Breast infections and clogged ducts: At-home treatment options

Reviewed by Amy O. FNP-BC, IBCLC

Time saver 4 min read

The first year with a newborn can be one of the most magical—and challenging—times in your life. And when your focus is on your baby’s sleeping, feeding and changing schedule, it can be hard to carve out time for yourself, much less to deal with common health issues. But if you’re breastfeeding or chestfeeding and develop a clogged duct or breast infection (mastitis), you need relief and treatment ASAP.

We’re here to help you identify mastitis symptoms and causes, provide self-care tips and walk you through your breast infection treatment options. Plus learn how you can avoid future clogged ducts and breast infections.

What is mastitis?

Mastitis is a breast infection that most often occurs in breastfeeding mothers. An infection can develop when bacteria from your baby’s mouth reaches a milk duct through a cracked or sore nipple. Mastitis can also result when a clogged duct creates a breeding ground for bacteria. While mastitis is painful, it’s easy to treat and there are ways to manage symptoms.

What are the symptoms of mastitis?

If you’re breastfeeding, it’s important to monitor for any signs of a clogged duct or brewing infection.

Signs of a clogged breast duct

  • Thickening of the breast tissue or a breast lump that doesn’t clear after a nursing session
  • Red and tender breast tissue

A clogged duct doesn’t always lead to an infection. But if you experience symptoms of a breast infection, it’s important to seek treatment right away.

Common symptoms of mastitis

  • Pain and swelling of the breast
  • Breast tenderness and warmth
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Body aches
  • Pain or burning during breastfeeding
  • Engorged breast

At-home treatment for mastitis

If you think you have mastitis, you may be wondering how you’re going to swing an in-person doctor appointment between feedings and nap time. Thankfully, when it comes to getting the treatment and care you need for a breast infection, going into a clinic isn’t your only option.

You can get treatment for a clogged duct or breast infection from the comfort of home. Yep, your sleep-deprived eyes aren’t playing tricks on you—you read that right. You don’t need to pack the diaper bag and lug your baby into the clinic for a doctor’s appointment.

Mastitis self-care tips

Keep feeding

A clogged breast duct or infection can be uncomfortable and painful and your first instinct may be to stop breastfeeding from that breast. But it’s important to continue breastfeeding on the affected side. In fact, you should start with the affected breast as doing so helps ensure that the breast is fully emptied which can open a clogged duct. And, don’t worry. There’s no risk of passing an infection from your breast to your baby.

Take over-the-counter meds

To ease pain and swelling, you can take Tylenol® or Advil®. Both are safe for you and your baby while breastfeeding. A warm compress can also be used to calm pain, help with discomfort and increase milk flow – which may clear a clogged duct.

Switch feeding positions

Additionally, changing your breastfeeding position so that your baby’s lower jaw is directed towards the clogged area may clear an obstructed duct.

Take anitbiotics

While over-the-counter medications and self-care practices can ease discomfort, you need prescription antibiotics to clear up a breast infection.

Online treatment for mastitis

You can get treatment for a breast infection or clogged duct online at Virtuwell. If you need an antibiotic, we’ll send a prescription to your pharmacy. And all follow-up care is included in your visit. So if you have any questions or concerns, you can quickly get in touch with a nurse practitioner.

Preventing future breast infections

If you’re prone to breast infections, there are steps you can take to keep clogged ducts and mastitis at bay.

  • Feed from both breasts equally - This will help prevent engorgement and discomfort. Have trouble remembering which breast you started on or keeping track of feeding times? Wear a bracelet that you slip back and forth on your wrists to remember which breast to offer first and track feeding times with your phone’s notes app.
  • Keep your nipples dry and clean - Moisture from breast pads or forgetting to wash your hands can create a breeding ground for bacteria. Change breast pads frequently, wash hands before and after breastfeeding and opt for breathable, loose-fitting clothing (besides, loungewear is comfier anyway.)
  • Ensure a proper latch - Breastfeeding shouldn’t hurt. To prevent cracked nipples, make sure your baby is latched properly.
  • Use a lanolin cream - For cracked nipples, use a lanolin cream to promote healing. You can also express drops of breastmilk on the cracks and try to expose your nipples to open air after a feeding.
  • Massage breast tissue - If you notice thickening tissue or discomfort, massage your breasts to prevent clogged ducts from forming.
  • Wean gradually - When stopping breastfeeding, go slowly and allow your milk production to gradually decrease.
  • BreatheDealing with a clogged duct or breast infection can be stressful (and painful). And stress inhibits your body from releasing Oxytocin which is needed for adequate milk letdown. Take a few deep breaths before each feeding and do your best to stay calm and relaxed.

Take care of your health!

As a parent, you go above and beyond to make sure your baby is happy and healthy. During this time of your life especially, you need all the help you can get. Take time to prioritize yourself and your health. Address common health issues and get online treatment for a clogged duct and mastitis today at Virtuwell.

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