Out, damned plug! Out, I say!

February 15, 2007

In dealing with my recurrent plugged ducts, I came across a wealth of tips and information. Some of it, especially coming from my doctors, has been contradicting: cool! stop the cooling already! Some has been confusing: massage the hard spot while showering. This never did anything for me. Some has been a lifesaver: sterilize needle. poke. Since I’ve gained most of my knowledge while surfing the Internet, I thought I’d compile a list of my favorite tips here, in case it might help someone. Some sources: of course there’s kellymom and Dr. Jack Newman, but for all the inside info, the blogosphere can’t be beat. An excellent discussion was had at Jo’s. Also check out Moxie and Galloping Cats.

Here a my tips. Your mileage may vary.

    Pain management

  1. Apply heat not to the lump in your breast, but just below it, right where the blockage is. Applying heat to the lump will increase milk supply, making the lump even harder and more painful. Heat where the plug is might widen things a bit, making unplugging easier.
  2. Cabbage leaves also help with painful engorgement above the blockage.
  3. Take a painkiller, if you’re comfortable with that. An anti-inflammatory (like ibuprofen) might also slow down a threatening infection. At least that’s what I liked to think.
  4. Unplugging

  5. Nursing upside down (with your baby lying on his back on the bed and you hoovering over him on all fours) feels ridiculous, but can be very effective in loosening plugs. You have gravity working for you here.
  6. In the shower, hand-express as fast as you can. Someone called this ‘the milkmaid routine’. The combination of heat and pumping will often loosen plugs. As an added bonus, cleaning up all that spilled milk is easy. (Note that I finally figured out how ‘massaging in the shower’ can work!)
  7. This one is not for the squeamish, but it saved me dozens of times. If you can see the plug appearing as a white spot in the nipple but it won’t come out, take a very clean, thoroughly sterilized needle and poke around a bit. Combine with hand-expressing for optimal results. Just don’t tell your mom.
  8. Prevention

  9. Remove anything that puts pressure on your breasts. For me that meant no bras, no slings, no sidesleeping, not carrying Mio on my chest.
  10. Besides drinking enough fluids and taking those prenatal vitamins, I took lecithin (flax oil seems to work too) to help prevent the clogging, and echinacea to help boost my immune system.
  11. This was the big eye-opener for me: cutting down on saturated fats dramatically reduced the number of plugged ducts I had. It was hard to give up cookies, but so worth it!

To feed a baby…

February 7, 2007

… it takes a bottle or one breast
one bottle or a breast

When I was pregnant with Mio my approach to the bottle-or-breast question was very pragmatic: I thought I’d give nursing a try; if it worked, perfect, if not, I was fine with bottles. I have little patience with the “breastfeeding mafia”. Although I am grateful for all the info and support on breastfeeding that’s out there, I’m also grateful for the existence of formula. In the end, a mom’s decision to breast- or bottlefeed is her very own, and she should not have to defend herself either way.

/ manifesto mode off /

So…. when Mio was born, I started nursing. Since he was so small, we supplemented for the first week or so – mostly for my peace of mind. After that, it was my milk only. He grew well, I was happy, all peaches and cream. There was that one day when I had a sore breast and a slight fever, but it resolved itself quickly and I thought little of it. Until that night when Mio was six weeks old and I got run over by a truck – or so it felt. Within two hours I went from noticing a painful spot in my breast to lying in bed, shivering with cold. Yep, mastitis.The doctor-on-call told me to cool my breast and go to my regular doctor in the morning to get antibiotics. My regular doctor told me to stop the cooling already and apply hot compresses instead (and gave me the antibiotics, thankfully). It took two days for the pain to subside, a week for the plugged duct to resolve. After that, I had a plugged duct about once or twice a week. Twice more I got a course of antibiotics for threatening mastitis. The first one I took, the second one is still on my shelf. I tried to eliminate all sources of pressure on my breasts: no more bras, sidesleeping, carrying Mio in a sling or letting him sleep on my chest. It seemed to help a bit, but the plugged ducts kept coming back. When I needed my second course of antibiotics I was pretty desperate and ready to quit breastfeeding. My doctor was supportive but warned me that weaning too quickly often caused, you guessed it, plugged ducts. So yeah. I continued nursing because I was too afraid to stop. Not exactly what I had in mind before I had Mio.

Fast-forward to today, and we’re still at it! I still get the occasional plugged duct, but over time, I’ve become much better at dealing with them (more on that in a later post). We’re down to four feedings a day, and that reduction in feedings has been so gradual that my breasts have coped remarkably well. I can even sidesleep again. Through it all, Mio has had a bottle only two or three times (again, because I was too afraid to skip a feeding, even with pumping). Not surprisingly, he wants nothing to do with bottles now. He will take a sippy cup every now and again, though, and I’m teaching him to drink from a straw, which is fun. All in all, I’m happy we’ve come this far. But I don’t want to relive those weeks of nursing hell, ever.

Pork Bully

February 2, 2007

the other white milk

Jennifer at the Lactivist has designed some great t-shirts with pro-breastfeeding slogans. Go see, they’re really funny!

Unfortunately, big bully The National Pork Board thought the slogan “The Other White Milk” came dangerously close to their own gem “The Other White Meat”. Eager to protect their trademark, they sprung a threatening letter on Jennifer, demanding she’d pull the shirts with the slogan. But wait, it gets better:

‘”In addition, your use of this slogan also tarnishes the good reputation of the National Pork Board’s mark in light of your apparent attempt to promote the use of breastmilk beyond merely for infant consumption, such as with the following slogans on your website in close proximity to the slogan “The Other White Milk.” “Dairy Diva,” “Nursing, Nature’s Own Breast Enhancement,” “Eat at Mom’s, fast-fresh-from the breast,” and “My Milk is the Breast.”

What were they thinking? Oh, they were not.

And since it was so effective in preschool, why not try the old bullying trick:

“We trust that after you have reviewed this matter, you will conclude that the better course is to promptly comply with National Pork Board’s demands herein.”

Very impressive, guys. As Jennifer said, she doesn’t care much for the slogan (it’s been pulled by Cafepress already), but she doesn’t have a high tolerance for bullies.

Big Pork is afraid of their good reputation being tarnished? Let them have it. I hope this story gets around the Internet (and beyond) and Big Pork will get a lot of publicity out of it. The kind they don’t like too much. And if Jennifer sells some more shirts in the process, all the better.