Mastitis, Clogged Ducts, and Pain - oh my!

Having children can be some of the sweetest and most exciting moments in life. However, that’s not to say parenthood is without challenges! In the first years of a child’s life, sleep deprivation, a fussy/gassy baby, and postpartum hormonal changes are some of the difficulties one may experience, just to name a few! It can feel like there is so much to learn and many decisions to make, whether as a new parent or transitioning to a new number of children in the household!

One decision for women is whether or not they will breastfeed. While there are many amazing benefits to breastfeeding, it’s not always easy and can add to the challenges you may experience during this transitional time.

Breastfeeding may not be for everyone for various reasons, and that’s OK. However, I’ve heard of several situations in which mothers who hoped to breastfeed struggled and either could not or decided to discontinue due to some of the difficulties faced on this journey.

A few of these difficulties include clogged or plugged milk ducts and mastitis. This can also occur during the weaning time! Not only is it frustrating and emotional, but it can be very painful and become problematic quickly!

Signs of Mastitis

Signs of mastitis include redness, heat, swelling, pain, and loss of function of lactation. After having my daughter and going through the breastfeeding journey myself, this is an area that has become near to my heart and I want to help support mothers during this time!

When we hear mastitis, infection is often one of the first things that comes to mind. However, not all cases of mastitis mean that infection is present. Mastitis = breast inflammation. There are both infectious and non-infectious types. That being said, it can be difficult to differentiate between the two so it is always important to check with your doctor first to rule this out and receive appropriate antibiotic treatment if needed.

However, have you ever known or heard of someone who completed their antibiotic treatment without the resolution of symptoms? Now what?!

Did you know Physical Therapy can help?!

Honestly, before becoming a mother myself, I didn’t know how much a physical therapist can help in the area of lactation! Just as in the case of a sprained ankle or other injury, there is an inflammatory response that takes place in the case of mastitis. The goal of physical therapy treatment is milk removal through a combination of gentle therapeutic massage and hand expression to help decrease the swelling and inflammation that has occurred in order to ultimately restore optional lactation function.

There are other modalities that may also be recommended or utilized by your provider in some cases such as ultrasound, heat, or ice. Not only that but in physical therapy we can help treat other issues that may contribute to the cause of clogged ducts or mastitis, such as infant torticollis. Torticollis in babies is a shortened neck muscle known as the sternocleidomastoid (SCM) that causes the head to turn and rotate to one side. This may result from positioning in utero and in some cases can cause greater difficulty feeding from one side.

If you have been struggling with any of these issues or have any questions, please reach out to us via our central scheduling line at 616-256-8679 or call one of our clinics to schedule an appointment. She can also request an appointment online. We would love the opportunity to talk and work with you!

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Meghan Stepanek, DPT