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How to effectively manage lactation-related breast engorgement and blocked milk ducts.

Breast engorgement:

Breast engorgement, also known as breast swelling, refers to the phenomenon of breast distention caused by an excessive amount of milk in the breasts that hasn't been promptly discharged. However, it is characterized by the absence of symptoms such as fever and pain.


Occurrence: Physiological breast engorgement typically occurs 3-5 days after childbirth. If the baby does not nurse frequently or if the milk in the breasts is not completely emptied, the breasts may become swollen. Additionally, failing to breastfeed promptly after the baby sleeps through the night can also lead to breast engorgement.



Methods to manage breast engorgement during this stage include the following:


During breast engorgement, the milk ducts and blood vessels in the breasts and the entire chest area commonly become swollen, leading to a feeling of excessive fullness. Fortunately, the milk ducts are still relatively clear during this condition. To alleviate these symptoms, mothers can employ the following methods:


  1. Allow the baby to suckle the breast frequently. If the breasts are too engorged, the mother can express a portion of milk by hand before breastfeeding and then allow the baby to suckle.


  1. In the absence of the baby, mothers can use a breast pump to express milk. If there is an adequate milk supply, pumping until the breasts are no longer engorged is recommended. In severe cases of engorgement, mothers can directly switch to the expressing mode without having to stimulate the breasts first.


  1. Apply warm or cold compresses using a hot towel or a hot/cold pack before breastfeeding. Taking a warm shower before breastfeeding can also help promote milk flow. After breastfeeding, applying a cold compress can effectively alleviate the swelling and discomfort.


  1. Gently massage the breasts before breastfeeding to stimulate milk flow and facilitate proper milk drainage.


Blocked milk ducts

During the lactation period, mothers may experience inadequate and ineffective milk drainage, resulting in the accumulation of milk within the mammary glands. This can lead to the formation of small white dots on the nipples and the development of localized firm lumps, accompanied by pain, redness, and increased skin temperature in the breast area. If not promptly addressed or improperly managed, this condition can progress to acute mastitis or acute purulent mastitis, significantly impacting the physical and mental well-being of both the mother and infant.


OccurrenceMilk stasis often occurs around the 3rd to 6th day after childbirth, as well as when mothers return to workplace duties. Factors such as wearing tight-fitting undergarments, experiencing external traumas (such as accidental kicks from the baby), imbalanced nutrition (such as consuming excessively greasy foods), and uneven breast emptying due to physiological reasons in the baby can all contribute to the occurrence of milk stasis.


The following are strategies for managing milk stasis after it occurs:

  1. Seeking the assistance of a professional lactation consultant for massage and clearance is recommended. However, it is important to note that not all lactation consultants in the market are equally skilled, and aggressive techniques may potentially trigger mastitis and cause further damage to the mammary glands. Mothers should consider seeking assistance from qualified lactation consultants at hospitals. Remember: Proper lactation techniques should not cause any pain or discomfort.


  1. Utilizing an electric breast pump at a fast pace can help stimulate the breasts and promote blood circulation, relieving milk stasis.


  1. Encouraging the baby to adopt different positions and breastfeeding more frequently can aid in effectively emptying the breasts. Positioning the baby's chin directly over the blocked area and allowing them to suckle may be helpful.


  1. Apply a warm compress to the area of the firm nodules or blockages. With your hand positioned in a C-shape, place it above the affected area, gently shaking the breast. This motion helps to loosen the milk in the blocked area. Afterwards, encourage the baby to nurse or use a breast pump to express the milk and empty the breasts.


  1. Milk blockages often occur due to milk blisters that obstruct the milk ducts, preventing the timely release of milk. To alleviate this, gently rub the milk blister with a warm, moist towel to thin it out or encourage it to detach. If there is a raised white spot, you can also try carefully using a clean finger to extract it. Alternatively, applying lanolin ointment or olive oil to the nipple can help soften the white film.


If the above measures prove ineffective, it is advisable to seek timely medical attention.

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