What is a stagnation?
A clogged milk channel or congestion is often confused with the precursor to breast inflammation called mastitis (Inch and by Xylander 2000). There is a nodule and a red, touch-sensitive area in your chest. But then the milk duct is not blocked, but the tissue around it swollen and inflamed and presses on the milk channel, so that no breast milk can flow.
Real stagnation or blocked milk ducts are rarer and more likely to occur after weeks or months of breastfeeding. Some mothers then see a small white dot on their nipple. This is an indication that the opening of the milk channel is overgrown and swollen by skin cells (Inch and by Xylander 2000).
In this type of blocked milk ducts, you can easily remedy. Poke a sterilized needle or a clean fingernail into the blocked piece of skin. If you do this after breastfeeding, it is easier, because then your skin is softer.
Why do milk ducts clog?
Inflammation of the milk ducts is almost always caused when the milk can not drain completely. This can happen if your baby does not drink the breast empty.
When your body produces milk faster and more than your baby can drink, it is forced out of the milk duct into the breast tissue. This causes the swelling and your skin will redden and hurts at this point.
When traces of milk enter your bloodstream, you feel cold and have a fever. That's an indication of mastitis calls.
The flu symptoms are a sign that your body considered the milk a foreign body and that the immune system has taken up the fight (Inch and by Xylander 2000). So you should not ignore the symptoms.
Does the stagnation affect my baby?
Sometimes your milk flow slows down a bit and your baby needs to suck harder to drink milk from the affected breast. But apart from that, it will not affect your baby in any way.
What can I do to prevent inflammation in the chest?
Make sure you're putting your baby right. Our guide "breastfeeding - step by step" will help you. As soon as your baby drinks well, your breast milk flows freely and unhindered. This prevents mastitis already in the beginning.
Avoid taking long breaks between breastfeeding and making sure your nursing bra fits well and does not pinch your chest.
If you already have a slight inflammation, you can do the following:
- Do not stop breastfeeding. So the breast is emptied, you feel better. If your baby hurts too much on the chest, you can also pump out and store the breast milk if necessary.
- Massage the sensitive area: Start at the breast and work towards the nipple. Warm your breasts with compresses before breastfeeding. This supports the natural milk flow reflex and helps to empty the chest (Inch and by Xylander 2000).
- Change the nursing positions. If your child is always in her lap, breastfeed your child while lying down.
- Take ibuprofen for the pain and inflammation.
- Some women swear by remedies like echinacea, lecithin and vitamin C.
If the symptoms do not go away or you feel ill, then go to the doctor. Maybe then you have mastitis and need antibiotics to treat the inflammation.
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Inch S and by Xylander S. 2000. Mastitis: causes and management, Geneva: World Health Organization.www.whqlibdoc.who.int [as of June 2012] advertising