Navigating breastfeeding can be both rewarding and challenging, especially when dealing with issues like engorgement, blocked ducts and mastitis. Below, we’ll cover common mistakes we see in clinic in the self treatment of these feeding issues and what you can do instead. 

  1. Over-Aggressive Massage

By far the biggest mistake we see is aggressive massage towards the nipple area. This often causes more harm than good. Instead, we recommend gentle massage towards the lymphatic system, which involves gentle movement towards the armpit or neck, helping to move the swelling away from the breast. 

  1. Ignoring Frequent Issues:

If you’re facing recurrent blocked ducts or mastitis, it’s crucial to address the underlying factors. While engorgement might occur occasionally, for example, in the early days when your milk is “coming in”, frequent issues are a clue that something else is going on that needs addressed. Examples of underlying issues we see are things like tongue tie, torticollis, and oversupply. If necessary, we will refer you to a lactation consultant. 

  1. Early Professional Help

Many new parents aren’t aware that physiotherapists can offer early treatment for engorgement, blocked ducts and mastitis. We recommend you seek help within the first 24 hours of your onset of symptoms. We have trained our entire team on breast management to ensure that you can be seen quickly. 

  1. Delaying Professional Intervention

Waiting too long to seek professional help can exacerbate your symptoms. For example, if you are trying various home remedies, such as dangle feeding or using cabbage leaves without experiencing quick relief, it’s likely those interventions will not work. Delaying treatment can lead to increased inflammation, discomfort, and a need for more complex interventions, such as antibiotics. 

  1. Understanding Mastitis

Mastitis just refers to inflammation in the breast. It can sometimes be caused by bacterial infection, but oftentimes, it is inflammatory in nature. Therefore, mastitis does not always need to be treated with antibiotics. If you start to feel a blocked duct, for example, begin to treat the inflammation right away. If it subsides, you know it was inflammatory! If things stay the same or get worse, then you may need treatment with antibiotics. 

If you take anything away from this blog, let it be this: Prompt treatment to decrease inflammation once you start to experience symptoms is key. And the great thing is, once you have the techniques to decrease inflammation on your own, you may avoid needing to see a professional altogether! 

Hope this helps! 

Katie Kelly, PT & Eryn Matheson, PT 

Before you go, make sure you click here so you can get instant access to our therapeutic breast massage for engorgement, blocked ducts and mastitis handout! This handout provides you with the first steps you will take AS SOON as you start to have any signs and symptoms of blocked ducts or mastitis.

Below are the many other resources we have available to help you during both pregnancy and postpartum. 

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