell you that. LOL ***