The #Ittasteslikelove Guide to Blocked Ducts
BY KATIE PRIDEAUX, GUEST WRITER
So here's the thing about blocked ducts: they SUCK. I mean they reaaally suck.
Which is funny because one of the best ways to cure them is by having your teeny tiny little baby magically suck them out with the power of 1,000 Dysons.
A tall ask for a 3 week old. This is baby number two and I was hugely lucky with baby number 1 because I didn't have many problems breastfeeding apart from my nipples being shredded in the early days (thank GOD for Silverettes). So I think I went into this breastfeeding journey in a slightly blasé, over-confident, fairly smug way.
This turned out to be an error. I've now had blocked ducts three times so far with my second child so I'm super aware of the symptoms and I have finally nailed down the routine I need to follow to clear them, which I've set out below.
The first time it happened I woke up at 2am with one enormous, rock hard boob.
I mean the entire thing was one huge, phenomenally painful, angry lump. I think I may have slept on it funny, or perhaps my baby had gone a bit longer between feeds and my boob just didn't get the memo, either way I knew I was in trouble. It was starting to develop a red patch and I was freaking out about what it could be. Obviously I turned to Dr Google.
I knew enough about breastfeeding to know that thrush, blocked ducts and mastitis are bad news.
So I tried to diagnose myself. The thrush symptoms were a possible fit because you can get painful breasts with thrush (as I've since found out because I've had that twice since getting blocked ducts (thrush is also really not fun).
But my boobs were super lumpy and hard, which is not usually a thrush symptom. I also didn't have any of the other symptoms of thrush like burning nipple pain, stabbing pain in my nipples, itchy nipples, or flaky/shiny skin on my nipples.
I had lumps, swelling and pain around the lumps, with feeding providing temporary relief to the soreness.
These were all textbook indicators of blocked ducts according to Dr Google. I knew that if I left it I would likely get mastitis, which usually requires antibiotics to cure, and can knock you out for a few days like a bad bout of flu.
But at 2am I wasn't sure what to do.
Initially I just tried to use my Haakaa pump a bit, fed my baby when she next woke up, and when that didn't work I booked a GP appointment for the following morning. The GP I went to was not fantastic in my view. She examined me, gave me antibiotics in case it turned into mastitis and pretty much sent me on my way. Luckily a friend had already told me about the incredible women's physiotherapy team at Joint Dynamics who specialise in a tonne of things pre- and post-natal, including blocked ducts.
I told my GP I was off to the physio and she thought it was a good idea. Would she have suggested it if I hadn't mentioned it? I'm not sure. I also flirted with the idea of seeing a lactation consultant.
A lot of my friends had recommendations and had really raved about how awesome they were at helping to clear the ducts, but I ended up seeing the physio instead because I could get a same day appointment, and because of the fact that they use ultrasound to loosen the lumps. I was hoping that this meant the process would be marginally less painful. (Spoiler alert: it was not.) I had three sessions where they used ultrasound to loosen the lumps, then massaged the lumps.
The pain was on a par with childbirth but the sessions were definitely a life saver.
The team helped me put together an action plan so I could clear the blockages myself if it happened again. There are a lot of different ways to clear blocked ducts but the below is my tried and tested method - this has worked for all three of my bouts of blocked ducts whilst on this magical breastfeeding journey (ohhh the JOYS of motherhood). Early detection is key, the longer you leave it the worse they will get, the harder it will be to unblock them, and the more likely you are to get mastitis (which is NOT FUN). 1 - Apply heat. I walked around with a mini hot water bottle stuffed down my bra, it was a strong look. 2 - Locate, ahem, your strongest personal vibrating massage device. Apply to the lump and massage. 3 - PUMP. PUMP PUMP PUMP. Get your pump, turn it up to 11 and PUUUMP. 4 - Whilst pumping, sit down and bend over towards the floor so that gravity helps to draw the milk out, and massage the area between the nipple and the lump. Don't massage behind the lump, that's like trying to clear a traffic jam by adding more cars to the back of the queue. 5 - Keep on pumping until every last drop has come out. EVERY. LAST. DROP. If your breasts aren't empty then just keep on pumping. 6 - If none of the above clears the blockages go to the physio so they can do ultrasound and massage, then come home and repeat steps 1-5 until the blockages clear.