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!

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