It’s like kryptonite to nursing moms. And, unfortunately, it’s happened to me three times before. But this one popped up October 17th and was, by far, the worst yet.
Yup, plugged milk “ducks” as Siri likes to think I’m saying. Unfortunately they aren’t as cute as those darling rubber duckies W likes to play with in the bath. These plugged “ducks” are the kind that make your boob a painful, throbbing, rock solid mass of tissue. A mass of tissue that needs to produce milk. That wants to produce milk. That is producing milk…but it just isn’t coming out.
Ugh. The last thing a nursing mom wants to have happen.
The doubt that creeps into your head is the worst. Is my baby getting enough milk? Is he hungry? Will my supply bounce back after this? Truly the worst. I had to check my negative thoughts and try to stay positive, because stress was only making the situation worse. My first run in with clogged-ducts-turned-mastitis happened when W was 3 months old, and left me laid out on the couch and a major kink in my supply on my left side. After that, my right boob was my milk maker…but with this clog ON my right side…all that was in jeopardy.
This clog was covering about 70% of my right boob.
I called upon my mommy circle to make sure I wasn’t missing any tricks that could clear this up. I pulled up KellyMom.com. I started taking 4800mg of Lecithin daily. I started gently massaging the boob, from the outside down toward the nipple. I was soaking my boob in a bowl of hot salt water. I was nursing W every chance I could. I was even adding two additional pumping sessions during his naps.
But, after a day it was still there and had become painful. Dramatic times called for dramatic measures. I needed to pull out the big guns. By that, I mean my hubby’s big guns 🙂 We put W down for the night and started our Friday night routine – homemade pizzas. I cracked a Shipyard Pumpkinhead and headed for the shower while the pizzas were cooking. I turned the temperature up as hot as I could stand it and called the hubby in to join me.
Get your head out of the gutter. I’m still talking about how to clear a plugged duct.
I needed someone to really massage my boob, and I just couldn’t stomach the lumps and bumps and pain on my own. It’s like trying to bite off your own tongue. It’s just impossible. So, the hubby put his muscles to work and I tried not to cry. This. Shit. Hurt. We started to see some milk coming out with each massage and we were optimistic the heat and massage were clearing some of the ducts! After about 15 minutes we called it quits and got out. Then I started to pump and, what do you know, I got about 3oz and the mass was feeling significantly smaller.
Saturday came and went and though my boob was still feeling a bit sore and swollen, it wasn’t the solid mass it was on Friday. Sunday arrived and it was time for the Wicked 5K and I was still feeling good. But, when we got home I peeled my two sports bras off realized the mass was back. And this time, it was accompanied by a little white milk bleb on the tip of my nipple. I couldn’t take this much longer and my fear of losing my supply or getting mastitis were starting to consume me.
I needed to see the doctor.
So, the doctor squeezed us in at 11am. I gave our LC, Linda, a call and told her we’d be over to see her for an opinion, too. My hubby met me at the office for moral support and to hold W while they were checking me out. Unfortunately, the look on the doctor’s face let me know it was as bad as I was thinking it was. She ordered an ultrasound to make sure that the mass wasn’t anything more concerning, and sent us off to radiology.
I stopped in to see Linda and she gave me a quick feel, confirming that an ultrasound was a good call. She also pointed out my milk bleb and reminded me that I needed to pop it with a sterile safety pin. Joy. Nothing like taking a needle to your nipple.
Walking into the radiology department was terrifying, to say the least. Pink breast cancer ribbons adorned the walls. (It was, after all, breast cancer awareness month.) I couldn’t help but look around and wonder if the other women in the waiting room were there for a routine mamogram or something else. I couldn’t help but feel terrified. What if something is really wrong? I thought. When the ultrasound tech had a baffled look on his face because he wasn’t seeing clogged ducts, the terror set in. We were sent back to our doctor’s office while the radiologist took a look at the scans. I swear, waiting to hear what was going on was the most terrifying 20 minutes of my life. For the most part, I’ve taken for granted the amazing and miraculous things my boobs do. The thought of not being able to breastfeed W was more than I could handle, let alone thinking the doctor was about to deliver some terrible news…I was panicking.
Thankfully, our nurse (who happens to be one of my mommy friends) came out and delivered good news. OMFG. Exhale. The ultrasound showed clogged ducts and, unfortunately, they could take a while to pass. There wasn’t anything else they could do for me. I should continue with gentle massage, wet heat, Tylenol, Ibupropen, nursing a ton and pumping a ton in order to clear it up. I headed home, honestly just so thankful that the ultrasound didn’t show anything concerning and thankful for the milk I still had. I was determined to get these clogs out!
The rest of the day, that night, all day on Tuesday and into Tuesday night I was diligent with my Lecithin. I was nursing, soaking, popping my milk bleb, massaging, pumping and repeating like a champ. This was consuming my entire day. And, it was still huge. I mean like fake boob huge. And sore.
I woke up on Wednesday and reluctantly gave my boob a quick feel, only to confirm that the clogs were still there. I got W from his crib and brought him back into bed for our daily nursing session. I couldn’t help but think he was nursing on that side for quite a while, which hadn’t really happened because the clogs were preventing him from getting much milk. When he finally popped off, I almost didn’t dare to feel it and confirm whether or not the mass had passed…
IT HAD PASSED! W HAD NURSED IT OUT! I can’t tell you how excited I was. How releived I was. I knew I wasn’t out of the woods yet and that the clogs could come back at any time, but for right now, I was elated.
The rest of the day we nursed as usual and I still kept the pumping sessions to make sure I was doing everythign I could to get my supply back up. I could tell that breast had definitely taken a dip. When I’d pump at night I used to get 3oz out of my right breast and that night I barely got 1oz.
It’s been almost two weeks since the clog passed and my supply is still a bit low on my right side. My milk bleb keeps popping up, threatening to clog things up again. So, I keep popping it. And taking Lecithin. And nursing. And massaging. And pumping. Literally, everything I can to get things back to full working order.
All of this got me thinking about what my husband and I had both, as of very recently, noticed in W’s mouth. An upper-lip tie. A labial frenulum, if you will. You want to know what one of the symptoms of having a nursling with a labial frenulum is?????!!!!!!!!!
CLOGGED DUCTS & MASTITIS & SORE NIPPLES!
WTF. I’m feeling rather angry that this is just something I’m realizing now, considering how rough a start with nursing we had. And the mastitis. And the clogged ducts. And how he pulls off and nurses at the end of the nipple. And how I have to flap his upper lip out to get a good flange.
We had his 9 month check up this morning and the FNP didn’t seem too knowledgable, but commented that it did look pretty thick and referred us to the ENT to get it checked out…
Though this is the longest story ever, it was just a small blip on our otherwise clear radar. The great news is that W is an amazingly happy, healthy and advanced little guy, said the FNP 🙂 He just popped his 7th tooth and is climbing on everything, standing up, clapping and has just added the “N” sound to his vocabularly.
He is perfect. Lip-tie or no lip-tie.