Breastfeeding can be a wonderful experience for both mom and baby but, we would be remiss to leave it at that. The reality is – breastfeeding can also present challenges such as mastitis, engorgement, and blocked ducts. We want you to be aware and knowledgeable about these potential issues so you can act quickly and access appropriate treatment if needed. As August is Breastfeeding Awareness Month – we want to shed light on the role physiotherapy can play in managing these common breastfeeding complications. 

Understanding Mastitis and Inflammation:

Mastitis is commonly associated with infection, but it can also be caused by excess inflammation in the breast tissue. As Physiotherapists, we are trained to identify and treat inflammation around the breast tissue using non-invasive techniques. Some signs of inflammation to note are visible swelling, redness, heat, pain, and loss of function. By catching inflammation early on and using simple, yet effective management techniques, we can often prevent the progression to full-blown mastitis and/or bacterial infections. 

The Importance of Proper Treatment For Blocked Ducts and Mastitis:

When you start to notice a blocked duct, it’s crucial to understand that it is not necessarily a physical blockage like a pimple. Instead, the majority of the time, the blockage is due to swelling outside the milk ducts, compressing them shut. We focus on treating this inflammation and encouraging the swelling to dissipate away from the area, rather than forcefully trying to unclog the duct (this is a big no no!). 

How Can Physio Help You Treat Mastitis? 

As physiotherapists, we have various techniques to help manage clogged ducts, mastitis and other lactation-related issues effectively. 

A simple 4 step technique we often recommend if you are experiencing a blocked duct and inflammation is: 

  1. Before you feed your baby or pump your breast, apply moist heat to the area for 5-10 minutes. 
  2. After heat application, you’ll utilize therapeutic breast massage. This is a gentle massage that is directed away from the nipple. The goal is to drain the swelling back towards the chest and lymphatic system.
  3. Feed your baby or pump.
  4. Apply cold compresses for about 10 minutes to further help alleviate swelling.

You’ll want to continue this pattern of heat, gentle massage, feeding/pumping, and applying cold therapy every few hours until the swelling has resolved. 

If you are experiencing any symptoms, please reach out to your trusted physiotherapist and health care team for further guidance on treatment. 

Hope this helps!

ReConnect Health

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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