Plugged Ducts and Mastitis

So of course I had to jinx myself and mention plugged ducts and mastitis in my post on breastfeeding.  All had been going well until a week ago.

For a few days I had some right breast soreness, but didn’t think a whole lot about it.  I had been feeling engorged frequently because of the extra pumping for milk donation.  I just thought it was probably related to that.  But then it got worse…

I started feeling achy in the morning and by noon I was feeling pretty bad and my kids couldn’t eat lunch fast enough for me!  I wanted to lay down and nap in the worst way!  Finally they were all down and I just prayed they all napped… including Xanthie because her awake time, recently,  had been the 2-3 hours the others were napping.  But that day they ALL napped for two hours!  What bliss.  AND Brian got home around 4pm, and it was a good thing.  By then I was starting to feel pretty bad and had a low grade fever.  By this time I had a good idea of what was the cause.

By 6pm my fever was up to 103 and I felt terrible.  I was dizzy, achy, had chills, sharp pains in the right breast, was nauseated, and just down right feeling horrible!  I ate a light dinner, drank a mug of homemade bone broth, took two Tylenol and went to bed.  Before turning out the lights I texted a request for prayer to the ladies in our bible study, my sisters and Mom.  I knew they would pray for me.

And this was another witness to answered prayer and God’s care for our family.  Xanthie slept for two 4 hour stretches and I slept hard and woke up feeling much better.  The fever, body aches, dizziness and sharp pains were gone!  I can say this is not typical.  Usually once a fever starts it is a while before the infection is gone and the plugged duct resolved.  Praise God for His goodness and faithfulness to me!  I still could tell the duct was plugged, but that I could work on!  Now that the fever was gone I felt like a new person!

As I mentioned in my previous post on breastfeeding, I often get a plugged duct when I still have a newborn, am feeling great and then start doing too much.  The previous week had been busy and it was the first week I had all four kids all day by myself.  I also took them out to do things a few different days… so I know I set myself up for it.

So… what is the difference between a plugged ducts and mastitis?  Well.  A plugged duct is when a milk duct gets clogged and it can often be felt as a hard spot on the breast and will sometimes start to get red and it usually quite tender to touch.

Mastitis is when the plugged ducts proceeds to an infection.  Usually the breast is increasingly tender, red, and super painful to breastfeed on that side and with a fever.

There are times that mastitis needs to be treated with an antibiotic, but I’ve had it with each of my kids and have been able to treat it at home with great success!  So what to do?

1) REST – We often say “Yeah,yeah, can it really help that much.”  YES it can.  As I mentioned previously I only get these when I try to do too much and once I sit back, nap and rest for a day while doing a few other things to help clear it up, it’s gone and back to normal!  So PLEASE rest, and by that I mean bedrest.  No going up and down the stairs, putting in a load of wash, cleaning up the kitchen, picking up after the other kids, etc.  Have someone watch your other children for the day and do nothing.  It really works.

2) Heat – Apply heat to the plugged duct.  You can use a heating pad, although I don’t feel like mine gets hot enough, or one of the rice packs that can be heated in the microwave works really well.  We don’t have a microwave anymore, so it took a bit of thinking to figure out what else to do.  So we boiled water and put it in a Nalgene bottle (with BPA that we don’t drink out of anymore, but can withstand holding boiling water).  That worked really well.  Also a hot shower is good too, although hard to get the hot water on the plugged duct if it is on the underside of the breast (which mine was this time around).

3) Massage – Massage and rub the area especially when nursing to encourage the duct to release.

4)  Take your bra off – This can aggravate the clog and can potentially make it worse.  If a bra is too small, too tight or has too much pressure in one spot it can be part of the cause.  Take it off the relieve pressure.

5) Nurse frequently and in different positions – This helps to apply suction to different areas of the breast hoping to reach that duct with increased suction.  I always start baby on the affected side and when they no longer want to suck because there isn’t any milk I’ll switch to the other side.  Different positions can include cradle hold, football hold and we also would lie in bed and have her head pointing towards my torso and feet up by my face.  Not sure what worked best, but it helped!

6)  Try the pump – I would often apply the pump on the affected side once baby moved to nurse at the other breast.  Then I could be doing both at the same time.  The pump gives a more equal suction over the whole breast area and is helpful in getting the plugged duct to release.

7)  Take Happy Ducts – This time around I was given a sample of “Happy Ducts” tincture from Wishing Garden Herbs by NOVA birthing Center.  I also took that.  I’m convinced that resting helped the most, but these other things were certainly effective in helping to clear it up as well,  I really don’t have any idea how helpful the tincture was, but I was happy to take it!

What to do if these things don’t work?  Call your doctor.  La Leche League has a great If/Then list of how to treat mastitis or when to call the doctor. I’ve copies this list from their article:


  • You do not see results or feel better in eight to 24 hours,

  • You continue to run a fever or suddenly spike a high fever (38.4°C [101°F] or higher),

  • The breast becomes red, hot, and swollen,

  • You see pus or blood in the milk,

  • You see red streaks on the breast from the areola to the underarm,

  • A cracked nipple looks infected,

  • You have chills and continue to feel worse,


  • Call your doctor.

La Leche League then goes on to say you will probably need an antibiotic and to make sure you take the complete course of it.  That I disagree with.  Sometimes there are other options which your doctor (especially if they are holistic) can discuss with you.  Most conventional doctors will put you on a 10 – 14 day course of an antibiotic.

So I hope you find this helpful!  It has proven effective for me for all four of my infections.  This last one was definitely the worst since my fevers have never been that high before.  I praise God the duration this time was so short and the miraculous healing He provides!  To Him be the glory!

Have you had mastitis before?  How did it turn out for you?  Did you also try some of these home remedies?  I’d love to hear!


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