The holiday season can bring with it unique breastfeeding questions and challenges. Breastfeed Chicago is here to help with a handy guide to help you and your nursling stay healthy and happy throughout this busy season!
Our five-part series tackles the most frequently asked questions during the holiday season. Click on a question to see our answer or scroll down to start the series.
- “What is this painful ache in my breast? How do I get rid of it?”
- I’ve never nursed in front of family before! How do I nurse without flashing them? What if someone says something judgy?
- I just had a glass of wine. Can I nurse my baby?
- Is it safe for me to have peppermint-flavored snacks? What about stuffing with sage in it? I have read both of those can negatively affect my milk supply.
- Where can I pump? I’m heading to _______ and not bringing my baby!
It may very well be a clogged or plugged milk duct! Clogged/plugged ducts are a common occurrence around the holidays. Changes in routine, less frequent nursing, and different clothing can all be culprits. When breastmilk sits longer in milk ducts, or when pressure is put on your breasts, a clog can form.
“It’s no wonder the holidays are known in the lactation world as prime season for clogged ducts and mastitis,” said Meghan McMillin, Registered Dietitian, Certified Lactation Counselor, and a moderator on the Breastfeed Chicago Facebook page. It’s very easy to miss a nursing session when you are busy with party prep, shopping, baking, or wrapping gifts!
“Breastfeeding moms need to take care of themselves during this time especially. Cut yourself some slack and do not try to be the holiday rockstar that you may have been in the past,” McMillin said.
Another common cause of plugged ducts? Family parties. These can lead to skipped feedings when everyone wants to hold your baby. McMillin recommends that you “have a plan to politely decline playing ‘pass the baby’ or come up with a phrase to ask Aunt Sally for the baby back when you need to feed him or her.” Your little one may hurry through a feeding due to distraction, which can also lead to a clog. And that cute party outfit that required that tight strapless bra can also be a culprit!
An ounce of prevention can go a long way to prevent painful ducts. McMillin reminds us that it is ok to set boundaries. “This may mean saying no to things such as parties or guests. It may mean doing all of your holiday shopping online, instead of braving the stores,” she said.
If you develop a clogged duct, it’s very important that you keep moving milk from the breast, even if it hurts. The last thing you want to develop is an infection or an abscess! Get lots of rest, nurse/pump milk out frequently, stay hydrated, and try a hot compress to get milk flowing and/or a cold compress to reduce inflammation.
If you can’t get rid of the clog, or you develop a fever, chills, and flu-like symptoms, call your healthcare provider! These are symptoms of mastitis and usually require medical care.