My little man loves to eat and I love feeding him. My boobs have taken on an identity all their own. They still belong to me, but sometimes I feel that they are an entirely separate entity – a milk machine. And, I like it!
After birth, my son latched on right away. The lactation consultant came in and helped to make sure he was latched on correctly, so that it wouldn’t be painful for me to nurse him. She was awesome – I called and talked to her a couple different times after we went home. When I went in to rent a breast pump from the hospital a couple months later, she remembered me and my family, comments I made to her that I didn’t even remember making – It meant a lot to me and this woman is forever a part of our son’s early life story.
We started off on the right foot, but it wasn’t easy. My milk didn’t come in right away, so we had one day where my kid screamed every time I put him to the breast – he would latch and then pull away. We got worried and went to the hospital because he wasn’t eating. After the doctor talked to us, she brought in a bottle of formula to give to him. He took it all down, the crying stopped and he looked at us contented, but with this face that said “It’s about damn time!” Poor baby was hungry and frustrated when there was nothing coming out of the boob for him.
The next day, I got my milk, but for a few days that first week, we supplemented with a one bottle of formula a day. I hadn’t wanted to supplement, but it got Asher used to the bottle. After that, we got into the habit of Papa feeding bottled breast-milk. And, when Asher was 8 weeks old, I went back to work and he went to daycare, he was already used to breast-milk by the bottle.
One morning I woke up with a huge, hard lump on my right breast. I didn’t know where it came from and totally freaked out – Did I have a tumor!? I wrote my mama friends, did some reading and figured out it was had to be a clogged duct. Ultimately, it lead to a breast infection (mastitis) and required a trip to the midwife and an antibiotic.
A week later, I woke up again with that lump. At least I knew what it was this time, but my goal was to work out the clog myself and avoid another round of antibiotics. I put a hot compress on the breast then nursed and pumped and nursed and pumped! I also nursed Ash with his chin pointed toward the lump – the suction is directed towards the clogged duct and can help work it out. I massaged the lump as hard as I could stand while he nursed. Luckily, he didn’t notice that my boob was moving – as long as the nipple remained in his mouth! It hurt, but the babe is really a great remedy.
I got the third one a week after that while we were visiting my mother-in-law and I had failed to bring my breast pump. A couple causes of clogged ducts that applied to me this time: 1) Infrequent or skipped feedings – we were traveling and Ash didn’t eat as regularly from me since we were in the car. And, 2) Inadequate milk removal – he slept 7hrs and I usually get up to pump if he sleeps that long, but I didn’t since I didn’t have it with me (I’ll never make that mistake again). We came home because I was pretty miserable. I used a bar of Dove soap (perfectly shaped to curve around the breast) to massage the lump during a hot shower – and I worked out the clog. It was pretty clear that it had been taken care of – I massaged down and shot milk out in a strong, steady stream all over the shower! I had to call my husband to check it out – It was so cool!
After the first three, a friend of my mother’s told me that underwire bras put pressure on the ducts – another cause. Other causes include stress, fatigue, anemia, and/or a weakened immune system. I had been wearing an underwire nursing bra every day. So, I stopped wearing them, bought some new bras and went a few weeks without another plug! Then, it was date night with my hubby. I was getting ready and put on my pre-baby underwire bra for two reasons: 1) To feel sexy – the boobs stood a little perkier and I felt a little swagger in my step; and more honestly, 2) It was the only thing clean – all my nursing tanks and the no-underwire nursing bras were dirty! The next day I started to feel the lump coming. I used another technique suggested to me and put a piece of fresh cabbage in my bra. I’m not sure why, how or if this works, some women swear by it, but I woke up with another lump and took care of it in the same ways I mentioned above.
I talked to the lactation consultant and she said that some mamas have extra creamy milk or extra windy ducts. For me, the lump always shows up in the same place on the same boob. Lecithin, a natural emulsifier and lubricant (it has effects on lowering cholesterol and triglycerides) can also be used to help keep the milk from clogging up as well. I haven’t tried that, but it might be the next option if I avoid all the common causes and I keep getting these clogs.